October 21: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

October 22, 2015

October 21Some spouses want to look at mattresses. Space age foam, coils and springs, firm tops, pillow tops. Mattress makers have even cleverly devised ways to please more than one mattress occupant with dual sleep number settings. Finding a resting spot is vital.

But my spouse is asked to search for different resting spots. I’m not interested in mattresses; I want to find old cemeteries. On our forest service map, the one we use to navigate where to cut firewood in the Kaniksu National Forest, I discovered listings for known graveyards.

I say, “known” because Idaho has a creepy law. Home burials are legal in most counties within certain zoning restrictions. Back in the 1900s when Elmira was a thriving town for railroad workers, backyard burials were common. For a history buff like me, I dig hanging out in cemeteries where history reads in the names and dates carved in stone. So I was puzzled when I discovered that Elmira had no old cemetery. A local explained why.

After all these years, the Elmira Schoolhouse stands, but we no longer know where anyone buried loved ones in backyards or family plots. We’ve forgotten these final resting places.

This makes me curious to discover the ones I see listed on our map. The Hub is less curious, but has promised me a cemetery day after I pitched a fit in Bonner’s Ferry this afternoon. For some unknown political or economic reason, gas in Bonners is way cheaper than it is in Sandpoint. Our normal route to the firewood stand is up a two-track called Twenty Mile Road. From there we take a logging trail numbered 2260A on our map. Because the Hub wanted to fuel up in Bonners, I thought we’d take the back way in and look for the Boulder Cemetery.

No. That’s all he said when he jumped back in the truck, put it gear and turned south toward Twenty Mile. I wailed like a spouse told, no we aren’t going to get that mattress. Don’t mess with my resting place curiosity! I gave up an afternoon of blogging to get firewood, all I wanted was to go past a cemetery. With a heavy sigh, the Hub pulled over and looked at the map. He pointed out the distance, and he was right.

But wait. I saw a cemetery listed on the map just east of Bonners and not too far. This time, I got my way. It’s called Grand View and it is a resting place with a fabulous view of the Cabinet Mountains. The very mountains the Hub would prefer to be in with his chainsaw. He let me snap a few shots and then agreed to taking a cemetery day on Friday. We continued to the forest and tipped several trees (he, not we) and skidded several logs (me, too).

Here’s a bit of our day (the Hub skidding a log from a dead tree he fell):

And I got to skid one, too:

You can tell from how giddy I get that I had fun even though I was thwarted from viewing more cemeteries until later. Believe me, we both are going to enjoy our resting place tonight.

When working on historical fiction, I begin with the non-fictional parts — the facts that detail the story like trim on a hot-rod car. Cemeteries can reveal much more than dates and names. Last year, when I visited the Fairbury Cemetery outside the remains of Rock Creek Station in Nebraska, I noticed an oddity about Mary McCanles’s headstone — it bore no last name. That was really the starting point for me to get into this woman as a character. The stone did claim her role as “wife of D.C. McCanles” but revealed nothing of her maiden name nor her brief marriage years after Cobb’s death. I felt she had a sense of identity loss, having given up her Green family to follow her husband she chose the side of the Union over the Confederacy. Even after the Civil War and after Cobb’s death she never returned home.

Another telling point from the Fairbury Cemetery is the fact that D.C. McCanles and James Woods are listed on a single headstone. If you didn’t know the story, you might puzzle greatly over that one. The day Cobb was shot, his two ranch hands were also killed. James Woods was not only a ranch hand, but was Cobb’s young cousin from North Carolina. The reason they were buried together, according to witness statements who did the burying, is because the neighbors built one large pine box and interred the two bodies in one grave on a knoll behind the station. The third body was a quarter mile away, thus had its on final resting place.

