By Don McAlavy: CNJ columnist
Back in 1994 when Harold Kilmer, Ike Stanford, and I were searching old cemeteries in Curry County, Sis Simmons, the local radio personality, who grew up as Alma Willoughby near Field, told me there was a cemetery we had missed out there. As a young girl she witnessed a 13-year-old boy buried in that little cemetery after he was fatally bit by a rattlesnake.
Other people, Anna Wyatt, Clifford Skeen, Dale Lewis, Tiny Burchett, and Eulus Hudspeth confirmed that there was a cemetery out there and it was about one and a half miles north of the “Firestone Corner.”
That figured out to be two miles west and one mile south of Field. That road, if you could call it that, was muddy.
We walked down the road into the wind, but we managed to get through the high soil bank grass that was also planted in the road. We could see where the sandstorms of the 30s and early 50s had blown the sand and dirt out of the road and piled it up on the road’s east side.
Just before we got one mile we saw a high mound of sand off the road to the west in the soil bank land. It was about six feet higher than the bottom of the road. Ike carefully investigated this hill which was about 30 to 40 yards in size.
Harold and I went on to the corner where I saw the road coming from the south that had been pretty well traveled. (There was no east or west road after going one mile.)
There to the south and west was a flat field that had been planted in wheat that fall. It was at this fence that I had been told the cemetery would be found. No cemetery there, unless it had been plowed under.
We walked out on the two to three-inch wheat growing and found a rusty claw-hammer without the handle, there in the dirt. We saw several pieces of broken glass.
Ike figured that site could have been a homestead because of the broken glass. Ike, Harold, and I figured that site could have been a cemetery there and the claw-hammer was used to drive a wooden cross into the ground.
Going back home we dropped by Dr. Jake and Janie Moberly’ place and he told us a wild story that Olen Firestone, or Anna Wyatt, had told.
“It seemed as if there had been a dance, perhaps a Halloween dance, at either the Firestone home or the Skeen home and some of the children of the families had left early to walk home.
“One of the boys was 18 years old, Kermit Witcher, who lived about a mile and a half north of the cemetery, who was over six feet tall, thin as a rail, something like Ichabod Crane,” Jake said. “Ten to twelve year old Olen Firestone had somehow got way ahead of the kids walking down the road and hid in the cemetery the kids would have to pass going to the Witcher place.
This was on a moonlit night and when the kids got even with the cemetery, Olen rose up out of the cemetery with a white sheet on, scaring the other kids half-to-death, especially Kermit Witcher. It was said he tore up the road and didn’t slow down until he got home, taking six to eight-foot leaps in doing so,” said Dr. Jake Moberly.
I believed every word of it.
Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org