As I leaned against the tombstone under the hot Texas sun (using a pen to remove burrs from my socks and the inside of my shoes) I considered that the Shamrock Cemetery, with its sections of pristine lawn, so close to graves overrun with weeds and tall grass, was exactly the sort of place that teenagers might dare each other to spend the night in on Halloween.
In a mad, twisted way, it mirrors Shamrock itself, which seems in some ways to be a town treading water, but tiring by slow, painful degrees.
We had traveled to the small - and growing ever smaller - Texas community this afternoon so that my wife could check on the graves of her parents and grandparents. While we found her parents’ graves after much searching, our attempt to locate her grandparents’ graves was fruitless.
It was a bad sign when we were told by someone, before heading out to the cemetery, “Well, we’ve had a lot of rain this year.”
This is usually the sort of thing we have heard from folks we have hired to take care of the lawn at the house we are trying to get ready to sell in Elk City - it usually translates as “Nobody has cut the grass lately.”
Not quite the case, but enough to horrify anyone looking for a relative, and sadden anyone who respects the memory of the dead in general, military veterans, or baseball players of the past.
Parts of Shamrock Cemetery, like Shamrock itself, are well taken care of, and are in fact quite beautiful. As you drive through the town, however, you may find a lovely house with a well-tended lawn, and discover an abandoned house next door, grass three, four, five feet high.
On all too many streets today during our short visit we saw lawns that should probably have been declared National Wilderness Areas.
Such is the Shamrock Cemetery, which is home to the remains of the loved ones of many, many folks, sprawling over a wide area, It might be understandable if, say, ten to twenty percent of the cemetery were mowed and maintained, with the rest awaiting attention, but to find a few spotless areas here and there, and then the cemetery image giving way to that of an old abandoned graveyard, the sort you might find by accident while trudging through the woods on a hiking adventure is more than disquieting.
A few feet away, civilization returns, and plots are beautiful, ready for a family to spend perhaps an afternoon visiting the grave of a loved one. Mere feet away, weeds cover markers, and plants strangle each other in their battle to wipe out any memory of the dead.
Walk three feet, and beauty returns.
There is no rhyme or reason to any of this.
But walking amongst the tall grass, looking for tombstones which failed to reveal themselves, we made other discoveries.
Graves so covered by the Triffid-like growth that you would have to be standing right on top of them to discover them.
War veterans, whose families could only afford a flat marker laid into the ground, their names and years of service covered by dirt and weeds.
The strikingly beautiful tombstone of Ira Robert Seeds, also known as Bob “Suitcase” Seeds, who was a professional baseball player ( Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, New York Giants, New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox) who died in Shamrock in 1993 at the age of 86.
Seeds, who seems to have gained the moniker “Suitcase” because of his large feet - or simply because he traveled around so much - played professional baseball between 1930-1940. During one glorious weekend (while playing with a farm team affiliated with the Yankees) in 1937, “Suitcase” Seeds hit seven home runs out of his ten turns at bat.
He was 33 when he left baseball. His tombstone, engraved with an eloquent tribute, is surrounded by weeds.
Finally, after our trek under the sun, walking through grass and weeds and failing to get all of the burrs off my jeans and out of my shoes, we left, to complain to City Hall about the cemetery/graveyard.
If Fayetteville has the distinction of being named a “Tree City USA,” then perhaps Shamrock would be the “Weed/Tall Grass City USA” winner. That sounds sort of smarmy, but just bear with me.
Driving down the small downtown, with hopefully thriving businesses next to empty storefronts, we found the City Hall on a side street. Almost directly across from City Hall is an abandoned lot, with high weeds taking over the corner.
A blinking red traffic light hung in the air at the end of the street.
Inside City Hall Tracy showed a photo of her parents’ gravesite, positioned as it is next to a neatly trimmed area.
Excuses were made, pretty much being that their guy was behind on his work.
I generally don’t believe in snapping at people in public places; it’s a mug’s game, as well as being emotionally self-indulgent.
But today, as I stood in the Shamrock City Hall, burrs grinding into my feet, hot, thirsty, aggravated with people everywhere who just give you the party line, and act as though you just dropped down from the moon, I snapped, “We have other photographs. We have video of the cemetery.”
Absolutely no interest was expressed in seeing any other proof we had of the lack of lawn care at the cemetery.
It has been a little over five years since Tracy and I have been to Shamrock, home to the famous U-Drop-Inn, which was copied for the movie Cars.
Even then, the town was slowing down, almost as if it were getting ready to have an estate sale.
But just a few short years later, the estate sale has been held, and the town seems to be just . . . maintaining. If you can’t make somebody get rid of the weeds across the street from City Hall, I’m not even sure that “maintaining” is the right word.
About ten years ago I had a long conversation with a couple of guys who had a radio show on a station located in downtown Shamrock. They recounted the difficulty they had in getting some businesses to advertise with them. One restaurant owner told them, bluntly:
We don’t want outsiders eating here.”
Well, maybe they should have advertised. I can’t even find the radio station on Google, now.
No matter if you believe that there is nothing beyond this life, or that the souls of the departed have gone to another life or are simply waiting to be resurrected, this sort of civic disrespect is hard to imagine.
But as I say, I have photographs.
I have video.
They’ll look good on a short documentary.
Quote of the Day
Snow is what you are up to your neck in when people send you postcards from Florida saying they wish you were there, and I wish they might sit on a burr. - Ogden Nash