So, if Cobb and James had a backyard burial, how did they get to the Fairbury Cemetery? A family story claims that when the railroad cut through that knoll, Cobb’s son, Clingman, met the workers with a rifle. He didn’t want to disturb the bones of his father. Finally, the railroad agreed to re-inter the bodies in a single grave in Fairbury. Mary is buried on one side, and Clingman on the other. Cobb’s only daughter, Lizzie, is also buried with her brother and parents. Cobb and Mary did a rare thing back in the 1850s — they let their baby, who was deprived of oxygen at birth, thrive. Most parents let such children die of natural causes in infancy. That Cobb and Mary cared enough to give Lizzie life, speaks of their compassion. Clingman never married and took care of Lizzie, his mother and the third ranch that Cobb built.

And I could read all this in a cemetery.

What will I find on my upcoming cemetery day? I don’t know! That’s part of the fun. Maybe a name or gravestone moves me to research Census records, and maybe I uncover new material for future historical fiction. And what will you discover, so close to Halloween and with a possibly ghoulish prompt?

October 21, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a final resting place. You can take any perspective that appeals to you from the historic to the horrific. Just don’t scare me too greatly. You can also choose to write about those buried before they came to their final rest. An extra challenge is to discover a story or character from a local cemetery. I double-dog dare you to join me with your own cemetery day!

Respond by October 27, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Lunch with Wilstach by Charli Mills

“Call me, Sarah, Mr. Wilsatch.” Her stomach rumbled at the sight of steaming soup served to their table.

“All right, Sarah.” Frank Wilstach dabbed his lips after each spoon of broth.

“A right fine lunch companion you are, Sir. A fair price for an interview.”

He smiled. “Sarah, did you know only you and Mr. Monroe McCanles are left ?”

“What of Mary?”

Wilstach shuffled notes. “Ah. She went to her final rest in 1907. Buried next to her husband.”

“At Rock Creek?”

“No, Fairbury.”

Why did it matter they had moved Cobb? He was never one to rest.

###

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88 Comments

  1. JAKA

    Really enjoyed reading that. Not taking any challenges, though — editing…

    • Charli Mills

      Happy editing to you! Thanks for taking time out to read!

  2. Sherri

    Haha…so that’s what ‘skidding a log’ means! Great to see – and hear – you both having so much fun out there in those woods Charli 🙂 Love your dogs, so sweet and so well behaved <3 It really is fascinating all you discovered from your visit to Fairbury Cemetery, I remember reading about it and your 'spooky' photos! The backstory – Lizzie, Clingman, Cobb's first and second burials – makes for a terrific historical fiction novel – yours! – and I look forward each week to reading more of this intriguing story which you tell so darn well. I love how you embellish such interesting parcels of fact with your vivid flash fiction. And as for your prompt, perfect for the Halloween season and, well, I know just the place 😉 See you soon!

    • Charli Mills

      Skidding is a logging term for dragging a log through the forest! They once used mules or draft horses to skid and now they have actual tractors called skidders. We use our truck like a mule. We skidded a 67 foot log today! And the dogs have two gears — resting and running. They were resting. 🙂 I’m glad you can see why I’m so taken with Cobb’s story. It’s so rich in human complexity. Oh, I’m drooling over what splendidly old cemeteries you must have nearby! Such history!

      • Sherri

        Now I know! Wow…67 feet? That’s huge!!! Haha…yep, that’s so true with dogs isn’t it? Yes, I can definitely see why…and you would go crazy over here Charli, I think I would have to bring tea and biscuits to keep you going for all time you would spend in a cemetery, or two, or three, or….. 😉

      • Charli Mills

        It sounds like nirvana! Tea…biscuits…endless cemeteries! 😀

  3. Pete

    Charli, you ‘re having too much fun with that skidding, but man, it looks beautiful up there! Great flash per usual, the last line made me chuckle! Anyway, here’s mine.

    Monticello

    I close my eyes and breathe. A musky scent of autumn and prestige. Swirling history that surrounds the great house on the little mountain. The neoclassical architecture, the great columns and breathtaking views. The mysteries under Mulberry row.

