Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Firebaugh Cemetery at Midnight!

[If you haven't read the previous post, Road Trip to Firebaugh, this would be a good time to read it!]

What a great finish to my road trip to Firebaugh to meet these two cousins!
A nice warm evening in early June 1998 for a BBQ in their back yard, then sharing photos and stories for hours... right up until midnight!

What could be better than a trip to the cemetery at midnight? 
I can’t think of too many things so when my newly found cousins Tootie Borboa and his son Barry offered to show me the cemetery in Firebaugh… at midnight… I just had to say YES! 

As I’m climbing into the back seat of their two door big ol’ car, and they’re both getting into the front seat, I noticed the overhead light isn't working.
It’s pretty dark in here.
… and the teeny tiny voice in the back of my head is telling me to figure out an escape route out of the backseat of this dark two door car. Have a plan.
MY teeny tiny voice wasn't shrieking like my very pregnant daughter’s voice was on my cell phone earlier in the day, but it was pretty persistent. 
Naggingly persistent.

I’m looking out the windows to watch for any identifiable landmarks, just in case I might need them later. Just so I know, these are good things to know, right?

Here we go, driving away from the house, away from town on the highway headed towards the Firebaugh Cemetery.
I’m looking for the familiar headstone covered and fenced in areas of a cemetery. 
Not this one. We pull off the highway and drive up to a gravely parking lot. Barry swings the car around so the headlights are aimed up a small hill. 
Not really a hill, just a large mound. On this mound, at the top, in the middle, is a flag pole and at the base of the flag pole is a large but low stone-like slab… a monument.

Tootie tells me this is all that remains of the Firebaugh Cemetery… this is where the headstones were, where so many of our relatives are buried. I’m just stunned. We've climbed out of the car and I’m helping Tootie maneuver across the lawn and up the slope… his very old turned-up-toe cowboy-style work boots are sliding on the wet grass so I hold onto his arm. (he might be old but this dude has some muscles!) While Tootie and I are making our way up the slope Barry is turning off the sprinkling system so we won’t be so drenched.

I quickly take a few pictures of the monument, the flag pole, the entire scene.

I’m looking at the names and recognizing so many from my interview with Aunt Hilda. Tootie is telling me stuff about almost every one of the people listed… all 30 names. 
Wait a minute! I thought there were tons of relatives buried here… where are all the other names? Tootie shakes his head and with a very sad voice says these are the only names that were inscribed when the monument was erected. He’s telling me as he swings his arm across in front of him and motions towards the grassy area that this whole section was once the cemetery. He’s telling me of the hassles with so many officials and so many families. He’s telling me about the beautiful headstones being scooped up and hauled across the road and being dumped behind the water treatment plant.

I can’t get over how suddenly sad it is to be standing here. How sad. How silent.

Oh, oh… that silence is blown away with the booming voice of some guy in a uniform shining a flashlight at us! He’s REALLY not happy with the water being turned off. He’s none too happy about us standing out there on that wet grass either so Barry’s telling him I’m from out of town and they wanted me to see the cemetery.
The uniformed guy is ordering us off the grass and back into the car.
He’s telling us he could arrest us!

Oh, oh… my imagination does a fast forward to a scene of me in a jail in the middle of the night in a far away town making a phone call and trying to convince my very pregnant very unhappy daughter that someone should come down here and bail me out!!

Whew, the guy just kinda yells at Barry a bit more while Tootie and I are climbing back into the car and we drive away. We’re laughing, I’m having a great time.
…and now we’re headed back to the house so I can gather my stuff for my drive home, right? Nope, Tootie’s telling me they’re giving me the tour of Firebaugh.
Oh kaay. Change of plans just a bit, no problem.  

Tootie’s telling me all about this house and that house and who lives here and how long they've been living here, and who their parents are and all about the stores downtown… how did we get downtown, I thought we were looking at neighborhoods? I need to pay attention. I’m listening to as much as I can and Tootie continues to tell me about the families of Firebaugh.

…and before I know it we’re on a dirt road. Sort of like a levee road. Feels like a levee. It’s dark outside, after 1am. Hey, where are we going? Barry and Tootie just look at each other and smile and tell me they want to show me something. Yeah, well I’m not too sure about this.
We’re now driving past a sign that says “Authorized Vehicles Only Beyond this Point”
… oh, oh. Where are you taking me, and why???

Yeah, my overactive imagination is trying to kick into overdrive and I’m trying to keep it in check, watching for whatever things I can see out the windows. I can’t see ANYTHING! I can tell we’re driving on a dirt road and we’re up higher than the surrounding areas. But I can’t see anything outside the windows. Barry slows the car, backs up a bit while turning the car and Tootie is telling him to be careful and not go too far. Yikes!! Where the heck are we??? Barry gets the car turned so we’re now sideways on the road. I don’t understand… what’s going on?? 
Barry turns the headlights on bright.
There in front of us is an old building. A very small old building. The old jail!

They wanted me to see the really old jail building that was hauled from downtown out here to the edge of the park, near the river so I could see some of the history of Firebaugh! Tootie says the guys who were locked up in this tiny little building so long ago were either too drunk or too dumb, or both, to know it had a dirt floor.
They coulda dug their way out! He’s laughing, a big hearty laugh. Barry’s laughing.
I’m laughing too, just not at the same thing.

Their house is a short distance away and after a quick trip into the bathroom … and yes, I leave the seat UP just as I found it … I load all my stuff into my car, say my goodbyes, and promise to see them again soon. VERY soon! It’s 2am.

My trip home is fast. My brain is rerunning the video of the entire afternoon, evening, and night. Every single detail. Almost like a freeze-frame show.
I’m home and in my bed by 4. Thankfully I don’t work on Mondays and can sleep in!

Very pregnant daughter calls very early to be certain her insane mother is home and OK. I assure her I’m fine, had a great afternoon and evening with my newly found cousins and I plan to visit with them again.
I leave out all the details of the night adventure.
Very pregnant daughter is still very upset with her genealogy obsessed mother.

Less than 2 weeks later very pregnant daughter presents me with my beautiful grandson.
I am a Grandma!

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