Friday, October 14, 2005

The distant sound of "Dueling Banjos"........

I believe everyone who reads this knows I was born and raised in Eastern Kentucky. Inez, Ky to be exact, population 466 (SALUTE! {please forgive the HEE HAW references, but they are warranted}) One of my elderly great aunts, Elsie, passed away this weekend, and for the sake of my grandmother, I went to the funeral. Well to begin with, Elsie had 11 kids: 7 boys, 4 girls, all of varying common sense. The eldest, Earl, whose property Elsie' s late husband is buried on, has a beef with the rest of the family. So Saturday, when the male members of the family went up to dig the grave on what was believed to be the family cemetery, Earl and two of his sons met them with guns drawn, and kicked them off the property. Later that evening, when the rest of the family was trying to figure out where to bury Elsie, one of Earl's sons, accompanied by a girlfriend, came to the church. These two, apparently pretty damn stupid, started talking trash and promptly got their asses kicked as they were escorted off church property.

So, for Monday's funeral, tensions were high. Daniel, who also grew up in the Appalachian culture, was very nervous about me attending. Since there are so many in that branch of the family (yes, my family tree does branch, contrary to what this story illustrates) that do not recognize me, I wasn't worried about them shooting at a apparent stranger. I was concerned about keeping my grandmother, mother, sister/brother-in-law, and direct aunts and uncles safe. Well, as soon as we arrived at the church, we found out that a shootout had occurred already. One of the younger boys in that family, Carl D., had went to Earl's, for what reason we never found out, and it ended with guns blazing and Carl D. being led away in handcuffs by the KY state police. The officer was nice enough to bring Carl D. to the church right before the service started, with a packed house present, to let him say his goodbyes to his mother. This, in turn, made everyone in the church hysterical, begging the officer to let Carl D. stay for the funeral. Which, of course, he couldn't do.

I noticed tow very obvious things I hadn't really noticed before during the service: my grandmother's frailty and strength, and my own mother's fear. As of Elsie's passing, my grandmother became the oldest living of all her brothers and sisters (14 originally, 9 still remaining). She looked old to me, for the first time, and yet, she was still in better shape than two of her sisters Mary and Wilma. Mary is in a wheelchair after a stroke, Wilma has liver cancer. Even though I stood by my grandmother as she went to the casket, she was strong enough even in grief, to walk out of the church unassisted (this woman gave birth to 11 children, she has had to be tough). My mothers reaction surprised me. She held my hand during the service in what I can only describe as a death grip. She was gritting her teeth. She then noticed my stare and whispered simply that soon they would have to bury my grandmother this way. I think it was a very sudden revelation to my mother about her own mother's mortality. One day I will have to have the same epiphany, but not for some time yet I hope.

So the funeral went off without a hitch. The last snafu was that the funeral director insisted on a police escort to the gravesite (which ended up being in Elsie's own yard, a mile away from her husband's grave), police cover at the burial itself, and a police escort out of the holler. After all the shooting, the sheriff's department didn't see this as an unwise request and granted it. Because of the fear that the burial would be accompanied by shotguns, only two of her children and a few of her sisters were at the grave. My grandmother simply said it was time to tend to the living, so we went to cook an early supper at her house, then we rushed back to civilization.

Sigh, I know that these are my people and my blood, and I try not to judge them or put them down for their circumstances. It just makes me sad that this family has deteriorated to this base a level.

* One final note; the rest of Elsie's children have decided to get a court order to have Elsie's husband's body exhumed and transferred to be buried beside her. The argument is, rightly, that the whole family has a right to visit the body. Which means more gunfire when they go to dig poor Bill up. As for Carl D., he was arranged on charges of wanton endangerment and bailed out.
He is awaiting trial.

From The Paintsville (KY) Herald:
"Elsie Daniel1932-2005 Funeral services were held Monday, October 10, 1 p.m. at the Sulphur Springs United Baptist Church at Tomahawk, Ky., for Elsie Daniel, 73, of Tomahawk, Ky., who passed away Saturday, October 8 in Portsmouth, Ohio. Mrs. Daniel was born March 13, 1932 in Martin County, Ky., daughter of the late John C. and Janie Meade Mollette. She was also preceded in death by her husband, Willie Daniel. Surviving are seven sons, Earl, Jimmy, Willie Jr., John, and Caroll Daniel, all of Tomahawk, Ky., Truman Daniel of Lowmansville, Ky., and Tom Daniel of Inez, Ky.; four daughters, Virginia Preston of Paintsville, Ky., Jean Pridmore and Tammy Wallace, both of Louisa, Ky., and Pauline Harmon of Tomahawk, Ky.; seven sisters, Nada Williamson [my grandmother] and Coreen Preece, both of Inez, Ky., Gladys [long Polish name I cant pronounce either]of Detroit, Mich., Mary Armintrout of Indiana, Hester Francis of Columbus, Ohio, Wilma Moore of Tomahawk, Ky., and Maxine Marcum of Blaine, Ky.; two brothers, Clinton Mollette of Tomahawk, Ky., and Arland Mollette of Inez, Ky.; and 33 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.The service was officiated by Riley Maynard, with burial in the Daniel Cemetery at Tomahawk, Ky.Arrangements under the direction of the Phelps & Son Funeral Home of Inez, Ky.


Anonymous said...

These names sound very familiar to me. I am a grand daughter of George and Gladys Daniels and live no where near Kentucky.