May 31, 2010

Dear Editor,

There are graves in the cemetery that are associated with families who no longer live here or of people who just had the misfortune to die in Alliance, a long way from home. Allen N. Turner, of Dallas, Texas, is one of the latter. His marker gives the year of his death as 1903, only 15 years after the founding of Alliance.

This grave intrigued me for years. I checked the microfilms of a predecessor to your paper. I hope my memory is correct, but the basic outline of the last few days of Allen Turner’s life are solid. Maybe it was the “Silver Dollar Gang”, for example, instead of the “Silver Dollar Boys”. To a newspaper man, this light way with the facts is unacceptable, I know, yet the outcome of the story doesn’t change.

Allen Turner worked for a rancher up on the Pine Ridge. The rancher’s wife made burritos for extra cash, and Allen Turner had the job of selling them. There was a dispute over some missing money, mayhem broke out, Allen Turner fled south to Alliance, maybe to continue to Texas.

Whatever Allen Turner’s plan, regardless of his guilt or innocence, two brothers (as I recall) who styled themselves the “Silver Dollar Boys” chased him down to Alliance, shot him in the neck, and he died after long suffering a day later.

Someone paid to bury him. Someone put a small white marble Celtic cross on his grave. He was 28 years old, dead of a gunshot wound.

The white marble Celtic cross seems to be an effort to place a marker within the budget of the person who knew or was related to Mr. Turner, yet not to be cheap: a small white marble Celtic cross is, still, made of an expensive material, just scaled down. It is beautiful. I suspect Mr. Turner was loved despite his foibles.

I’d see this cross when I went out to place flowers and flags for Memorial Day on family graves .

You probably recognize this marker from times you covered the Memorial Day ceremonies at the cemetery. The grave is in the triangle of land with the memorials. I took this photo yesterday after I placed the small American flag next to it. That was a mistake.

Today, the flag was gone, probably picked up by the people who placed all the little American flags on graves throughout the cemetery. An honest mistake, I think. I’m mildly bent out of shape, but it’s not a huge dollar issue, just one of me being denied the opportunity to mark the grave of an outcast far from his home.

The flag was gone, but someone put a small bouquet of artificial yellow roses next to the marker! A kindred spirit. Thank you, whoever you are!

The person who placed the yellow roses on Allen Turner’s grave doesn’t know it, but his or her small act helped define the true meaning of Memorial Day for me. They all aren’t heroes. They all didn’t have big bank accounts. Some were outright scoundrels. But they all deserve some measure of remembrance and dignity. Sorry, but the barbeques and sales, well…!


memorial day

Take a moment to remember that Memorial Day, established after the Civil War, wasn’t meant to be a day of Indy car races, barbeques, and swilling beer. Sure, go ahead and do these things if you wish, maybe even take in a Memorial Day sale or two. I’m not your father.

Maybe because I've nearly died twice from illness and I have a darkly more serious outlook on life (and death), maybe because I am a US Army veteran, maybe because tomorrow- Memorial Day- would have been my late father's 94th birthday and that's been on my mind for a week at least, Memorial Day this year just doesn't feel like a time to gallop and cavort in anticipation of summer fun.

There. Have I ruined everyone's plans for the day?

seasonal miscellany

The coming of warm weather doesn’t appeal to me. I have difficulty with heat, perhaps a side effect of the Wegener’s granulomatosis, this disease I have that affects the small and medium size blood vessels. The how and why don’t make much difference: I hate heat!

The coming of warm weather has salubrious results if you are a member of the plant kingdom, however. This is the iris season where I live. We just went through the flowering crab apple (and other apple varieties) season a couple weeks ago. A bit earlier than that, to my delight, the rhubarb I planted last year made a small appearance. I think I planted eight plants, of which only two came up. From the two, I might yet get some rhubarb from the relatively larger one.

There it is! My little rhubarb! Actually, my little big one.

I’ve planted a couple of heirloom tomatoes, a Brandywine and another the name of which escapes me. Somewhere around the end of August, I should start to have too many tomatoes to deal with. The varieties I chose both are of the beefsteak style: one slice’ll do you because one slice covers the hamburger, BLT sandwich, whatever you have it on.

In past, when I had more consumers of tomatoes available, I planted up to eight plants. I’d make a delicious tomato plate with vinegrette and herb dressing (nasturtium, marigold petal, several varieties of basel, and two varieties of mint). Whew! That was garden eating!

Now, for the latest cat news!

Have I mentioned Louie can be willful and just plain obnoxious when he’s in a mood? My brother and my Seattle sister both have cats. They proclaimed Louie a sweet cat, but I testify to this: a sweet cat is still a cat! That’s my breakfast, my coffee, my juice, my chair. Yeah, like that!

The warming weather makes Louie, my ginger cat, restless to get outside and be a cat. This goes against my will for him. I live too close to busy roads to just turn him out. When Louie looked out the back door and found a visitor, keeping him in became harder yet. I call this familiar neighborhood cat “J. Doe”. Louie called it several names of his own before it fled, stage right. After this visit, Louie became much, much more interested in getting out on his own.

Even when the late spring snow came, and I let Louie experience wet paws, his wishes were delayed, not ended. J. Doe would have to wait for another day.

Louie’s behavior outside is reasonably good. I walk alongside or behind him. If you’ve ever “walked” a cat, you know they piddle around much more than most dogs. Sniff, rub, roll around in the loose dirt, just sit there, dig a potty hole (I approve, sort of- less litterbox waste to deal with, but an outside booby trap for an unsuspecting gardener.). When I’m ready to go in, usually when Louie starts to wander farther than I want to carry a 20 lb. (9kg) cat, I pick him up and take him back home. Yeah, he gets pissy about it, whining, threatening, ears folded back.

“Save it for your little cat friends, Louie.” Which, in this last photo, he demonstrates he did.