As my wife and I continue to drive all over the country, we are starting to notice the annual jacking up of gasoline prices to coincide with the coming of Memorial Day weekend, the kick-off to the summer travel season.
Every year the big oil companies have another excuse as to why the prices of gasoline were raised: a natural disaster, foreign issues, government problems, OPEC raised the barrel price of crude oil, OPEC lowered the price of crude oil, causing a rise in gasoline prices, less swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano. My favorite is always; “Prices went up because of increased demand.” Really? Because of increased demand?
Did the coming of Memorial Day catch you off guard? With thousands of employees in the industry, not one person put up a post-it note in their cubical to remind them, “Memorial Day will be the last Monday in May this year. People are going to start traveling for the summer. Make more gasoline.”
The oil industry could learn a lesson from the sausage makers around the world. These people know Oktoberfest is going be celebrated the first weekend of October, so they make more sausage for brats. They never get caught off guard, running short of brats - and they don’t jack up the price of these delicious sausages for Oktoberfest.
Big oil companies have charged more for nothing for years!
Take for example, the coming of unleaded fuel in the 1970’s. Unleaded fuel was always more expensive then regular leaded fuel. Why? Lead is not natural to gasoline - it’s an additive.
Obviously I know about the environmental impact of burning lead in your gasoline, but big oil companies charged more to not add tetraethyl lead? Hmm.
A thinner nozzle was used on the unleaded fuel pump handle, the new car itself had a much smaller opening on the fuel filler neck that would prevent the larger regular fuel nozzle from fitting. Some people didn’t want to pay for the higher priced fuel and punched out the smaller hole, making it big enough for the larger regular fuel nozzle to be inserted.
Another issue with unleaded fuel was the smell of the exhaust. Ick! When you pulled up behind a car burning unleaded fuel, the scent of the exhaust would get in through your fresh air vents or open windows. The putrid smell of rotten eggs would cause you to wrinkle you nose and gag a bit. It was nasty, no doubt about it.
I wonder what ever happened to that nasty stench? Did the fuel refineries find a way to eliminate it? Did it go away - or did we just get used to it, accepting it as the new “norm?” Hmm.
I apologize, I’ve digressed from the subject of this story. It was supposed to be about Memorial Day.
Originally, the holiday was called Decoration Day. It was used to decorate the grave markers, remembering those who died in the Civil War - both Union and Confederate soldiers.
As time went on, the day was used to decorate the graves of those who died in both World Wars as well. It became inclusive of those who died in Korea and Vietnam, and eventually all soldiers who died in any conflict while serving in the US Military branches.
Memorial Day didn’t became an official federal holiday until 1971. Unfortunately to some, it has become just a paid day off work. How sad.
Recently, Melissa and I went to visit the graves of her ancestors and relatives on her grandma Lucille’s side of the family, who are buried at the Coatsville Cemetery, not far from Lancaster, Missouri.
It is a quiet country cemetery, surrounded by farm fields, with markers in straight rows across the hilly knoll. The grass wasn’t real tall, but would soon be ready for a cutting. There were many older deteriorating stones, some had broken and fallen.
The really old markers were worn by elements of weather over the years. Distorted wording, carved into the limestone, was hard or impossible to read. Sometimes we could make out a year that would indicate the ones who had died in the Civil War.
Although this cemetery was old, very small, and located on a narrow gravel road out in the countryside, it was not a forgotten place. Some of the graves had small American flags near the base. Others were marked with flowers and other such decorations. Someone had taken the time to raise fallen stones, propping them up against the remaining base. It warmed my heart seeing this sign of respect for the long dead.
Among the older stones were a few newer markers for those who had passed more recently. This was still an active cemetery.
There are cattle guards at the driveways entering the cemetery, but a broken down farm fence surrounding the perimeter would allow animals - wild or livestock from nearby farms - to cross into the grounds. Still it was clear someone had been taking care of this site.
There was a very big cedar tree on the grounds the last time we had visited. It was now gone. In its place a trickle of smoke was still rising from the burning stump. I would guess the tree either died, or maybe it had been struck by lightning.
There was a new, tall flag pole that was not there the last time we were.
I wondered, who removed the tree? Who put up that flag pole? I wondered further, who maintains this lot? I assumed it must be maintained by the county.
We continued to walk around looking for headstones bearing the name Veatch; Melissa’s relatives.
A lady pulled into the cemetery, driving a Polaris Ranger. She approached us and was friendly in the way she inquired why we were there. She told us her husband, a farmer working in the field across the way, called her from his tractor to let her know there were people in the cemetery.
We learned her name was Sara Morrow. She and her husband are the caretakers of the Coatsville Cemetery. She explained her son, who died at a young age in the late nineties, was buried here and pointed to his marker.
There was a sadness in her eyes and voice as she spoke of her son. She is still grieving her loss. I felt her pain.
Melissa told her we were looking for Veatch graves. She pointed to a headstone then told Sara, her great-uncle, Lala Veatch, (pronounced l?-lee) owned the 80-acre farm on the hilltop just beyond the valley. Sara said, “Oh! I knew Lala. I still remember his laugh.”
Melissa mentioned she still has relatives that live in the area - “Lyle and Pat York. Pat worked at the post office.” She said. Sara’s eyes lit up. “I saw Lyle just last week!” She said. The two women made a connection. Melissa had grown up, visiting this and other country cemeteries each year around Memorial Day, brought by her grandparents and then her parents. It had become a family tradition to remember their ancestors and pass along the stories while walking amongst the graves.
Sara stayed and chatted with us for twenty minutes or so. She gave us a good education on country cemeteries. Being on the board of directors, Sara had learned the man who kept the grass mowed, would no longer be able to do so. She and her husband had assumed the lawn care for the grounds.
“The county does not provide any funding for these old cemeteries - at least not in Missouri.” Sara said, adding, “The only funding we have is from donations, and we spend a lot of our own money to make improvements.”
Those improvements included the new flag pole, planting new trees, buying flags to make sure all veterans’ graves are marked with an American flag for Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Larger flags to fly across the front of the cemetery. Raising old tombstones and placing them on new concrete bases to preserve them and more. “We’re trying to raise enough money now to replace all the old fencing around the perimeter.” She said.
Her passion for keeping this cemetery well-kept was heart felt.
Often times when delivery trailers, customers will give me a tip. The tip is generally fifty, or one hundred dollars. We are not rich people, but we are not starving either, so when we get these tips, we give them to others who may need the money.
I remembered there was a one hundred dollar bill in the car we hadn’t given away yet. Listening to Sara talk, I smiled thinking, we just found a good use for that money. Melissa was thinking the same thing. Sara expressed great appreciation for the gift. One would have thought we had just given her thousands! We, in turn, expressed our gratefulness for the work of the Morrow’s in keeping the cemetery nice.
This Memorial Day, when you’re out visiting loved ones who have passed, please look for a donation box at the cemetery. If you don’t find one, please take the time to call your county and find out if the cemetery maintenance is funded or done by donation. Find out who maintains the grounds, send them a donation and a note of gratitude for their hard work.
I don’t notice the exhaust fumes from unleaded gasoline anymore. Did they go away, or did I just get used to the scent - taking it for granted, accepting it as the new norm?
Let us never forget what we are to remember on Memorial Day. The veterans and loved ones who lay to rest in the small Coatsville cemeteries around our great nation. Let’s take time to seek out and support the Morrow’s all over our country, who take care of these cemetery grounds.
To all who served our country, sacrificing their lives for our freedom, Thank You! You are remembered this Memorial Day and always.
a broadcaster, pilot, writer, and our Guest Columnist!