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  Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

Humor in graveyards

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
As Jackie Asque made her funeral arrangements, she wrote down instructions for a tombstone inscription. When she passed away at Lufkin in 1983, the epitaph was chiseled into her gravestone: “See, I told you I was sick.”

Traveling across East Texas, graveyard visitors are often rewarded with other humorous and poignant tombstone inscriptions.

At Coldspring a century ago, malpractice lawsuits were unknown, so a family used a tombstones to castigate a doctor with this inscription: “In memory of my darling child, Edith E., youngest daughter of Robert and S.C. Smith. Died a victim to an experiment in surgery by Dr. Warren Stone of New Orleans, May 18, 1872.”

Charlie Ratliff of Jasper is one of at least two East Texans with two gravestones. When he lost his right arm to cancer, he had it buried in Little Hope Cemetery with a marker bearing a carving of an arm and hand. When Charlie died four years later, the rest of his body was interred beside the arm.

The same thing happened to Winnie Jones, who lost a leg buried it in St. Luke’s Cemetery near San Augustine with the inscription: “Here lies Winnie Jones’ leg.” When Winnie died, she was buried near her leg with the notation: “Here lies Winnie Jones.”

In a Canton cemetery, an automobile dealer had his family inscribe this on his tombstone: “I made a lot of deals during my lifetime, but I sure went in the hole on this one.”

In Polk County, Bobby Hoffman had this message carved on his headstone: “I did everything my mother told me not to do and had a really good time.”

East Texans have always had a deep love for their animals, as reflected in a number of cemeteries.

Ottie the horse, owned by Lufkin’s Humason family, pulled an ice wagon and led funerals. When she died in 1918 she was buried just outside Glendale Cemetery, but when a utility line was built across her grave, her tombstone was relocated inside the Humasons’ family plot. People today believe Ottie is buried inside the cemetery.

Shorty the Squirrel has a grave on Tyler’s courthouse square. Shorty lived among the square’s trees, thriving on handouts. When he was injured by an automobile and died, the entire town mourned and he was buried in a special grave with a tombstone reading: “Shorty the Squirrel: 1948-1963.”

When Major Joseph N. Dark, a Hardin County pioneer and Civil War hero, died in 1905, he instructed his family to chisel an old Irish poem on his tombstone in Aaron Cemetery:

Remember, friends, as you pass by,
As you are now, so Once was I,
As I am now so you must be,
Prepare for Death and follow me.

Governor Jim Allred often referred to Dark’s epitaph as he traveled across Texas and added to the inscription.

To follow you I’ll not consent
Until I know which way you went.
All Things Historical
May 26, 2008 Column.
Published with permission
A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers

(Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 38 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)


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