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of Farming and Grave Robbing

Last weekend was supposed to be lazy but it was anything but. 2 birthday parties for a 16 year old son of Rob and Gwen who are now divorced. So Saturday Rob and Toni took him and his friends bowling and Sunday we had the traditional cake and ice cream party with the family at Gwen's house. I did a lot of running around Saturday morning, getting my ears lowered (haircut), early voting and going to Mt. Sterling for an adjustable center link for the (new) tractor. Now I've got the front end loader on the front and a snow blade on the back. The smaller tractor has the mowing deck on the back and now I don't have to change out implements, just hop on a new tractor.

Saturday afternoon, my friend Kenny called and invited med to ride along with him on the combine to harvest corn. He knows I like to get lots of action shots. So I hopped in the farm truck and drove out to the Unger farm to meet him. When I got there he'd finished a few rows and had a full hopper on the combine and was dumping it into his truck.

See all those particles flying around? Those are little pieces of corn husk and the skin off the kernels of corn, they call those bees wings. They fly around everywhere and get into everything. Like sand at the beach. I climbed into the cab of the combine and rode and talked through several rows of corn. Kenny likes to use this time to catch up on all the gossip with me. Pretty soon the hopper was full so we headed for the truck to dump again.

The truck was full after this load so we got in the cab and headed for Kenny's farm. Normally he'd take the corn the local elevator in Beardstown or Frederick but he's picking the corn a little moist. He figured it's at about 23% moisture. Optimally when you take it to the elevator to either store or sell, you want it at 13-16% moisture. Otherwise you have to pay the elevator to dry it before selling it. So he's storing it in grain bins at his farm and drying it himself. Later, he'll load into a semi and take it to the elevator to sell.

He uses a makeshift auger setup to get the grain into the bin. A the truck has dump bed which feeds into the hopper on the ground, then the auger takes the grain up a long tube and into the bin. The whole thing is powered by a modified power take-off unit on a 1959 Farmall tractor.

We stood around and bs'd while the grain was feeding into the bin. It goes slower this way than taking it to the elevator. There you can basically pour it into the hopper as fast as you want. Here he had to slow the flow down so as not to overrun the hopper.

So after the truck was emptied, it was back to the fields and
back on the combine once more. Kenny makes it seem like nothing more difficult than mowing a lawn. But he knows all the tricks to getting the highest yield out of his fields. I stayed with him long enough to fill up the truck again. Then he left for the grain bin and I went back to the house. I got there just in time to get the phone call from Rob that the bowling party was to start at 6pm. Deb and I already had dinner plans so we got cleaned up and headed up to Deb and Di's cafe for something to eat and to talk. After an enjoyable dinner we met Rob and Toni and the kids up at the bowling alley. We gave Evin, the birthday boy $50 cash figuring it was easier than putting it in a card he wouldn't read anyway. We had a pleasant time bowling and drinking a beer or two and talking. The party ended about 9 pm. Deb and I went home and just had a quiet evening watching TV. I think we went to bed by 11pm.

Sunday, my cousin Johnnie called to ask what time we were going to the cemetery. A few weeks before, I'd showed him the cemetery where our great, great grandfather, John R. Kinsey was supposedly buried. I say supposedly because we are not really sure if the headstone marks an actual grave and if so, if he is really in the grave because by the time he died, he had assumed a different name and married a new woman even though he wasn't technically divorced from his first wife. At any rate, the stone was listing badly. When I first saw it 15 years ago, it was leaning far enough forward I had to sit on the ground to take a photo of it. Now it was leaning so far over you couldn't read the name unless you laid on the ground. And yes, that's 84th Illinois Infantry of the Union Army in the War of Southern Rebellion or the War of Northern Aggression depending on which side your ancestor fought. He also served 3 years in the Cavalry until the end of the war. So Johnnie and I had decided to put the stone back upright again.

When we got to the cemetery, two people were mowing. I wonder what they thought of 2 guys getting out of a van with shovels and approaching a grave. Anyway, they didn't say anything to us. We dug all around the headstone until we had a trench that reached the bottom of the stone, about a foot down. We pulled the stone into place upright and put bricks in the trench so the stone couldn't fall forward again, Then we put all the dirt back and packed it down. It looked better than it had in years.

We were very satisfied with ourselves. Johnnie asked me if we had any other relatives buried near. So I told him in the next town over, Ipava, was buried our great, great, great grandfather John Kinsey and our great, great, great, great grandfather Richard Kinsey. Plus John's Sister Nancy and her husband Richard Easley are buried there as the cemetery used to be part of John Easley's farm. Richard's second wife, Sarah David and three of their grandchildren are there as well. He was eager to go see these so we hopped back in van an drove the 5 miles or so over there.

