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Sittin' Up With The Dead
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Sittin' Up With The Dead


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The eerie grreen glow from the old mercury vapor lamp kept the frogs collected and jostling for position 'round the bottom of the light pole.  The bugs drawn there by the dim glow fell by the droves, and the frogs were quickly sticky-tonguein' them up like children at a never ending ice cream fountain.  Garry Don and I would watch them for hours.  It was something to see how fast a frog could snatch in a bug with their tongue!

Mercury Vapor light

My cousin and I were tired.  Here we were in our church clothes, can't play, can't go home, can't do nothing but sit there and sit still!  We were really bummed out!

We'd been up there since right after school when our parents made us kids dress up in our Sunday go-to-meetin' best.  "We're agoin' to sit up with Mrs. Deaver," Mom had informed.

"Aw Mom . . ."  I couldn't believe I was gonna have to go up there and sit up all night with that old lady!  'Sides that, Mr. & Mrs. Jones wasn't gonna be there.

They was neat 'cuz they had horny (horned), toad what would smoke!  That's a fact!

Mr. Jones had brought the horny toad back from Californy when he went out there to get his new fangled false teeth he'd won on the TV.  The preacher didn't even know he had a TV 'til he won those teeth in that there drawing.

Horned Lizard

It was a long time before I figured out why Momma would slap the tar outta me for talking 'bout that horny toad!  I didn't see nuthin' wrong with it.  It wasn't even like the toads we were used to playing with.  That thing was horny!  A crown of horns all the way across the back of it's head with one big horn on each side of his head.

"Boy!  I hope Mr. Jones brings his horny toad!" I said hopefully.

Horned Lizard

That done it!  "You hush your mouth right now or I'll wash it out with soap for you!  Do you hear me?  You better answer me!   George Earl, you better answer me or I'll come in there right now and wear you out!"

"Aw, yeah Momma, I hear you . . ."  I still hadn't figured out what she was so upset about.

Horned Lizard

"She was a nice lady, and we have to go pay our respects!" Mom finished all in one breath.

"Keep your mouth shut stupid!" I thought to myself, then almost instantly lost myself to thought once again.  "Next thing she'll have us doin' is sittin' in there with her!"

Then I launched back into the 'horny toad' train of thought.  Another thing that impressed me about them was when confronted by some enemy, the horny toad (actually - horned lizard . . . ) could ooze blood out of his eyes, and I've heard tell they could spit blood too!  Someone once told me that it was poison blood!  At any rate, it was an ordeal of massive curiosity to me!

In later years after moving to Corcoran, California we'd catch the little lizards (horny toads) and play with them.  We nearly always had one in a box or cage somewhere.  But we could never get one smoke . . . mainly because we didn't have access to cigarettes. (hmmmmm.  I wonder how Mr. Jones came about alwasy having cigarettes handy?  Preacher preached against smoking and TV cuz it was sin . . . .)

Back to earlier that afternoon when we was having to get all churchified and clean and everthing . . .  I couldn't believe I was sassing Momma and gettin' by with it.  Bout that time I heard one of the girls screaming from getting soap in her eyes.  "Ahaaa," I thought.  She's busy is the reason I didn't get a swat!  But she never forgot an incident like that.  The offense would not leave mommas memory for years and reverberations from a crime like that could continue for days.

Nothing doing, but, we were going!  So, here we were.  Just Garry Don Dooley and me.  We'd already been in there and sat until we were run out for playing.  Momma kept telling me to "be quiet or you'll wake the dead!"

"Bet that'd be a funny sight to see!  There was a rumor going around a while back about that kind of incident.

 Besides that, it was SPOOKY in that place.  But even ghosts get boring after a while.

But dead people don't get boring!  Garry Don dared me to touch her, but I got out of it by daring someone else who simply admitted they were "skeered ta death . . . of touching a dead person," then added "I ain't touchin no dead body!"  Well, if they weren't then I didn't hafta neither!

