27 Nov 1936- 09 July 2010
I’m diggin’ up bones, I’m diggin’ up bones,
Exhuming things that’s better left alone.
And I’m resurrecting mem’ries of a love that’s dead and gone.
Yeah, tonight I’m sittin’ alone, diggin’ up bones.… M
It’s 1984. The town is Cross Plains, TN. A town founded in the late 1700’s and has grown to a population of 1000. I am a local. My great parents are buried in the graveyards around the highway that runs through the 4-way stop where Thomas Drug, Graves Market and Tate Chevrolet do business. Robertson County Tennessee just ten miles south of the Kentucky state line has a dividing line down 31 W highway between Robertson County and Sumner County. My daddy said, “ Sumner county line is where my world ended.”
In the fall of 1984 I was divorced, a registered nurse and the mother of two children who attended East Robertson Elementary.
We lived on the same road as the school and the Greenwood Church. Turn down on Greenwood Road and through and open vista of soybeans and cornfields there was a big barn owned by the Yates family. It was a tobacco barn used for Burley tobacco.
Entertainment in these rural communities is one of baseball, basketball, football. This year it was between all those seasons and it just so happened to be almost Halloween. The parents of the kids were going nuts because the kids were going nuts. “ For Halloween let’s have a haunted house. “ It all seemed possible. The old ways of cars and kids driving miles to find Reeses’s Peanut Butter cups, Milky Ways and Sugar Daddies seemed expensive: the gas costs more than the sugar.
“ The Yates barn might be a good place.” Another said, “ Yeah, but can we ?” Gayle said, “ Yes, I’ll ask Steve. Steve being the brother of Jeff and Ernie and Gayle’s husband. “ Steve, will help us. He’ll love the idea!”And so our Halloween Haunted House of 1984 was dreamed up on the back of the Ford tailgate at the last of the baseball season 1984.
We decided that we needed ghosts, corpses, and witches. Melanie said she’d be the corpse “ and lie in the casket, rise up when the kids walked by and then look at them.” Chris Faulkner said she’d be the witch. Her friend thought of a barrel of dry ice from Baskin and Robbins ice cream that we could get as a place ‘ to boil the kids alive.’ Steve though he could represent Chain Saw Massacre by taking the chain off the chain saw and chasing the kids when they came out of the barn. Bob added that he had metal box springs that could cover the dirt floor and then by covered by plyboard to make the floor move. John said he’d spray the kids with water to force them to move quickly through the maze. The can was a tobacco spray can most used to spray for weeds. The probable chemical rinsed out before was probably Roundup. Nobody asked why they smelled funny.
Melanie’s husband went to the Milldale Funeral home in Orlinda to ask Bobby if we could borrow a casket.
He said, “ Yes!” He didn’t ask any questions. He laughed and said, “ How many do you need?” John said, “ Just one, I think, but I’ll get back to you if we need more.” John, was green in the face when he said, “ Bobby wanted to know if we needed more?
Halloween came. The barn was dressed in black plastic for walls. The floors were wobbly, Melanie laid in the casket under the candles and the flashlight shining under her chin. The witch laugh echoed through the noise of the chainsaw. Ropes led the way into the wobbly floor room. Fifteen kids showed up to be “ scared too death.”
After the scare was not scary anymore Steve brought the tractor with the wagon full of hay. Fifteen kids, parents and strays bailed in to meander and look up at the stars in the Southern sky while throwing straw and screaming.
Soon it was time to come back to the barn. We ate hot dogs, marshmallows. A few drank beer in red plastic cups that camouflaged the alcohol.
A few weeks later I asked, “ Did the casket get taken back to the funeral home?” “Melanie’s husband took it, Steve said. Steve laughed and said, “ Bobby said, it was used so it wasn’t a problem that Melanie got makeup all over the satin interior.”