Oh bury me not on the lone prairie
Where the coyotes wail and the wind blows free.
And when I die, don't bury me
Beneath the western sky, on the lone prairie.
We've been in Kansas...again. The plan all along had been to be there the end of September for my high school reunion and while I suppose we could have just stayed after the apartment-clean-out was done, we were anxious for our own beds and life at home, even if it was for only six days.
Reconnecting with classmates consumed most of my time there (more about that in another post) but I did join Wayne on two occasions as he set out to finish the Cemeteries of Butler County geocaching challenge he had worked on during previous trips. To do so meant he needed to find a cache in fifty different cemeteries, only fourteen of which he had completed. I never realized just how many little country cemeteries there were until I tagged along with him on the dirt roads last weekend.
One of my two trips was early on Saturday morning. The sun was up but just barely and it was a beautiful time to be driving the back roads across the prairie. Waves of meadowlarks flew up ahead of the truck almost like water being parted by a boat and as they turned, we caught the flash of yellow of their underside in the golden morning light. A coyote bolted up out of the ditch but quickly scooted under the fence and disappeared in the tall grass. And where the road crossed a small wash, we came across a big flock of turkeys. There had to be twenty or so, most of them not quite full grown. It must have been a good spring for turkeys.
I got up early to join Wayne on this trip because he was going to Chelsea Cemetery. It's a really old cemetery, maybe the oldest in the county, and while I've been before, I appreciate its history and quiet beauty. Wayne has ancestors buried there...his great-grandparents, Thomas and Bessie Arnall; his great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Butts Arnall; and his great-great-great-grandfather, John Vaught. John Vaught's grave is among the oldest as he died in 1872 but the very first grave at Chelsea was the infant son of George and Eleanor Donaldson who died in 1861. Eleanor was John Vaught's daughter so the connections to this particular burying ground run deep.
The land was, however, in jeopardy when the new lake was built in 1981. It incorporated two smaller lakes that were already in existence and there was talk of moving Chelsea Cemetery as it is in the flood plain. You can see the dike they built along the edge of the cemetery in the background of the photo above and even then, water fills the swale between the graves in the front and those in the back. We're not sure if they moved the remains of those who had been buried there or if there simply were no graves there. Standing on the dike you look down at the waters of Lake El Dorado on the other side.
Wandering among the old tombstones wasn't the only way I spent my time in Chelsea.
I had a cache to find. Well, Wayne could have found it without me but I was more than happy to climb up on the roof of the truck to retrieve it from the crotch of the tree at the cemetery's edge. He added it to the Found list and before our time in El Dorado was done, he had his fifty cemetery finds and then some.
During the course of our three days there, we were in lots of small rural cemeteries. The wind there blew free but then it always does in Kansas, and while we saw more than one coyote, we didn't hear them wail. As I stood in these secluded plots of land carved out of the prairie, I listened to the meadowlarks call to one another and watched the sunflowers dance in the breeze. It didn't seem lonely at all.