Before actual parks, people treated graveyards as open, communal spaces. So like, strolling around like I occasionally do is not so much crazy as it is just “out of another time.” Or something?
This week I made two trips to the Comal Cemetery. My weight trainer’s (she drops into conversation like it’s nothing) house is just a couple of blocks from it, and this week I realized I had somehow mistimed it and showed up twenty minutes early for a workout. Instead of just waiting around outside her house (she has a gym in a building behind her house) I hopped over to the cemetery and strolled around for a few minutes. It was hot, and I showed up to my workout with an absolute ass ton of stickers in my shoes, but it was still worthwhile.
The second time I went to the cemetery I dropped my husband and middle daughter off at Cypress Bend park for a fishing trip… and since you get there by driving through Comal cemetery I stopped on the way back out for a stroll as well. That second time I was in flip flops- and let me tell you the fear of rattlesnakes was pretty real, though I didn’t see any. Note to self- solid footwear is preferred for this sort of thing.
That bottom line is “A memory of your children” according to Google translate but I assume it’s a too literal translation and really is more along the lines of the stone is dedicated to her memory by her children.
So the first trip I took out there I explored the Hispanic side (because of course it’s segregated… of course it is). I loved the stone above, it was one of the only ones with the porcelain pictures I like- the visual it lends to this town not being “All German, all the way back” as so many like to pretend it is great. I hope that damage is accidental, I hope it is. But I will say there were a lot of weirdly damaged stones, something I didn’t find on the German side a week later. This… gives me some pause.
I saw this grave above and thought huh, that rock looks just like a skull…
The Hispanic side of the cemetery is not perfectly segregated- there are German names scattered amongst the Spanish named graves. Were these the unrascist folks? Did these German men marry hispanic women? How did this work? Why are there some German names on this one side, but no Spanish names across the street? What rules applied to this? I would really like to know more about that. Weirdly the care is better on this side than the other- the grass is better mown and the whole cemetery looks better cared for. So like… good? Or no? Or… something.
When I went back for the second jaunt (a bit of a pretentious word, but also what the hell else do you call it?) I found this historic marker almost immediately- an answer to the question: “What is up with all these seashell covered graves in Central Texas?” That question has an answer, one impossible to find online, but BOOM- the answer was right there the whole time! On a big sign! Fascinating!
What I also find funny is that Heinrich does not have any cockleshells on his own grave cover. I assume it’s similar to how I don’t buy any Hallmark cards after having worked in a Hallmark store once during college: because we all grow tired of the things we make our livelihood out of.
There are an absolute TON of “cradle graves”in Comal Cemetery. It isn’t indicative of a childs grave, they are the type of grave covers, common during the Victorian era, that have the area in the center that was to be planted in flowers.
Families would come and tend graves regularly, and the cradle graves were originally filled with soil and a blanket of flowers in the center. That means cemeteries would have been filled with colorful flowers and people back then. Now they are just filled with weeds and are empty except for the deer that bolted from behind a grave and scared the ever living shit out of me. Heart attack in an empty graveyard is NOT how I want to go out, thanks deer.
As I wandered around the thought occurred to me to fill some of these cradle graves with native flowers… like cedar sage, or pigeon berry, or snakeroot- and once more have graves capped in flowers. But I’m held back by the thought that you just have no idea who was an absolute garbage human being, you know? I feel like there is some indication of the style chosen to commemorate them though… I may risk it and plant some things in Alwine’s grave as I find it pretty lovely. Maybe. We’ll see.
And finally the grave of our local celebrity, Ferdinand Lindheimer- a botanist who helped Prince Carl in his founding of the New Braunfels colony, and who has over 50 plants named for him.
So Lindheimer was the only botanist working in Texas for a long stretch of those early days- probably because the pay was a hard earned $8 for every 100 sample sent off, many (interestingly) to Harvard. He made friends amongst the area indian tribes- so while there were a ton of folks who were killed near the river crossings in Gruene, he was left alone and unharmed in all of his wanderings. He was even known for hosting the Comanche war chief of the area, Santana, in his home. That home, on a plot of land along the Comal river given to him by prince Carl, still stands today and is now a museum.
His grave (with a modern stone, nuts) is topped by deer netting- which means someone is or was trying to get some of the plants he discovered established in there… but it’s all just bermuda grass and weeds (plus a crepe myrtle tree) now. Which is a little sad, but maybe it’s a good home for the other thing he discovered- the Texas rat snake, Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri. These snakes grow up to 5′ in length and while they are non venomous they vary wildly in temperament from docile to bastard-level aggressive.
I have GOT to start wearing better shoes when I do this, I swear.