The first time I was ever in the old Rector Funeral Home, (that I can remember), I stuck so close to Mom that she could barely walk.  Heck, I could barely walk and I didn't have someone trying to hide behind me!  My legs were locked up at just the mere sight of the inside of that place.  There was all them there curtains ever'wheres, and there was a casket!  That was where they let the dead people stay!

More than oncst (the word is spelled like it is spoken . . . remember, there's a hillbilly talking here!), I've been harangued into submission, only to go up there and finally nod off from jest a sittin.  And what do they do that for anyway?  Those people were dead!  They didn't NEED anyone sitting up with them!  They're not even sittin' up themselves!

But the smell of a funeral home is nothing to forget neither!  Smelled too clean for me!  If you want ME to be comfortable in there, put some dirty socks, or old fried baloney, or somethin' that smells like Ricky, my wet dog in there, and I'll come a closer to actually doing the deed of sittin' up!

I remember a story I mentioned above where all these people were a sittin' up with this dead dude.  Although the room was quite small, it held more people than what could go through that front door at the same time when he sat up!  And nobody went back in there neither!  Far all I know, he was still sittin' up by himself the next mornin when the funeral dude came in.

He'd never seen such a mess in his life, he told someone later.  There was broken chairs, a broken highheel shoe, flowers strowed all over the place, one of the curtains was down on the floor.  No one's ever figured out how the toilet got broken, but thinks it had something to do with whoever went out the winder in the bathroom.

The gossip later revealed that no one saw a thing as far as how anything got all tore up, and also, no one could figure out who could have been responsible such a thing as tearing up a funeral home.  Later it was reported in the paper someone driving by caught a glimpse of people exiting the funeral home.  Said people was a coming outa there so fast it looked like mad honeybees!

Finally, the real story broke: One little boy that was seated over the left of the casket got a look at the body.  No one else had even seen the thing sit up, until the little boy exclaimed "Momma, looky there!  They didn't put all the clothes on Mr. Rogers.  You can see his butt crack!"

When I stop and think about it, I just really don't think the little fellow could actually see that far.  From what I've heard in later years, a corpse will only pull a little and that only as much as maybe raise the head off the pillow.  If that's the case, he could only see the gap at the back of the neck.  No doubt he could see the shirt and coat split in the middle and surmised the rest.  But the effect was the same!!

From there everything was just a blur.  The only other person to see that sight let out a blood curdling scream.  That was enough for the largest part of the crowd.  They didn't even take the time to look at the corpse.

Didn't seem as if anyone cared enough to stay around very long neither.

One more 'true' story 'bout sittin' up with the dead.  One time this old Baptist preacher that died had a couple of strange requests.  Rumor has it that he'd paid advance for a couple of extra services at his funeral.  One, was he didn't believe in bein' cremated, embalmed, spending money for an expensive casket, or waiting three days to be buried.  Not only was he kind of 'teched,' (that's touched with an eh sound . . .), but very adamant about making sure his demands were met!

Since he was a bachelor, he ate awful lot beans cuz that's 'bout all he knew how to cook and it took too much time to fry potatoes.  Well, he had finished off this pot of beans cuz there warn't 'nuff for a full meal tommarra, so to keep from wasting 'em, he ate em.  ALL of 'em!

Well, now them there beans got ta hurtin' him sumpin' fierce and he was gettin red in the face.  Somebody ran around and got the car so they could carry him to the Dr.  When he got to the Drs. office, he had already passed out, and they couldn't pull him out of it.  Somebody said he was just full beans, and, since not everybody knew that's about all he could cook, they just thought it was a joke at his doctors expense.

Even the Dr laughed.  And he was a deacon in the church where Bro Tom was preachin.  Well, since Doc Blaine knew how Bro Tom believed, he just ran him over to the funeral home, and they had him in the casket in a couple of hours so everybody could come by and pay their last respects that night.  Cause he had to be buried the next day!

Well, since 'bout everbody in that neck of the woods was Baptist, generally, every body knew him and they'd come to pay their last respects and 'sit up a while' that evening.

