I SPENT THE LAST FEW DAYS traipsing across the Minnesota prairie. Visiting some nice folks in Austin at the Sweet Reads Bookstore and Hormel Nature Center, then on to the little community of Arlington to see the kids at St. Paul’s School. North of town on Mcleod County Highway #1 I came upon perhaps the smallest pioneer cemetery I’ve ever seen. A total of 18 headstones in a beautifully kept plot, all dating between the 1840s and early 20th century, they told tales of hardship and privation, grit and fortitude, when homesteading and farming in a prairie wilderness was more harsh and often cruel than anything we can imagine. My own ancestors homesteaded in Olmstead County in the Rochester area beginning in 1852.
I like cemeteries. I like the peace and quiet and the sense of perspective. I like imagining the past and its connections to the present. In this case I liked standing among the headstones, trying to keep my balance in a 45 mile-an-hour prairie wind as it whistled through the limbs of an old burr oak and sent tumbleweeds flying across a plowed field. It seemed to blow right out of the past. I couldn’t decipher the lives etched in those stones, but I could imagine. And as the wind blew and I climbed back into the car, I carried such ponderings and imaginings with me.

Leave a Reply