In honor of Sesquicentennial Plus One, I’m devoting the Speaking of Idaho blog to my family’s history during August.
By Mabel Bennett Hutchinson
Grandfather Just died on March 28, 1912. I have some vivid memories of that funeral. You know, of course, about the cemetery that is near the Just house. During the years that Emma and Nels had lived there, several deaths had occurred shortly after birth, and this started the little graveyard on the hill, just north of the brick house. When we were young, we used to go up on the hill and look at the graves. Most of them were caved in and sagebrush grew over them.
The Justs made no effort to fence or protect those graves, as it was their philosophy that “dust thou art, to dust returneth,” and they let nature take care of the graves.
Uncle Charlie Just was also buried in this family graveyard. He had died in 1907 when I was too young to remember anything about his death or funeral. He was only 29 when he died. I remember how his daughters Virginia, Katie and Treo used to carry flowers to his grave and I would go along with them. I thought it was a beautiful thing to do, but it angered Grandma to have flowers left there, as she preferred that the graves remain part of the hillside in a natural state. She had always been opposed to giving flowers to the dead.
When Grandfather Just died, he was buried there and, as a child of nine, I have a vivid recollection of that burial. I would like to present this experience with my imagination thrown in, so that some of the reality comes through to you. Of course, I do not remember (everything) that took place, but the setting there on that hill is fresh in my memory, for this was the time that I first saw a dead body.
It was a queer procession that left the Just house. Brother and I rode with Papa in our wagon, as we were carrying the casket. Just behind us, Uncle Jim’s family came in their wagon. Walking behind them was Mama, Aunt Agnes, and Uncle Rufus. We crossed the little canal bridge and the horses’ heavy feet beat against the hollow sounding boards, then we left the road to climb the steep hill to the graves. No wagon ever climbed the hill except to get to the graves, and from year to year the sagebrush grew over the tracks so there was no road. The wheels of the wagon would climb up over the large sagebrush, crushing it to the ground. It made the horses strain in the big leather tugs to pull the heavy wagon and the load. The sun was getting low and a few scattered clouds were tinted pink and gold. The cold wind sighed through the sagebrush and from down in the valley came the lowing of the cattle and the faint sound of the flowing river.
As we drew near the graves, we could see the high mound of brown clay where the men had dug the grave. Papa reined the horses over by it and then pulled the big wagon as near to the grave as possible. Uncle Jim and his family stopped their wagon a little way off from the grave. Papa got down from the wagon and we all got out. Papa took his lasso and stretched it across the ground where they were going to set the casket. Uncle Rufus had his lasso, too, and he laid it down, not far from Papa’s. When they set the casket down on the ropes, they would be able to lower it into the grave.
Everyone wanted to see Gramp before they laid him away forever, so Papa lifted the lid and we all walked over near the casket. I could not believe this still, white face could be Gramp, but that was his nose, and his mustache and, as I looked closely, it seemed as if I could see the very roots of the hairs in his mustache. There was Gramp’s finger that was cut off at the end, too. Aunt Crillia was crying, and the children were all leaning over the wagon box staring at Gramp. Then they closed the casket.
Papa, Uncle Rufus, Uncle Jim and his eldest son, Leslie, took the ends of the lassos and lowered the big box into the grave.
After this, everyone left but Papa and Uncle Rufus, who would fill the grave with the fresh brown clay.
following an operation in Salt Lake City.