Decoration Day

Decoration Day

One by one, we abandon traditions, leaving the past behind. It’s sad, because, although we shouldn’t live in the past, we need a sense of continuity. There is something comforting about following patterns, about observing practices that have been carried down through generations. It gives me a connection to my ancestors.

Decoration Day, always the Sunday that follows Mother’s Day at Caney Cemetery, is one such tradition. The following is from The Heritage of Etta Bend, Susie Day’s story, which I recorded as she told it to me.

“We children looked forward to going. To get there, we went about eight miles, around the Bend and through Tailholt. It took us a long time to go and come back in the wagon. We took our noon meal with us. Mama baked pies and fried ham and chicken on Saturday. We girls gathered roses and wildflowers to take along in buckets of water. We always dressed in our Sunday best for this special day. Early Sunday morning Papa and Mama loaded food, flowers, and children into the wagon and we set off.

“Caney is a beautiful place, guarded by quiet hills. The lane leading to the cemetery is narrow. Tree branches meet overhead as if in prayer. For 150 years, Caney has existed. It began as a log schoolhouse. Mama and Papa both attended school there long ago. After we children were all grown, Papa, along with Ben Whitfield and Dan Tyner, began a fund that resulted in the present rock building at Caney. Their three names are on a plaque in the wall of the building.

“We girls liked to wander over the grounds reading inscriptions and dates on headstones. One of the earliest graves is of a woman who passed away in the 1840s. Another is of someone who died in 1881 at the age of 110. She was born before the Revolutionary War. 

After we decorated the graves of family members, we took our food to the spring east of the cemetery. There we spread a tablecloth on the ground, ate the food Mama had cooked and visited with our neighbors. During the time I was a child, Caney had no church building so after lunch, services were held under the trees.

“After the preaching, prayers and singing, we all climbed into the wagon for the trip home. As we looked back at Caney, the flowers seemed to nod goodbye. Once again it would be silent except for birds and the whispering cedars.”


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