    Intellectual. Architect. Governor. Master. His marker is a little ways down, past the gardens. A lineal descent to the obelisk that marks my sixth great grandfather. No mention of his presidency. Only his famous declaration. Religious freedoms. His university.

    A woodpecker rattles overhead. Otherwise it’s just us, alone among the falling leaves. The whispers of pride and shame and shared DNA.

    • Charli Mills

      It is so beautiful, especially with all the golden larch and aspen among the pines. I had more fun, today! We skidded a 67 foot log. It was spectacular when it crested the road. I posted it on FB.

      Oh, wow, that last line! The way you write this flash it feels almost lulling, the rhythm. The woodpecker breaks that and sets us up for that last one.

    • jeanne229

      Beautiful flash Pete. I felt myself there walking through time and history with you, through that gorgeous autumn landscape. And I am very intrigued by your connection! I’ll be thinking about this one for a long time.

      • Pete

        Thanks guys, and just to clear up any confusion, I wrote this as a Sally Hemming s descendant. I’m in no way related to TJ!

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Great flash Pete. You say so much about the place you’re at, his achievements and that sense of aloneness. Great last line

    • Norah

      Lovely Pete. That entire last paragraph is very moving. The feelings and connection are palpable.

    • ruchira

      This was so beautifully done, Pete.
      Glad you gave a different angle to this 🙂

      • Pete

        Thanks guys for reading, it’s a beautiful place, a national treasure for sure!

  4. TanGental

    A double dog dare? Not had one of those before. That’s a challenge can’t refuse! Lovely piece of flash Charli and I hope you enjoy your jolly.

    • Charli Mills

      Tomorrow is jolly day! You and Sherri have access to amazing plots of history. I still think of your post on New Forest and the pottery shards, too.

    • Charli Mills

      Thought you’d get a chuckle:

  5. jeanne229

    I love love love this topic. Graveyards have always appealed to me. Just visited a large leafy city one in Waterbury Connecticut last month, and last year in North Dakota had a splendid time searching out a forgotten and neglected graveyard out on the prairie that my cousin had remembered coming across. Now they march in my mind: Highgate Cemetery in London, revolutionary graveyards in Boston churchyards; the curiously crowded, grass-less spaces in the corners of Japanese cities with their stone markers and monuments. I also found your short history of home burials fascinating. My hub hates to talk about such things, but for me, that is how I would love to rest, by becoming a meadow (as an ad for natural burials once put it). As for mattresses and pillows, that should be a prompt of its own 🙂 Back later with more thoughts on your flash, and one of my own.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, I was following your march of cemeteries like a list of good books to read! It makes history somehow more tangible when you connect to people and graves call us to remember them. Some people get really freaked out by graveyards. And I like your idea for a prompt! That could be most interesting!

      • jeanne229

        Yes, I could tap into my pillow obsession with a prompt on bedding 🙂

    • Norah

      I’d love an eco burial and be part of a meadow!

  6. katespencer17

    A great story! I’m assuming those two logs are now in your firewood pile for the winter? And you left us with a Double Dog Dare! I love the internet. It turns out that in Victoria BC, they have walking tours of old cemeteries every Sunday, except in January. In October they have Ghost Walks. It just might be a fun thing to do.

    • Charli Mills

      Yes they are! We will be warm and cozy this winter. I love ghost walks! They do one over in Bannok, Montana and basically all the ghosts (costumed volunteers) condemn or question the sheriff who was hung in the 1860s. How fun that Victoria, BC is doing that!

      • Norah

        I think they do similar tours here. But I won’t be joining in! 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Usually they are terrific history lessons told by “ghosts.”

    • Charli Mills

      Terrific post and flash, Anne! What a journey you’ve had in a short time, yet the writing process itself is so much longer. May it all continue to grow and develop!

