Buchanan Graveyard is one of the many small local graveyards of Latah County; none of them are very old, of course, but if, like me, you have a morbid taste for cemetery tourism, they are often very pleasant. My graveyard, as I like to call it, dates back to about 1890, when the town of Cornwall (now gone) boasted a railway station, a post office, a school, a brick factory, and a Church of the Brethren.
It’s only about two miles from our house, and has been one of my favorite places in the world since I first visited it, back in 1978 or 1979. My late brother and I used to walk up every Memorial Day with lilacs, syringa, and peonies from the yard. Once as we were walking up the hill, we saw a kettle of red tailed hawks–16 or so of them swirling in a wide spiral. We’d never seen anything like it.
It’s very peaceful up there, and the views are superb. In the spring, the King Alfred daffodils and Narcissus poeticus are thick, and both sides of the winding road up the hill are lined with lilac trees. This time of year, there’s not much green left, but it’s still lovely.
At the base of little Jacob Headrick’s grave, you can see wild lupin and blanket flower, as well as cleavers, prairie grasses, and some mosses and lichen. At one time, he had a lilac bush, too, as well as a very fancy concrete curb around the whole of his grave, as well as a footstone and a headstone.
Most graves, though, just have a headstone, like Violet May Patton’s. Over time, these stones have become increasingly fragile, and many which were completely legible and quite sturdy 25 years ago have become blurred, cracked, and even broken. They are often replaced by flat metal markers, which I hate. I’m sure they’re cheap, durable, and easy to mow over, but they’re ugly, and they represent a significant loss of information. Violet May’s parents chose the words “Our Darling” for the top of her gravestone, and they chose the bas relief lamb which goes with it. Several other children in Buchanan Graveyard have the same lamb carved on their stones, but with different mottos; when those stones are replaced with flat markers which just list the name, birth date (without a day, often) and death date, we lose something very precious about children like Violet May, and about Percy and Marena Patton.
Here in Latah County, it is still legal to bury your family members in your backyard, if you want to. (Ah, Idaho . . . ) We’ve already chosen our cemetery ground, and planted trees all around it. From the air, it will look like a Norse ship-form burial site, once the trees have grown up. The only one buried up there right now is Tim the Enchanter, Tuxedo Boy’s beloved gerbil, but he has a proper gravestone–a large, smooth river rock marked with Sharpy marker which reads “Tim the Enchanter, A Good Friend.” When I join Tim up in the Viking grove, I expect a six-foot marble angel on a pedestal, like the ones in Highgate Cemetery, and a good long epitaph on a bronze tablet.