Well now, since the Doc was more deacon than he was doctor, he didn't know that Brother Tom had passed out from heat exhaustion.  After bein' in that cold mortuary for a couple of hours, some life began to stir back into him.  As of yet he'd not come to, so they allowed ever;one to come into the hall where there was room enough for several to sit.  Most of the time people would not stay too awfully long and would come and go almost all hours of the night.

While the biggest part of the visitors, 'sitters' and even some sinners were busily talking and fellowshippin', Bro Tom groaned real low like, and passed some gas.  No problem.  It was common knowledge for dead folks to do that, so, not much of a fuss was made.  But the vibes of spookiness were a gittin' pretty strong.

One old lady had gotten stuck with taking care of her eldest grandson Eddy, which at that time was about 9, full of vim and vigor, and was quite rowdy.  When she heard the moan and the awkward sound of the gas, she looked around straight at Eddy giving him one of her most threatening Granny Butler killer looks.

Under her breath she asked "did you just do what I think you did?  How could you?".  Eddy had heard it too, and for once, was too scared to do anything but sit there.  He soundly got his ears boxed for "doing such a thing like that in front of respectable people!"

Eddy wailed "naw granny, I didn't do it.  I swear!  I really didn't do that!"  He was close to tears and more scared of that dead body laying there than of Granny Butler.

Within just a few seconds, the odor started spreading out across the people.  Granny knuckle-bumped Eddy right up side the head again!  "Ouw!" Eddy yelped and started bawling loudly, more scared than hurt.

The loud yelp from Eddy startled Bro Tom laying there in that casket and he jumped.  Problem is, he passed another cloud of nauseous gases, only this time, EVERYBODY knew who did it!

Brother Tom was just beginnin' to stir when someone yelled, "that dead body's gonna be sittin' up purty quick!  And if he's gonna sit up I'm leaving!" came back over his shoulder.  And the race was on!  It's just amazing how three portly people can all get through a skinny door at the same time!

Brother Tom had a whole new line of messages to preach Sunday morning . . .



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A close friend of the family spoke of his job as a night janitor at one of the Bakersfield, CA., funeral homes a few years back.  Said the last thing he did at night before he went home is sweep and mop the area where all the bodies were laid out on separate stainless steel tables for final prepping before they were placed into the casket.

Cadaver Storage

He said it was a little scary at first, but after he did it for a while, got over his fright.  I mean, they was all covered over with a sheet so you couldn't see who was there and he sure wasn't gonna get close to enough to take a peek!  So every thing was fine.  That is, until one night, out of the corner of his eye he noticed one of those bodies start to raise up.

He dropped his mop, took off running for the door and made that first corner.  But he was moving too fast to make that second corner.

He was instantly running full out but his feet wasn't geting any traction!  When he finally got outside the funeral home, he was through with that place! Claimed he never even went back for his paycheck



- - - - - - -



How about one more?  Now, I don't know all the details of this story - mainly just a couple of lines of the basic situation . . .

But it was told as truth, and happened in a city not too far from where we live and, we know the man.  Seems he had some more work to finish in the preparation of a man for viewing the next day.  While working on a corpse in the prep room the phone rang.

Now the phone hung on the wall on the opposite the side of the corpse - just far enough way that he could barely reach it by leaning across the gurney on which the corpse lay.  It had a pretty long cord on it and he could stand back up while talking on it.  So instead of walking around the stainless table he would just lean over and reach for the phone.

So, he did just that.  But something went very wrong.  That corpse was somehow triggered to move and it's arms came up and clasped him tight enough to keep him from moving.  The phone clattered as it fell on the floor.  Try as h may, he could not get loose from that corpse!

The only solution was to ask the caller to hang up and call his wife to come down to the funeral home as he was in dire need of help.  True story.  But I will not give the location or the mortician, but we know him well, and he is of highest integrity.

George Cavaness
10-09-1994



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