Scared Spitless In The Graveyard

by Curt Kovener

I don’t like to get scared. I’m not talking about the anxiety you feel waiting in the dentist’s office or that initial worry when you look in your mailbox to see a letter with a return address to the Internal Revenue Service or that feeling of sudden panic when you are hurrying home in the car and when it is too late, notice that a police car is parked off to the side looking for traffic violators like you. And I guess we are all getting accustomed to the threat of COVID-19 and most of us are taking proper precautions to lessen our chances of being a statistic.
Most of those are all unavoidable, lump in the throat, knot in the stomach facets of life. What I don’t is the all is quiet, you’re minding your own business “BOO!!” kind of fright. Whether the scare is intentional or not, I sometimes go ballistic after someone surprises me unexpectedly.
Now spiders and snakes don’t bother me. If you hunt and fish or work in the woods, you’re going to encounter a few of them. They are expected, but that still doesn’t keep my heart from skipping a beat or two when I see one lying along a trail where I am about to take a step.
I don’t like to intentionally scare myself and so have never watched any of the slasher horror films…or any other in that genre, for that matter. Today’s life is scary enough.
In the 1990’s when I was the township trustee, one of the responsibilities of the trustee was maintenance of township cemeteries. A childhood friend had succumbed to injuries from an earlier in the year car accident and her family wanted her to be buried in Gorrel Cemetery, about a mile or so east of Crothersville.
The cemetery had been mowed about three weeks prior and didn’t look bad but I thought was due for a trim for my high school chum’s services, So I took my push mower to tidy up the graveyard and be alone with my thoughts on my departed friend.
Gorrel Cemetery is a very peaceful resting place situated just inside a wooded area. Some of the tombstones show birth dates back into the 1700’s. Many of the carvings are ornate with dates of death in the 1860’s, shortly after the community of Crothersville was founded.
Being interested in local history, as I pushed the noisy mower past the multitude of grave markers I had a chance to read who was buried there and wondered what kind of life story they could tell.
I had recently been in a community theatre production of “Spoon River Anthology” which takes place in the graveyard of the community of Spoon River. Those buried there rise up to tell brief snippets of the humorous and tragic, bland and exciting aspects of their life in Spoon River.
Push mowing can be somewhat mundain and I was all alone and lost in thought contemplating what Spoon River stories those resting beneath might tell when, as I turned the mower around to make another pass, I looked up and there was a man standing next to a grave at the entrance of the cemetery.
I shut off the mower and tried to slow my now trip hammer heart. Then local fire chief Steve Murphy, who wanted to talk to the trustee on a fire department matter, apologized explaining that he knew I would be startled when I saw him.
“But I figured you would have been even more instant heart attack prone had I walked up behind you as you mowed in the cemetery and tapped you on the shoulder,” he wisely reasoned at the time.
I agreed and we shared a hearty laugh over the incident.
I write about this nearly 30-year-old event because Steve’s obituary is on the back page of this edition. My long-time but not-so-old friend was buried Saturday in Uniontown Cemetery, not so very far from where Chief Murphy caused me to be scared spitless.