Monday, July 6, 2009

Photographing Tombstones, Entry 2

Sunday the 5th of July was a magnificent day for a Kansas summer. It was a rare only 85 degrees outside, with a gentle wind out of the north and billowly clouds marching regularly across the sky. Certainly a day on which to use my ready excuse of photographing tombstones to get out and take in some great backroads scenery.

After driving north I decided to head for the Fairview Cemetery, located approximately 1.5 miles south and another 1.5 miles west of the village of Portis. This cemetery is the primary one for Portis citizens, who over the decades have made use of some five cemeteries in the immediate area.

In the eastern portion of the cemetery can be found the Fairview Cemetery Marker. It was commissioned by Portis area native Maude McMindes and commemorates those who lived in the region before 1890. A list of those early settlers can be found on the marker's back. Maude's final resting place is elsewhere in the cemetery.

A notable person in her own right, Maude started teaching in a one-room rural schoolhouse. She moved on to elementary and high schools, and then became a professor at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas, where she established that university's teaching program - at the time only the second such program of its kind in the entire nation. McMindes Hall on the FHSU campus stands as a tribute to her contributions to education in the state.

As with all cemeteries, there are always two or three interesting tombstones that even the most indifferent visitor will look twice at. Above is the main stone for Hubert and Ida Hahn. Dating from the late 1980s or mid-1990s, at first it just looks like a tall slab of granite. But when you look again you notice that it has been carved in the shape of a book. The Book of Hubert and Ida's Life? So many metaphors come to mind.

His stone is simple, but his contributions to Kansas farmers is immense. Walter A. Bodge was one of those farmers who, in his spare time - usually in winter - worked on things that could make his life easier. He patented a number of inventions, including one of the first and most popular milo guards on the market (it eventually sold millions) and the Golden Rod wire stretcher, still the preferred tool among many farmers not only across the Sunflower State but the entire country as well.

Apparently it will not be a proper visit to a cemetery in Osborne County for me without some sort of snake experience. This day's tale was laid out before me right in the open sun, as seen above: a nicely laid-out old three-foot long rattlesnake's skin. Where the previous owner went in his new skin was an immediate concern, but faded after a while.

Less harmful creatures were more curious as to the behavior of this odd human who kept stooping over vertical stones. This young rabbit allowed me to walk within two feet of him before he decided to seek deeper cover.

Some tombstones relate a story that make you stop and think. Twenty-three year old Naval pilot Donald Van Staalduine was lost while flying over the Atlantic Ocean in World War II. One of the famous "Bermuda Triangle" disappearances? We'll probably never know what really happened.

All in all it took an hour and a half to walk the Fairview Cemetery and record 348 photographs of the stones found there. Happily the cemetery is relatively well cared for and continues to be a preferred eternal resting place.

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