    • jeanne229

      Left a comment on your blog Larry but will repeat it her. Others may be compelled to click on your late link 🙂
      Oh good one Larry. I have a real-life experience that makes me immediately resonate with Ed’s reaction. My name from a first marriage was Jeanne Harrington, and walking through a cemetery in Japan somewhere I came across that same name on an old tombstone! Worse yet, the inscription noted that the woman had been robbed by highwaymen and murdered along with her husband. Oh my! Very unnerving to say the least 🙂 At least with Ed, it was only the initials 🙂

    • Norah

      I agree. We all know we’re going there, why rush things?

    • Charli Mills

      The log skidding is a lot of fun, and we can combine it out west. But alas, I understand Ed’s (and your) point of view!

    • Charli Mills

      An icon speaking from beyond his restful slumber.

      • DMaddenMMA

        See, I need more lines like that!

      • Charli Mills

        You’re good at coming up with zingers, Dave! 🙂

  7. rogershipp

    ?? The Unspoken ??

    You call him racist, yet you never met the man.

    You call him slaver, not taking into account the times.

    You try to see a past world through the rose-colored glasses of the 21st century- instead of walking a mile in the shoes of the men and women in our household.

    ****

    I hold you to account.

    ****

    You have taken the time- and the monies- to study our lives…

    Our deaths…

    Even our final resting places…

    Yet you fail to grant us the respect you claim he lacked.

    You leave our graves unmarked.

    To you… we are a tourist attraction?

    https://rogershipp.wordpress.com/2015/10/24/the-unspoken/

    • jeanne229

      Left a comment on your blog. have to say here that this was a powerful piece and very thought-provoking.

      • rogershipp

        Thanks!!! for the read!

    • Pete

      Feel like this is in repsonse to my flash and if so, where do you feel the Hemming’s fit in? Do you think they belong at the table during reunion dinners?

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, one would hope that we study the lives(and graves) of the past to foster understanding. This one really makes me stop and think about the judgements with issue backwards.

      • Pete

        I’ll have to check that out, Charli. Being just down the road from Monticello, these two flashes hit close to home for me. I have always been fascinated with the enigma that is Jefferson. And that’s what’s nice about Monticello, they openly discuss Thomas Jefferson and instead of sweeping it under the rug, they welcome the discussion of slavery.

        Here’s a quote from the man himself on the topic.

        “But, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.”

        – Thomas Jefferson to Lydia Huntley Sigourney, Monticello, 18 July 1824

        He was quite conflicted, and unlike Washington decided not to free his slaves upon death. But I do like that the Hemmings are now fully recognized as true Jefferson descendants, as for years they were not.

        With all that being said, I really enjoyed Roger’s flash, and in reference to these places being tourist attractions, I say, better history than Disneyland!

      • Charli Mills

        Wow, what a treasure to live so close to! I know about the place mostly for the heritage seeds that they preserve. There’s such a peace in being able to discuss history without that lens of judgement. Glad to know they do that, and Jefferson, like many thinking men at the time — and women, too, I’m sure — must have felt conflicted yet caught up in the times. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Charli what a wonderful journey you took us on today. From resting in beds designed for two to skipping logs (loved the pooches in the car) back to the cemeteries in your surrounding area and back in time to Mary’s resting place. I loved the last line of the flash – it made Cobb come back to life. I am also starting to imagine your life in winter looking at the terrain and the number of trees you are preparing to get you through the winter months.
    I love looking at old cemeteries and imagining the stories behind the short lives, and young lives lost. You will have a great novel come from your cemetery trips.
    http://irenewaters19.com/2015/10/24/our-mortal-remains-99-word-flash-fiction/

    • jeanne229

      Great post and flash Irene, and interesting how you dealt with what is becoming a more and more pressing question in people’s minds, that of our burial arrangements. Like Stanley in your flash, I would find great comfort in having it all arranged. Lovely how you made the connection between his life’s work and his decision for burial.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Thanks Jeanne. The two went hand in hand. If they make a mistake he feels that he has more experience of digging than he does of escaping flames.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Irene! Cobb was restless in life and still he roamed after death. 🙂 We continue to fall trees and now have to light a fire in the mornings and evenings. Those mountains will fill up with snow and spill out onto our valley floor. I hope to collect many stories and have the output to match! Great post on mortal remains!

