Smelly Socks: Making some memories

Jamison looking at the unmarked grave.

Ranch Life

Like most families this time of year, our weekends seem to fly by at warp speed. We are typical in the fact that we are simply overextended.

Saturdays and Sundays are jam-packed with middle school cross country meets, 4-H meetings, school projects, church obligations and the meetings of various committees that we have agreed to be a part of.

A recent Saturday offered us a much needed and surprising break to our typical routine.

Austin, my 13-year-old, had a minor foot injury and was told not to participate in a cross country meet until he was completely healed. This injury allowed us to have a "free" Saturday.It felt like heaven to not have the usual blaring alarm clock remind us we had a school bus to meet or a schedule to keep.

The sweetest sound to my ears was the light snoring sound coming from my boys still happily snoozing in bed at 9:30 in the morning. When the boys finally did wake up later that morning, the sky was overcast and the air was slightly cooler than is usual for this time of year. It was a morning that reminded us that fall is indeed here, and that winter is not far behind.

This change in weather offers us a chance to finally add long sleeves to our shirts and possibly pull on a jacket, which seems like a reward for enduring the intense Texas heat.

Although everyone relished a seemingly free day, both of the boys seemed restless and were looking for something different to do by the time lunch rolled around.

A change of pace was needed, and I decided it would be a nice day to take a short, 4-mile trip from our ranch house to the family cemetery. This remote cemetery is just basically a small clearing that is surrounded by significant thick brush.

I didn't tell the kids where we were headed, I just loaded them up, and off we went to do some exploring.

When we arrived at the small isolated family cemetery, which is enclosed with a chain-link fence separating it from the very thick brush, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was kept much better than I remembered from the last time I was there for a visit.

Austin and Jamison each had puzzled looks on their faces when we pulled up. Jamison, my 9-year-old, was the first to break the silence with, "Why are you bringing us to a graveyard? It isn't even Halloween yet. Are you feeling OK, Mom?"

I explained to both of them that this is where a number of their ancestors were buried, and knowing your family history is a valuable asset.

We went through looking at all of the very tall headstones, and I showed them the headstone of my great-great-great-grandfather, which they took great interest in. We also viewed the tombstones of the various family members who came to Texas with the first original 300 settlers to Texas.

Some of the names on the tombstones we had never heard of before, but many names we recognized, as they are still passed down and used today in my family.

We saw the small headstone of infants and the headstones that revealed much longer lives.

We saw graves that only had names on them and no dates, and we read the lengthy historical marker that explained the family cemetery's founding and saw the family ranch brands that decorated the marker base.

My boys were amazed at the Biblical sayings on the headstones and the dates that go back before Texas was a state.

Jamison explained, "Gee Mom that is like way, way, way back there."

Then, just like a magnet pulling at them, my boys spied the grave that had always intrigued me. Austin and Jamison came across an unmarked grave with a brick covering and no headstone.

I remembered my father telling me that his grandfather recanted to him, that this was the grave of a Civil War soldier. This soldier was buried in the family cemetery, and no one knew his name, his life details or even why he was buried here.

Our little day trip turned into something that proved extremely educational for myself and for my boys. As we were fixing to leave, I noticed that Austin was lingering near the brick covered grave. He seemed deep in thought, and I was touched, thinking that he was connecting with his family history.

Jamison joined him, and I noticed some excitement in their expressions and some pointing going on. I went over to see what was happening, and I literally stopped in my tracks. Apparently, some of the bricks covering the unmarked grave were disturbed, and there was a small opening at the end of the grave. Where the bricks were missing, you could see into the cavity below.

Austin and Jamison had already began trying to outdo each other with stories of what might had happened with that particular graveand how the bricks were moved and how they thought that the grave was indeed now completely empty.

I have to admit, I was certainly glad we were there exploring in the daylight hours and not during a foggy evening with coyotes howling in the thick brush surrounding the remote cemetery.

As I mentioned that we needed to head back to the car, my creative Austin had already started developing a story of a hand reaching out from where the bricks were missing - a Civil War soldier's soul was not at rest because he died on the battlefield far from the home where he longed to be.

Suddenly, there was a small, rustling noise coming from the brush near the fence close to the grave.

At first, we all looked at each other and pretended that we didn't hear anything.

Everyone definitely heard something, but no one was going to admit it, because that would mean it was real. Then, the sound happened again; it was louder and closer than before.

I must admit I took a few light and quick steps as I decided at that very instant it was time to go and began to head back to the car with purpose. However, both of the boys had already reached that same conclusion and were ahead of me.

I noticed Austin's injured foot certainly wasn't slowing him down, and he was in the lead. He and Jamison started for the car at a fast walking pace. However, as their imaginations grew and came alive, they stretched their long legs out and they were sprinting at full speed to see who could make it out of the gate and into the safety of the Jeep first.

As Jamison was closing the door, he bravely hollered out to me, "We'll just wait for you in here."

This adventure allowed my boys to have their eyes opened up to their history, and I know that Austin's ears will certainly perk up more in his seventh-grade Texas history class. Hopefully, he will benefit in knowing and understanding that his ancestors settled on this land and fought and died in some of the battles that shaped the state of Texas.

As most Texans, we certainly cherish our unique state's history. I was pleased that I got to show and teach my children about their background and to see a certain connection be formed with their ancestors.

Also, we certainly made a memory - one that I am sure they will tell their children aboutin the future. I can even see Austin and Jamison in the future driving their unsuspecting children to view the family cemetery and telling them the story about the Civil War soldier's bricked-up grave.

Johanna is a proud seventh generation Texan. She lives on her family's South Texas ranch with her husband and two lively boys. Email Johanna Bloom or Anita Spisak at smellysocks@vicad.com.