Tuesday, February 14, 2006

It's cold in East Texas

as we found out yesterday. As I mentioned previously, my wifes family hails from East Texas so we did the graveyard tour[^], looking for ancestral graves.

The first stop was Athens, Texas. Poor naive bastard that I am, I'd imagined it was named after Athens, Greece. But not a bit of it. On an official historical sites plaque mounted above one of the graves at Athens cemetery is the tidbit of information that Athens Texas was named after Athens, Georgia by a resident in the Texan Athens who'd been born in the Georgian Athens. I suppose I'm going to have to make the trek to Athens, Georgia to find out which Athens in the US it was named after and then to that one and so on and so forth to trace the trail back to the Greek Athens!

Having spent more hours of my life than I care to total wandering through Melbourne Cemeteries you'll understand that I've become used to a certain style of cemetery. I like them overgrown, unkempt and old. Well, as old as any cemetery in Australia can be. The cemeteries in Phoenix miss out on both counts, being both desert landscapes for the most part and dating back no earlier than the early years of last century. To be sure, there's a cemetery over on fourth Avenue (I think) close in to Phoenix downtown that dates back quite a bit further than that but it's a major effort to visit that one; they keep it locked and to enter you have to drive three or four miles east to a parks office to collect the key. Arrived back at the cemetery, which is surrounded by bail bonds offices, you really do feel like a shag on a rock as you wander around within. Not the most salubrious part of town.

Athens cemetery was excellent. Green, overgrown, windy and lonely. Perhaps a trifle too windy. Put another way, it was bloody cold! It would have been a pleasant day without the wind; bright blue skies and sunny; just enough edge of cold on the air that you knew you were alive. And that north wind sweeping down across the snow fields of Canada and the Northern United States, all aimed specifically at me! Thankfully I had a snow jacket with me (courtesy of my wife's insistence that we'd probably need it).

We didn't manage to find the grave my wife was looking for. Her great grandmother, died 1902, is there but we couldn't find the tombstone. Believe me, we know how to search a cemetery!

So, after spending more time there than we ought to have, given that we were on a tight schedule, we took off for LaRue via the Shelby Chapel[^]. This is a non-denominational chapel built on land donated by my wife's great great grandparents. Apparently, whilst building it, her great grandfather fell off the steep roof to his death. We were also looking for his grave at Athens but didn't manage to find it.

From there we went to LaRue; to a lonely cemetery some distance from the main road and right in the heart of farming country. Indeed, had it been a lot warmer and the trees more familiar it would have looked just like any of a hundred cemeteries scattered across the Australian outback.

Much more success there; we found a whole nest of ancestors, most of them Shelbys[^] and somehow related, backwards, to that ancient Kentucky Governor and forwards to my wife.

Then followed a very brief visit to Tyler Cemetery before racing off to Longview to catch up with my sister-in-law and her husband. Nice people; they insisted on taking us to Lake Caddo near the Louisiana border for a 'mess of fresh catfish'. I have to record that it didn't overmuch impress me. The fish itself was delicious but it was coated in some 'batter and breadcrumbs' mix that had the taste and consistency of crunchy cardboard! I know I've just put myself beyond the pale with that remark but that's what I thought as I tried to eat the stuff. The Jalapeno hush puppies however were very moorish; I just had to have more and more so I certainly didn't leave the restaurant feeling hungry!

Then came a long drive back to Dallas. Not much to relate apart from playing 'overtaking' games with an enormous truck which had an only slightly smaller truck as its load. I suspect he had cruise control; on the uphill stretches we managed to get ahead only to be overtaken on the downhill stretches. Well, it was a game and it whiled away a couple of hours of driving through dark countryside. You take your entertainment where you can find it!

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