By H. David Morrow FuzzyGem@worldnet.att.net
© H. David Morrow ~ November 13, 2004
Even though I'm retired from a brutal traveling job which sometimes kept me flying as many as 42 flights in seven days, I still think of weekends as being 'off' time. Do-what-you-want-time. Honey-do time, if you want to eliminate items from the overly long list your spouse has painstakingly created.
So you can imagine my surprise when, as we were preparing for bed on a Friday night, GW (Geneaholic Wife) casually remarked that tomorrow we should go to a cemetery. For a moment I thought she had administered the coup de gras to me at dinner (Draino crystals in my food) and just wanted to save herself a long drive in terrible weather at some later date when the Draino took effect.
What she really wanted to do was test out our digital camera and the toy she bought from a catalogue. Her new toy accepts a SmartCard from the camera and makes a CD out of it. This solves the problem of "running out of bytes" which used to be called "running out of film."
GW, ever the practical and methodical member of our duo (trio if you add the dog, which I always do), had considered just buying a number of extra SmartCards at about $50. each. She soon discovered the cost of buying enough cards to hold the quantity of probable pictures of headstones in even a small cemetery was considerable.
The new rechargeable-battery operated gadget burns CD disks which store over 650 megabytes. The SmartCard only holds 64 meg. Go ahead, figure it out yourself: eleven cards cost over $500 and the new toy was only $275 plus some extras and shipping.
Even I, a slow-learning, geneaholic care-giver, had to agree with her math. BUT, as with many things in genealogy, it's not only the initial cost you should consider. It's the time and effort required after the purchase. So we had to test the toy.
Because I had already given our mythical chauffeur and fantasy cook the weekend off, I had to take her; and I had to participate in this exercise (poor choice of word, but that's what it was.)
GW chose a cemetery that contained the remains from a number of her ancestors and lots of other people, too. It's about an hour and a half drive from our home. Her plan was to photograph each and every stone and, when she learns how, put up a web site where other genealogists could find pictures of their progenitors' gravestones for free.
With over 750 stones, this is really a small resting place but it's still growing. (If 'growth' indicates life, can you say a cemetery is growing?)
On a sunny Saturday, we woke at 7:30 AM (7:30!!!) and packed the car with cemetery/genealogical gear. This included things like a water spray bottle, aerosol shaving cream, a spatula, the camera, the CD burner gadget, a cooler with iced tea and plastic drinking glasses (I'm constantly fearful of catching geneaholic germs from her). Thankfully, our equipment did NOT include any shovels, so I assumed we would both be coming back.
Oh, yes... we didn't forget water, treats and a leash for the dog. She went, too.
This cemetery is laid out so that the rows run North to South from the main, unpaved street. All the neighboring properties are farms and ranches. Hay rolls, cows and horses were all visible but far enough away to be non-threatening. I'm a city-boy, after all, so I'm uneasy in the proximity of large animals, huge piles of dead vegetation or small to medium piles of farm animal waste.
GW decided to start on the far west end and photographed each row after noting the beginning stone's name and location on her clipboard. Not wanting to get too involved, I took the dog for a walk! From the opposite corner of the cemetery, I watched her (GW not the dog) kneel, take a picture, stand up, move a few paces and kneel again to take another picture.
At my age and condition, this whole thing seemed like spending time at the gym, but without TV and air conditioning. (Visiting a gym is something I do too little. Just ask my tailor!)
It took about four hours to photograph the first eight rows moving from West to East. With a break to transfer photos to a CD (the toy worked as advertised), GW had taken 273 pictures in total and we were both tired. (I had been conscripted to carry stuff, write notes on the clipboard and move plants and flowers out of the way of the gravestone lettering. No, I did NOT kneel at each stone... too much like exercise.)
When we got back home, GW headed right to her computer to download all the photos from the CD. Then she decided she'd have to create a separate data-base listing of all the stones' names. It became obvious I wasn't going to get any conjugal reward that night. On the bright side, we had dinner out, so I didn't have to worry about getting any Draino with my food.
The next day, GW complained of back and leg muscle soreness. No spousal reward that day, either; dinner out again. I'm beginning to miss the special flavor drain cleaner adds to all kinds of food GW prepares.
We'll have to go back to take pictures of the center section where most of GW's ancestors are buried. Maybe by that visit, I'll have done enough tread-milling and bicycling to be in better shape. SURE!