Friday, August 10, 2018

Mt. Sidney

memoir
by Gregory E. Larson

           The summer morning had a freshness to it, causing one to linger in the breeze above the river . . . though the freshness would not remain in August. The day’s increasing wind from the south ushered in hot air in an attempt to legitimize a Midwest drought.
          My friend and I wandered through the cemetery at Mt. Sidney, which is more of a mound than a mount along the Kansas River in the countryside west of Bonner Springs. We had no specific reason for the visit, no mystery to solve, nor grave to seek. It was just a desire to find a peaceful spot, to drink in the morning before it was lost. The bordering woods sloped to the south where a view through the gaps of the towering cottonwoods revealed reflections from a shrinking channel and sun-bleached sandbars.
          Grass crunched under foot, as the freshness had already given way to dormancy. Stones of different age, size and shape dotted the hillside. Some had tilted or shifted in the sod. We tried to read the words and numbers on the cut stone, but weather and time had worn the surfaces. They were discolored by moss, dirt and erosion. Our fingers traced engravings on the rough surfaces to reveal names of real people given up to the earth in decades and centuries past.
          It was a quiet place in the country, punctuated by sounds of a busy world, of people going about their daily business in northeast Kansas. The freight trains rocked and creaked on the tracks hidden in the woods along the river. Planes overhead pierced the blue sky on journeys of unknown destinations. On rare occasions, clouds of dust billowed from the gravel road as a car or truck passed by.

The large monument and sculpture at Mt. Sidney
          On the highest spot, a prominent stone with a sculptured angel marked Mt. Sidney. The four sides of the marker listed many names of the Elder family. On the side overlooking the river, the engraving revealed:

SIDNEY C.
son of
R & A ELDER
born on
JUNE 30, 1879
died
JAN 20, 1895

 . . . not yet sixteen. I wondered what kind of life he lived. How did he die? Illness? Accident? Who were his friends? How deep was the sorrow of parents and family? On my walk that morning it was a mystery lost to layers of sod and generations.
          Deep in thought, we wandered towards the car. I found comfort knowing that summer’s grasp would soon give way to autumn. The time spent in the cemetery reinforced my joy of life. It made me appreciate all the friends and family close to me. I thought of all the places one can experience on this globe - places that give us joy and strength. At the end of the walk, I felt all the better for having stopped my hustling and bustling to share a moment on the warm hillside.