When we got there, I quickly pointed out Richard's grave. Sadly the stone has sunken far into the ground and now the only thing that can be read is "Richard Kinsey Died" which I'd have to think was pretty obvious. He asked about John Kinsey's grave and I told him, "In the 15 years I've been coming her and looking, I've never been able to find the stone. I've got a survey from 30 years ago that says the stone could not be found. For all I know, it could be that rock sticking up out of the ground behind you!"

It was then it struck me that I'd never seen the rock before. The heavy rains we got this Summer must have exposed it. We looked at each other and I quickly dropped to my knees and started clearing dirt and grass away with my hands. I was elated to see the "J" on the stone. "Johnnie, quick, get the spades!" I needn't have said it as he'd already started for the van. He was back in a second and started scraping the sod back carefully. I'm serious when I say that only that light colored part of the stone had been sticking out of the ground when I started clearing the dirt away with my hand. It took just a few minutes of careful digging until we had exposed the whole first name, "John" and very shortly after, the last name of "Kinsey."

We dug a bit more and uncovered a bottom section that was so full of dirt we couldn't read it. Johnnie went to a nearby house to borrow a bucket of water while I grabbed a rag and started to clean the stone which had laid under the soil at least 30 years. It was broken in 3 large pieces so I removed the top two and went to work on the bottom one, careful not to break it further. Finally I got all three pieces out of the ground and laid them on the grass behind Richard Kinsey's stone.

Presently Johnnie came back with the water and we proceeded to start cleaning up the stone as best we could. We finally got it a bit more readable.

We stood there looking at the stone and at each other and wondering what we were going to do with it now. Burying it again didn't appeal to us but neither did setting the pieces up against another stone. This was family and he needed a little more respect than that. I think the idea hit us about the same time. We decided to take it with us. I think we both reasoned that he was our relative and therefore we had more of a claim to the stone than anyone else did. So yes, we loaded it into the van. The top two pieces were not bad but the bottom part weighed 75 pounds if it weighed an ounce. It took two of us to carry but in a matter of minutes, we had it loaded into the van. Yes, I suppose that makes us both criminals and I don't know what I'd have told a cop if we got pulled over. But it felt like the right thing to do. On the way home we talked about possible ways to put it back together including welding a metal frame to drop it into. When we got to my farm, we carefully unloaded it onto the driveway and cleaned it even more with the hose. After several minutes they were much cleaner.

We assembled all the pieces on a board and carefully set it on saw horses in the garage to dry. Johnnie said he would come back the next day with one of his farm hands and load it into his truck and take it to a friend who is a sextant for advice on how to repair it.

Turns out the sextant serves the main cemetery in our town and he was very happy to see the stone. He said most families never care as much as we did to do what we did. They just stack the stones on top of each other and leave them in the cemetery. He reminded Johnnie the cemetery does not own the graves, it just maintains them. So John Kinsey's stone is now in the loving hands of the sextant who has promised to fix the stone so it won't easily be broken again. Then we plan to go plant it upright back in the cemetery. After that, we may dig up Richard's stone and put all the writing above ground. We also plan to have a memorial made for all our ancestors buried there and place it in the cemetery so future generations can remember as well. It's the least we can do for our elders.




( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 24th, 2008 11:33 am (UTC)
Great story, and great accompanying photos -- I don't know that I'd have had the nerve to do take the stone!
Oct. 24th, 2008 01:50 pm (UTC)
I sure didn't before. Safety in numbers I guess. Plus I'd never have been able to carry it alone.

Oct. 24th, 2008 03:38 pm (UTC)
Love the farm stories. Good deeds done on the rest, my gg grandfather is now entwined with 4 Cyprus trees and cannot be recovered.
Oct. 24th, 2008 04:24 pm (UTC)
Yeah we've got a few of those too that trees have grown around. At least if you remember where they are and visit every once in awhile, that's something.

Oct. 24th, 2008 04:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing your adventure. It's such a fantstic idea to do all this!
Oct. 24th, 2008 04:25 pm (UTC)
Today we are going out to do something for Richard Kinsey's grave.

Oct. 24th, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC)
What an awesome story......that is great....
Oct. 24th, 2008 05:10 pm (UTC)
Gotta take care of family.

Oct. 24th, 2008 05:36 pm (UTC)
if you ever find yourself wandering down toward Phoenix, let me know
Oct. 27th, 2008 12:29 pm (UTC)
I was there in January and will be again sometime next year. I will let you know.

Oct. 25th, 2008 08:41 am (UTC)
your grave robbing is pretty cool : ) Mom had rose bushes planted in the Cem where a good chunk of our family are. No one but Great Uncle Don, Mom, the grave digger, and myself know where they came from or that they are in honor of my Grandmother's EXTREEM green thumb but they are pretty none the less... and I'm rambling hehe
Oct. 27th, 2008 12:30 pm (UTC)
No, that's a cool thing to do. More families should take care of their loved ones like this.

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )