Gladys Pittman fretted because there weren’t more folks waiting to dig into a holiday picnic. In reality, they were surrounded by dozens more relatives – only thing is they were resting beneath tombstones.
Pittman and other descendants of the Preslar and Mitchell families were doing it the old-fashioned way, a picnic in the middle of Holly Springs Cemetery, or Duck Hill Cemetery as it used to be called, in the Currie, Tennessee, community three miles west of Dyer.
“When I was a little girl, it was always a picnic near your relatives’ graves on the last Sunday of May. The whole community turned out,” said the 79-year-old Pittman, a Mitchell by birth. Three years ago, she tried to revive the tradition, got 30 relatives from as far as Michigan and Florida.
They talked about how a nearby area used to be called Presorting and how there were two churches just down the hill from the cemetery.
A decades-old bell sits in the middle of one cemetery.
They would ring it early in the morning after somebody died – though most folks had sat up with the family. Then they would ring it a certain number of times to let the men know when to come dig the grave, say 11 AM. A few minutes later, they’d ring it again, and the number of times would tell folks if the funeral was at 1, 2 or 3. They’d give the men time to dig the grave, come home, clean up and get back to the church in time.
From a story by Pete Wickham in the Jackson Sun, Jackson, Tennessee.