Sunday, May 10, 2009

Meet: Craig Manson, "The Peripatetic Graveyard Rabbit"

The twenty eighth in a series
featuring a member of
The Graveyard Rabbit Association


When people ask me where I'm from, I'm tempted to say, "Everywhere." That's nearly true. But one who's from Everywhere can end up being from Nowhere if he's not careful.

I was born in Missouri and as a child lived in Indiana, New Mexico, California, and Germany. During that time, the United States government considered me officially to be from Texas, despite the fact that during the first eighteen years of my life, I'd spent less than a total of a month in Texas.

My father was a career Army officer and he came from Texas. His permanent domicile was in Houston, Texas, and so, under federal regulations, so was mine.

As an adult, I've lived in California, Colorado, South Dakota, Arizona, Virginia, and the United Kingdom. I've spent substantial time in Germany and South Korea. Professional endeavors have taken me to 47 states, four U.S. territories, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Thailand and Chile.

My ancestral roots are in Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, England, Scotland, France, and West Africa.

I mention all of the foregoing by way of explaining the title, "The Peripatetic Graveyard Rabbit." I intended to write about many places around the world and many topics. The PGYR hasn't quite hit its stride and I'm experimenting with some innovations to re-invent it. So the guy from Everywhere is dangerously close to being the guy from Nowhere!

I came late to the family history party and bear the oft-heard regret, "If only I'd started sooner!" I have learned so much about history, sociology, geography, psychology, political science, and other topics since I started tracking down ancestors.

Graveyards are as valuable as any library when it comes to information about life itself. And I've had "Aha moments" in graveyards that have served to jolt me out of certain naive notions about life.

Me at the grave of my great uncle Monroe Bryant (1900-1951)

For example, I tracked down my great-uncle Monroe Bryant to Sacramento. He was from our ancestral home on the Texas Gulf Coast. No one seemed to know what became of him. I discovered that he had died in 1951 of cirrhosis of the liver and was buried in Sacramento's East Lawn Cemetery, which is about 10 miles from my home. I went there and asked to see his grave site.I was led to an empty, overgrown field, with no markers. It was quite a contrast from the rest of the place, which had finely manicured lawns and stately monuments.

I was peeved when I saw the condition of Monroe's grave. But then I realized he was a black alcoholic drifter who never had a job more complicated than washing dishes. He died in a town where he didn't know a soul. It's a miracle that he didn't ended up an "Unclaimed Person." Nobody was going to bury him in the perpetual care section. (It was thanks to his nephew, Elias Bowie, who lived in San Francisco, that Monroe got buried at all.)

It's important to me that each of our family members is appropriately remembered. That's why I spend time on and in real cemeteries--for the sake of their memory.


Dorene from Ohio said...

I really appreciate your statement:

Graveyards are as valuable as any library when it comes to information about life itself.

That is truly brilliant!

Robin said...

I loved your article and hope to see more of your postings.

Also wanted to stop by and let Graveyard Rabbit know there is an award waiting for them at my home. Come by and pick it up at