Who Lieth Beneath the Sod?

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?O youth, thou hast removed one grief only to add another grief; but now, O my friend, where is she; and where is the mausoleum wherein lieth the wounded slave??

The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night


On a hillside within sight of my house, hidden from view by thorny orange bushes, briars and two drooping Cedar trees is the resting place of sixteen souls. Or, so I?ve been told. My discovery should not have come as a big surprise. All my life I?d heard talk of a graveyard nearby. For some reason I thought it was behind a neighbor?s house, but recently I was set straight and told that it is in fact just a quarter mile down the road across from the neighbors house.


Taking advantage of one of the first warm days of the year my granddaughter and I set out on an adventure. We strolled down the road, camera around my neck in search of the long ago remains of once breathing souls. Our first obstacle was an electric fence. I spit on it and it didn?t sizzle so we were in luck. Under the fence we skedaddle. Straight way I spy a fresh clump of cow manure. I start praying there?s not a bull in our midst. I wasn?t really that scared for myself but Emma, my granddaughter would have been terrified if a raging bull started barreling toward us. For me it wouldn?t have been the first time I?d been run out of a pasture by a bull.


Keeping a keen eye out for cow flesh we proceeded to climb the hill. We wove our way through broom straw, briars and poop. Our destination was the two aged Cedar trees. My neighbor had assured me that was where her husband?s parents were buried. She also made mention of a young orphan girl who may have been a slave also resting in peace upon the hill.


The vague story of the young sixteen-year-old girl has always been a haunting mystery to me. Who was this girl and what could have happened to her? No one can seem to tell me. I have to wonder if the mere girl is resting in peace or if her spirit is seeking solace. If only someone could remember her story. I need to call in the ?Without a Trace? team and try to ?dig up? the answers to this two hundred year old question?


Before I contact the investigators I thought I?d throw the information out to you and see if I get any feedback. Here?s what Emma and I found where the Cedar trees hover over what?s left of a dozen or more souls. Five or six monuments are still standing. Another half dozen or so lie broken on the ground. Only two have words etched on them. Another two only have initials engraved in them. Then another is so weathered by the elements of time that I could only make out a date, 1874.


On one of the legible stones it reads: Cassy Gentry, born February 1832. Married a man with the last name of Burcham in March of 1856, then she died in November of that same year. She was only twenty-four years old. Who was she and what happened to her? Did she die during childbirth? Will we ever know?


The other legible stone reads: Matilda, wife of Willy Gentry, born 1805, died 1828. Matilda was only twenty-three! What could have happened to these two very young women who lie on a hillside under the sod? Both so young?both so gone?both so forgotten. And what about the sixteen-year-old orphaned slave girl? No one took the time to even etch her name. The memory of her may be lost for eternity, but thoughts of a young maiden running barefoot through the meadow racing to sink her feet in the cool water of Grassy Creek trickle through my mind.


My neighbor, the only person who may know the truth sits behind a locked door in an Alzheimer?s unit. Sure she can remember small fragments of the ones buried on the hill, but after finding the plots I have to wonder if she really remembers, because there are no stones with her husband?s last name there. Did she mean her husband?s grandparents who may have been Matilda and Willy Gentry?


If anyone knows anything about these plots on Brookfall Dairy Road, in Elkin, North Carolina and the ones who lie beneath the thistles and snares, I?d really appreciate any information you might be able to share. And, are there any laws about keeping a cemetery sacred? I suppose there are worse things than having your grave pooped on by a cow. But, somehow it just doesn?t seem right.


When I saw the grown-over burial ground and ran my fingers across the stones I had an overwhelming need to know who these people were, to bring their memories to life. How very sad to be gone from sight, and mind with not even a piece of stone left with your name on it.

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