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Thanks Charli. I feel cold just thinking of you in a valley and the snow coming down. Brrrr….

  9. A. E. Robson

    The Lone Butte Pioneer Cemetery is the final resting place of homesteaders, ranchers, loggers and town folk. The cemetery is located at the western base of a tall volcanic plug that known by the locals as the Butte Rock.

    The Shadow of the Rock
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    In the shadow of the big rock, the clearing is surrounded by the scent of pine trees that have grown tall and protective. The old trail to the entrance has become a rain rutted road that takes it leave from the well travelled route below.

    There are several visible markers. Only two are of importance. Each, a subtle reminder of life’s fragility. One not living beyond his birth, and nearby his grandfather watches over him. Their lives etched in the heart. Passed to the next generation of family story tellers who will visit in the shadow of the rock.

    http://www.annedallrobson.com/99-words/the-shadow-of-the-rock

    • jeanne229

      Touching flash. Evocative setting. And the end makes a reader ponder time and memory. Dear ones who have died will stay alive as long as there are generations who remember them.

      • A. E. Robson

        All we need to do is write down their story and make sure someone else reads it.

    • Charli Mills

      Just that description of the cemetery is evocative — men and women who came to live in the shadow of a tall volcanic plug. Great line that shows how the connection is still there yet fading: “a rain rutted road that takes it leave from the well travelled route below.” I’d make a Cemetery Day of it with you and have you tell me the stories I suspect you already know!

  10. Norah

    Ha! I’m not going to take your double dare, and I’m not going to scout around the gravestones in a cemetery day! But I will join in your challenge … later.
    I really enjoyed your videos and loved hearing your laughter and delight at skidding the big one!
    Your analogy of mattress and the ‘right fit’ is fitting. I’m pleased you are going to get your cemetery day. As if a grand view is necessary for a cemetery. Sorry. I’m showing my cynicism. I hope Hub gets to the mountains viewed to collect firewood one day.
    The information you found out about the burials of Mary, Clingman (really? It sounds like a superhero plastic wrap) and the cousin is fascinating. It will be interesting to find out what you come up with in further explorations.
    Your flash is good too. Sarah’s resignation to the situation is probably exactly what a stoic woman such as you have portrayed would feel. Well done.

    • A. E. Robson

      Love It.

    • Charli Mills

      I thought I heard your mwa-ha-ha over here! 😉

    • Sarah Brentyn

      Aaah! We were doing our cemetery tours on the same day! I went on Friday! I don’t know why I’m using so many exclamation points! I just think that’s so cool. 🙂 Also, the videos are awesome. I had no idea what you were talking about but now I do and have a visual to go with it. 😀 Fantastic flash.

  11. paulamoyer

    Great prompt, Charli! Here’s mine — I found the British Western Front cemeteries and memorials so moving when I went there nearly 15 years ago:

    An American at Menin Gate

    By Paula Moyer

    Jean had loved studying World War I since her teens.

    Now 49. Finally in Ypres. Sundown, facing Menin Gate with the rest of the crowd. She had walked through the marble arch, glazed over at the names – over 54,000 soldiers whose final resting place was not known, men who had died in battles of Ypres.

    Futile, Jean thought. Those poor men – they didn’t pick the battles or the cause.

    The bugle corps filed in. Veterans snapped to attention. A bugler read from “For the Fallen.”

    “We will remember them.”

    Jean whispered along. Then she added her own postscript: “Yes.”

    • jeanne229

      I had a similar feeling Paula when visiting Dieppe many years ago. It’s where the Canadians came ashore on D Day. Had such a strong feeling of the presence of all those men who died before their time. Just visited the cemetery where my husbands parents are buried. His uncle is there too, after whom my husband is named. He died at twenty. Their deaths were not futile, given that struggle, but yes, they seem a dreadful waste on a personal level. Beautiful flash.

