|Old Possum Trot (New Prospect) Cemetery
(located near Sulligent, Alabama)
|Above: James Turman placing a marker on the Sandlin baby's grave.|
|Above: Olive Duke Norton Barton May's headstone. It reads:
September 19, 1824
June 11, 1905
"For we know that if our
earthly house of this
tabernacle were dissolved
we have a building of God
an house not made with
hands. Eternal in the heavens."
2 Cor. 5:1
Aaron May's headstone. Aaron was Olive's third husband. The first, William Norton died in 1853 in Georgia leaving Olive with three boys to raise. The second, Washington Barton, died in 1864 leaving Olive with a son, Jefferson Duke Barton to raise. Aaron's epitaph reads:
Nov. 8, 1810
July 11, 1888
Beneath this sod lies
That to me was dear
Whose heart increased
But now he is gone and
I am alone.
| My Visit to Possum Trot
I understood from my grandfather that the burial site, known as New Prospect or Old Possum Trot, lay fairly deep into the pine forests north of Sulligent but I wanted to see it so badly that I was willing to walk through the forest searching for it. Hoping to discourage me from going off on my own, he warned me of going during such hot weather. ( I live in Saudi Arabia; Alabama felt pleasant by comparison!!)
My mother, following her Dad's lead, told me, "It' s in the Booger White Holler." Now in Norton-ese, a "booger" is a bad guy. A holler with a booger in it sounded like a bad place to be, but I live in the Middle East where "boogers" are a dime a dozen.
Then, Daddy Will told me that the trees were so thick that I might not be able to walk through unless it had been recently bush-hogged. "I could get lost", he said, "And I know these woods pretty well." I called a distant cousin, Alfred Turman, and asked him if he'd be willing to show me the way.
Then, Daddy Will played his trump card. . .
"There'll be snakes", he said. "There's a creek nearby. . .only water in that area."
Snakes? Yikes!! I am a city girl and that got my attention.
I called my Uncle James and begged him to take me in his truck as far as the bush hogging would allow. The next weekend, eight of us (me, my sons Evan and Jonah, my aunt Jane, James, Alfred and Myrle Turman, and my sister Carol) loaded into James' shiny new four-wheel drive and plowed through the woods in search of family history.
It was well over 100 degrees outside. Desert Molly was sweating like a pig! Worse than that, James had just bought a new truck and the pine branches were scraping down the side of his shiny paint job like fingernails on a chalkboard.
As we bumped along in the back of the truck, my Aunt Jane kept popping her head up to look around. I love Aunt Jane and was truly concerned for her safety. Without even thinking, I slipped into what I will call my "Saving Private Ryan" mode.
"Jane is going to get thwacked by one of those limbs," I thought as I reached for the on-coming pine, "Carol will tell her it was my fault. . . then, Mama will kill me." Of course, Jane ducked before the branches reached her. . .my guilty conscience had gone into overdrive for dragging all these people into the brutal Alabama heat and humidity.
We had to walk the last 500 yards, or so. I carried Jonah, who is only four, on my hip because I was afraid of the dreaded snakes.
Alfred and James carried a shovel and a hoe to clear the graves of weeds. While they worked, Alfred found a rusty lawn mower blade and a piece of metal from a clevis. There's no telling how long those had been there. Descendants have been keeping the graves up since Olive and Aaron were buried there. Alfred gave me the clevis. It is a treasure to me.
Then, I remembered the crayons and paper I'd bought for rubbings but, stupidly, left in the bed of the truck. Carol went back to get them for me. She wouldn't let me go because she said that she couldn't face Mama if something happened to me. (We think alike.) After Carol got back, I made some rubbings with a half melted crayon and but when I tried to take pictures with the camera, I discovered that the batteries had fallen out during the hike. "This", I thought, "Is God's way of making me humble."
There was no chance of finding the batteries amongst all the weeds and brush so James offered to take me to town for new batteries after dropping everyone else off at their cars. We hiked back to the truck, managed to turn around, and bumped back to the highway. Aunt Jane still kept her head up and my sister's face was so red that I thought she was going to have a stroke.
I prayed. "Lord," I bargained, "Please make Jane keep her head down and don't let Carol have a stroke, and I promise never to drag people into these woods in August again."
I got the batteries at the drugstore and James and I headed back up the narrow path and into the woods. This time, I was in the cab with him. With no one in the back, I felt a little less guilty until I heard the limbs scraping against the side of his truck, again. When we stopped to hike the last few hundred yards, James got a cap block out of the bed of his truck. He handed me the hoe.
There's a Sandlin baby buried in Old Possum Trot, alongside Olive and Aaron. The grave had been marked with an uninscribed stone until the corner of a bush hog broke it off at the ground. You had to really look to tell that a grave was ever there. James carried that heavy block up the hill to mark the grave of a baby who died more than 100 years ago and never had a first name. Sometimes, it's the little things we do that make all the difference.
|Graphics by Shawna|