After staying up till wee hours to catch the lunar eclipse, I was exhausted. It was nearly 3 AM when I gave up and went to bed, but while I was tired, I was also jacked up by hanging in the cold off and on for several hours and the general excitement. It took me a while to fall asleep, and the last time I saw the clock was around 3:45.
I woke around 7:30, believe it or not. But I couldn't roll over and sleep. I had to get up and get going. I was due for an oil change in Alamogordo, a drive of nearly 1.5 hours. So I tossed back some coffee, showered, fed the pups and myself and hit the road.
The oil was changed and while I waited, chatted with a woman from Ruidoso. She had her little dog with her, a rescue cutie named Abby. I also called my cousin to confirm lunch, but she had a couple appointments that negated us getting together. I was glad for her, though. A realtor needs every possible appointment to culminate into a sale. I got lunch myself and set off for the cemetery.
The attendant at the cemetery pulled out several loose-leaf notebooks containing old burial records. I was disappointed that the records were not computerized or in some way organized into more searchable formats. I suspect this is the rule of thumb, however. I doubt many officials see this, the records of the dead, as being nearly as important as the records of the living. You know, the living who pay taxes and other money to pay their salaries. Oh, well.
Two of the names on my list were simply nowhere to be found. I even went into my creative mode, looking at variations of the spelling, watching for dates that matched, etc. Robert, the man on duty, was wonderful in helping me in every way, including taking the same books and looking where I'd already looked. Then, when I decided there wasn't any likelihood that I'd find those two graves, he got out a map and pointed out the sections I needed to look in and the approximate areas. The map was tiny and very difficult to read, so much of it was "by guess and by gosh." he had a couple larger maps on the wall, so working back and forth between those and the tiny one I was taking with me, I was able to reasonably locate the general areas to look.
I walked on full section without success, then realized I was in the wrong section! Duh. Robert came out in an ATV just about the time I realized that, and he confirmed I was one block off my target. He also walked a couple sections with me to find graves with last names that matched my two missing people, just in case they were family members and there was some sort of glitch in the record keeping. While doing this, he told me that a flood in the 1950s destroyed many of the records and when there is no headstone, that person, that grave and all information, is just lost. So sad. I wondered how many people were there without anyone knowing. One of the missing names on my list was buried there in 1930; he is quite possibly there, unmarked, unknown. I guess I realized the importance of the grave markers more than ever during this exercise. As Robert said, if there is not a marker, paper records are minimally helpful, because fire or flood can take away every trace of that person in a matter of minutes. Sobering, isn't it? Newer records are being kept in a more organized fashion, but he says most of his requests for information involve the older ones, the disorganized ones. He laments not having a computer to help him with his job.
I took pictures of the grave markers that we had located, then over to a familiar corner of the cemetery for me where I photographed the markers of my husband's family. With that, my task at the cemetery was done, and I headed home. It was a little warm, around 70°, and my last hour or more had been spent in the sun. I was, unfortunately, wearing a black shirt which just soaked up the heat of the sun, and I was hot and dry. I guzzled a bottle of water, but I needed something else, so I stopped at Sonic for a drink, then headed home.
Last night I loaded the photos of the graves into the Find a Grave website, putting each in the memorial page for that individual. I've already received thank you notes from three of the people who requested these photos. How cool! I didn't expect acknowledgment, and didn't need, it, but it feels good to know those folks have already seen the photos and it has helped them with their searches for information. I even heard from one of the people connected with a grave I couldn't find. She said she has talked to several family members who were at the graveside at the burial in 1970, but since no marker was ever placed, she realized that it would be a difficult task. She was hoping for at least some documentation of the death, but even that was not available. It really makes you wonder, doesn't it?
It was an interesting day. I've clearly gotten myself into quite a challenging volunteer job! It's OK. I'm happy to help others with these tasks. That's what life is all about, isn't it?
I was really tired last night. I got a good night's sleep, but I'm thinking I need a couple more good nights of sleep to really feel myself again.
OK, I'm off to slay another dragon. Er, make that clean my house and begin preparation for having a few friends here on Christmas Day. Dragon, housework .... you see the connection, don't you?