This is a true story I have heard many times from my good friend and grant writing business partner, Diane Morton.  She has a unique way of writing and always makes me laugh.  I asked her to share this story because I can’t convince her to start her own blog.  I hope you enjoy the story as it tells a lot about Western Oklahoma and a long tradition of honoring the dead…whoever they are.

Now, just do not go saying, “who cares about an ‘old cowboy’?”  When it comes to the “old cowboy,” the Moad family has a heap of love.  When I was a young girl about 7 or 8 years old, my Grandma (Moad) Hibler, and her daughters would gather me, my sisters and cousins all up and state, “It is time to decorate the family graves”.  (I have come to believe that only females have the honor of decorating as none of the men or boys ever participated.)  Being so young, we thought of it as an adventure and fun day. From the moment of arrival for performing the yearly ritual, the adults carefully prepared snacks, water, and last but not least, the wreaths.  Grandma always stated that she did not want to leave out the “old cowboy”!

The first stop was Red Hill Cemetery where our first mistake was stepping on a grave.  If I remember right, we jumped from the car and all the “hollering commenced”.  We had all committed the unpardonable sin.  “You stepped on a grave!!”   Right then, Grandma started teaching us little heathens the first law concerning cemeteries.  She told us that now that poor person was wondering who had stepped on their grave and become restless.  Needless to say, this is when the nightmares started.   

Before a wreath or flowers could be put on the grave, we were told the reason of their demise: Poor Lora Moad died in childbirth; Marquis Moad died in a horrible car accident in Arkansas; and little Karren Sue died of leukemia. 

We little girls were standing around all sad and anxiously awaiting the decorating time to be over, when out of my own mother’s mouth came, “Diane, Karren Sue would be your age and she was only about a year old when she died”.  I thought to myself, this is really sad.  Then, the words of horror happened, “I used to take you by her mom’s and let you nurse her until she dried up.” 

“My gosh, YOU did WHAT???   Dried up from what???  Childhood!!!”

After we decorated all the relatives and friends in Red Hill, it was off to Kiowa Cemetery and the “old cowboy”.  The granddaughters were all curious but none of us had the courage to ask.  Grandma was already in her sentimental/cemetery mood and tears were falling.  This is where her parents were buried. When Grandma’s parents married, they had to take on three of her mother’s children because she was dying of cancer.    Her mama had come from Pennsylvania and her dad was a U.S. Marshall.  She talked about the “night riders” coming in the night to try and lynch a prisoner.  She told how Aunt Addie (her sister) had been murdered by her husband and how the family members chased him in an old coupe.  When they found the coward, he had killed himself.  “Good enough for him,” she would say.  Next, was Uncle Willie who had lost his arm in a cotton ginning machine.  Uncle Tommy had the flu and died. Her dad had gone out to the barn and built his little coffin.    These stories have left their impressions to this day. 

Curiosity became too much and we all wanted the story about the “old cowboy”!  Grandma said first things first.  Decorating the grave was the first and most important thing.  I have seen that woman pluck a flower from a wreath of the family in order that the “old cowboy” had a flower for his grave.  We girls were thinking this has to be our own family’s version of Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, John Wayne, etc.  “Well, girls this is the old cowboy” and we answered, “Yes, we know.”  “He rode into Kiowa (a small rural community), fell over and died.” 

“WHAT???” 

“No one ever knew his name.  The sheriff sold his horse and saddle and gave it to the undertaker to bury him.  He needed a place for his final rest and the Moad family donated this grave site right in the middle of all the family.  We should never forget to decorate his grave as he has become a part of our family.” 

Guess what—the “girls”…Kaye, Sherry, Donna, and I still go to the cemeteries (we have added several more) around Memorial Day and go through the yearly ritual recalling how Grandma taught us at an early age to honor and remember our deceased relatives.  Grandma would be proud, never once have we forgotten the “old cowboy”.