      • paulamoyer

        Thanks, Jeanne. Different war, different cause. “Jean” would never say that the Allies’ deaths in World War II were futile.

    • Charli Mills

      That must have been a powerful experience. Great flash, Paula!

    • Norah

      Remembering is very important. A very moving piece, Paula.

  12. julespaige

    Boneyard

    The old township survey map doesn’t have a date. But the
    old house in the neighborhood is over two hundred years old.
    The map could be from the 1800’s or the mid-late 1700’s.
    There are marks for cemeteries. Some of which you can’t
    find anymore. But there is one in the median behind the
    grocery story just where the highway divides. And it is
    surrounded by a black wrought iron fence and is well kept.

    Not usually a fan of graveyards. Once I bought a
    bouquet . Most names were illegible. I left the flowers for
    all of them…

    ©JP/dh

    Update: I can only hope that they were moved respectfully. As the other week I drove by and the cemetery in this story was…gone.

    The post can be found here:
    Boneyard

    • Charli Mills

      The pioneer cemetery in Helena, MT was removed and a school built on the field. There’s a story, perhaps myth, that in a 1950s flash flood the coffin of a miner was exposed. It makes me wonder if anyone can ever accurately remove an old cemetery because many graves become unmarked over time. What a touching gesture, to buy flowers for the forgotten that the city was built upon.

  13. jeanne229

    How sad Jules but that is the mark of time I guess. One can imagine the shifting world around that little plot. And wonder where the ghosts have gone. What a lovely gesture you performed there. I hope the bones are resting somewhere more beautiful.

    • Charli Mills

      It seemed an appropriate time of year to bring up cemeteries…among some of my favorite haunts! 😀

  14. lucciagray

    Hi Charlie! Great topic for this time of year 🙂 Great flash. I guess it’s sad how we lose control over our bodies and memories once we die… We siddenly belong to those who remain…
    I wanted to write something spooky, or at least seriously scary! But my subconsciou took over and came up with a very cheeky biblical story 🙂 Eve causes havoc yet again!
    http://lucciagray.com/2015/10/27/carrot-ranch-flashfiction-challenge-october-21-final-resting-place/

    • Charli Mills

      Even those who had the wealth to be remembered as they wanted fail in that endeavor. I guess it is the ultimate in letting go (of control). 🙂 Funny how our brains work — from scary intentions come cheeky stories. This group has forever scarred me in regards to unicorns and wheelbarrows. It works the opposite, too! Hope you are having a splendid book signing today!

      • lucciagray

        Thank you, Charli????????? Yes it went well. I’ll be posting about it next Wednesday on IWSG!

      • Charli Mills

        Good to hear! I’ll tune in next Wednesday!

  15. Norah

    Hi Charli, I’ve looked at history, rather than gravestones, but have taken Marnie to the graves of her parents. She learns a little of their history there. Thanks for the challenge. http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-AL

    • Charli Mills

      Fair enough! My interest in gravestones is, after all, about history. That’s an interesting situation to put Marnie in and I’m curious to find out how she reacts.

      • Norah

        Thanks Charli! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! You even brought a dog to the double-dog dare!

      • TanGental

        Sadly only one dog!

  16. Sherri

    Here I am Charli…’floating in’…but no white nighty in sight, at least not after Ethel’s done with it 😉

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Your apparition has appeared! I’m off to discover what Ethel has done with the white nighty!

      • Sherri

        LOL 😀

  17. C. Jai Ferry

    Skids in under the wire…gets tangled in the wire…rips out handfuls of hair trying to disentagle myself from the wire…gives up, decides the wire is a new fashion statement.

    http://www.cjaiferry.com/blog/surviving-the-writing-life/

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Looks like a cowgirl to me! This one had to put on her boots and go to town so I was early to wrangle the doggies. No matter, I can pick up strays, too! 😉

      • C. Jai Ferry

        Woot woot!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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