Texian Stomping Grounds Page: 32
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TEXIAN STOMPING GROUNDS
the neighbors, who take turns at the sickbed. When death occurs,
they must "set up with the corpse," for it is a sin and a shame
to leave a family alone with its dead.
The death wake is believed to have had its origin in primitive
times when guard was kept over the body of the deceased to
ward off evil spirits. The custom as it exists in East Texas today
requires that friends come to comfort the bereaved, wash the body,
and lay it out on a board in the front room, where it will remain
all night lighted by an oil lamp and covered with a sheet until
it is dressed and put in the coffin next morning. Some religious
sects hold all-night ceremonies for the dead, but usually the death
wake is quiet, arrangements for the funeral next day being made
in low voices on the front porch or in the yard. Friends, close
kin, and neighbors stay all night, going periodically to the kitchen
for coffee, but always quietly. As soon as it is day, a group will
assemble picks, shovels, and mattocks and set off for the cemetery
to lay off the grave and dig it six feet deep. And no kin of the
dead need touch a cold clod of clay.
The graves of the dead are not forgotten as the years pass.
Graveyard-workings with dinner-on-the-ground are still held an-
nually in many settlements. During August or September a day
is set aside for the occasion and the whole community will turn
out with full baskets, each person bringing a hoe, rake, or shovel.
The cemetery is worked clean of grass, weeds, and bushes. Indi-
vidual graves receive the careful attention of relatives of the
deceased. New mounds are heaped up on those graves that have
settled flat or caved in. Wild flowers and bits of colored glass
are arranged on the newly spaded earth as a simple tribute to a
mother, father or a son, dead all these years. Naturally the gath-
ering is one of mixed emotions. There is the usual amount of
laughing and talking, as among any hearty people, but there are
also tears in the eyes.
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Dobie, J. Frank (James Frank), 1888-1964. Texian Stomping Grounds, book, 1941; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc67663/m1/40/: accessed September 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Press.