Saturday, August 20, 2011


My extended family has a tradition. We gather several times a year at the family ranch. No one lives full time at the ranch anymore; it was home to my great great grandparents and my great grandparents. It is rich in solitude and peace as the nearest human neighbor is over seven miles away. It is kept in excellent repair, but there is no running water and no indoor bathroom. Rain water is collected in a cistern and makes the best tasting drink on ice on a sweltering day. The outhouse freaks out the younger generations, but they become used to it. It is kept that way so they will know what life was like before modern amenities became available.

We have great fun and spend hours laughing, cooking, and eating.

These are two of my aunts, picking up where they left off the last time.

Did I mention it is hot? This is not a good picture of me, but you can see the price my hair pays for the humidity and that I've sweated off all of my mascara.

Nevertheless, family is important and it's vital the children understand the stuff that makes up a family so they can in turn teach their children one day.

One of the last things we do before we all depart is to visit the cemetery where so many of our ancestors are buried. It saddens me to see this cemetery, as our family's plot and only a few others are kept up. Brush has grown over many of the others, obliterating these memorials to someone's loved ones. Rattlesnakes keep at bay those who might like to fix up the neglected areas. We leave flowers on the graves of our family members and listen to stories from the older generations who knew them.

I've noticed graves there that are marked only by a wooden cross, a large rock with now unintelligible letters scratched in it, and other such nontraditional memorials to people long gone and not remembered now by anyone in the land of the living.

This little grave touched my heart.

It was one of three small ones laid out together, each marked by only a little iron cross. I asked the oldest member of my family if he knew anything about them and he said, " I believe it was three brothers, all under 10. They had a terrible fire one night and they all three died in it. The parents survived the fire, but the mother died not too long after. The father packed up and moved off after that, and no one ever heard from him anymore. That was back in the 20's. I remember my dad talking about it."

I stood thinking of those little boys, and how they must have been loved and cherished; how they must have enjoyed running and playing with each other. Probably they weren't in the living memory of anyone in their family anymore, but I did take some comfort that at least they were buried close together.

That's another great thing about families. Even though you're gone from this earth and now in the presence of God, you remain alive in their hearts and memories for as long as family gathers. I think of those little boys now as a part of my family and I've told their story to my kids. Although we don't know their names, they're playing together again, this time in our hearts.


  1. I REALLY love this post. Family is my favorite thing in the whole world. Both immediate and extended. My children look forward to time spent with cousins with more anticipation than Christmas! How wonderful that you have such a rich heritage to pass on.

    The story about the fire truly is heartbreaking. I'm sure a broken heart is exactly what that poor mother died of.

    I really love learning and sharing stories of my ancestors. I look at my children and nieces and nephews and think of my future grandchildren and all of the love I feel for all of them. Then I think of how my ancestors must have had those same emotions for me and it makes the eternal family connection so meaningful! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I agree with Felt Family = to me, family is the most important thing in the world. This post was beautifully written, and that last paragraph was really touching. Those poor little boys, and their poor mum and dad. How lovely that you are able to go back to the place where your great grandparents and grandparents used to live. Not many people are able to do that. Wonderful!

  3. You are a good woman, Shelly. You are part of the solution, my friend. You and I have explored this important topic before. The family values that you are working hard to preserve are the fabric that made this country great. The sense of history and continuity that is still being taught in your family is absent from many others. In a sense you have adopted those three little boys. After all these years they once again belong to a loving family. That's powerful. You are shaping your own children with their story. You set a fine example for your children and those you teach in your classroom. America needs more like you.

  4. Great post. I love that you tell the story of those little boys as if they were in your own family - and in a sense, they are. What a wonderful tradition you have going at the ranch. Lots of good times and love for family.

  5. Shelly, how wonderful for all the generations in your family you get together several times a year! The older ones can share history and the younger ones bring youthful exuberance of life! Each generation can learn much from one another. I'm so touched by the story of the 3 boys and by the fact you have welcomed them into your heart.

    Circles of life and love...keeps the world turning in just the right way.


  6. Felt Family: I LOVE what you said about already loving your future grandchildren. I feel the same way!

    Thisisme: I feel so blessed that I am able to connect with my family in such a tangible way, just as I see you do with yours. Our lives are rich!

    Shady: I am truly humbled by your words. I strongly believe we could so many of our nation's social woes by creating strong family units. We weren't designed to be loners. You are a quality person, Shady, and I highly value your opinion. Thank you!

    Karen: Thank you so much for your kind words. Yes, I do truly feel as if those three little boys are part of my family now. As long as I am around, I will keep their memory going.

    Sush: That is perfect wording for what family gatherings are! And, "Circles of life and love...keeps the world turning in just the right way," is so full of wisdom and warmth. I love it!

  7. Where would I be without my family? I love them all so much. Beautiful post, Shelly.

  8. Belle: Thank you- family says it all.

  9. I love that you keep the services there as they were many years ago. Children need to know that the services they take for granted were not always available. Very good post.

  10. Odie: I have such an appreciation for it now. When I was a kid, I wished for the modern stuff when we were there. There's much to be said for the simpler life!

  11. What a sad story, but such a beautiful grave.

  12. It is great that a fmily reunion takes place so often. A lot of time travelling distances make it harder for people to attend reunions like this. My brother in Dallas had rented the Norfolk ranch ( the one used to film Dallas tv show) for one of the ceremonies for his daughter's wedding. I may have misspelled the name but that was a lovely place. Grand as a matter of fact.

  13. Munir: You're so right- distances make it difficult these days for families to get together as often. At least there's Skype and other things that help to bridge that gap. Your brother's get together sounds amazing! I would love to visit the Norfolk ranch one day-

  14. Such a terrible story about those sweet boys. I agree with Felt Family about their mother dying of a broken heart. Of course she did. I couldn't live another minute had it happened to me.

    my heart breaks for that father who wandered the earth alone after all that loss.

  15. Missed Periods: I love that in the middle of a drought, that little grave has flowers all over it. It was beautiful, indeed.

    Crystal: It's just such a heartbreaking thing. I don't think I could recover from it, either. It makes me even more thankful for what I have.

  16. This beautiful story really got to me. After the death of a friend or a loved one, granny would always tell us that they are never really gone as long as we keep them in our thoughts and hearts. Thanks to you and probably only you, those boys are still with us, even if only a little...

    1. Pat: As long as we still hold someone in our hearts, they are alive with us, just in a different way, I believe.


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