Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Shallow Graves

When I was a kid growing up in Whitestone, New York, we dug graves for birds and turtles and the occasional cat that died in our yard. It was a solemn thing.
When I was about 20 I tried to build a log cabin by myself in Maine one summer and had to dig 16 post holes deeper than the frost line of 36 or so inches. They were hard because of the rocks: Sometimes the holes had to be five feet wide just to get the rocks out of the way. Each one took about a day in that terrain, and when I was on number 11 or so, I woke up the next morning to find it filled with water: I'd hit an underground stream and had to move the building spot and start all over.
Since moving to Texas, I'm back to digging shallow graves. For dogs hit by cars, for cats that the dogs have killed, for a baby goat that died the first night we got her a couple of years ago. Even for roosters our first dog, Spike, would grab from the neighbor's pen. We'd let him eat a bunch but still buried the rest so the vultures wouldn't come.
And this morning I'm back to digging another shallow grave. One of our goats, tied up for a few days while I did fence mending after the recent storms, twisted and twisted the cord holding him until he just choked himself to death. I found him last night and cut him free this morning. I dragged the body to a patch of earth behind some trees in a new burial corner where I'm thinking of planting a bamboo patch.
If I'd have rebuilt the fence faster he'd be alive so it's my fault. Sorry goat. And sorry for your brother, who now wonders why nobody is answering his bleating with bleating of their own.
Digging dirt is always backbreaking work. If it's not rocks in the way it's roots or hard clay. I've taken a break because the babies are coming over. I'll finish it later. It won't be a deep grave, just 18 inches or so. I'll cover the body up with a blanket and put clorox on the blanket to keep the scavengers at bay until nature can do her work.
It's still a solemn thing to bury the dead, same as when I was a kid. Even when it's just a damned goat.

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