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Landfill situation a grave matter

April 21, 1999

Having now torn down most everything of historic significance above ground, Washington County now appears to be directing its attention to a more subterranean area, what with the announcement that a 19th-century cemetery will have to be moved to make way for a - there's no delicate way to put this - a garbage dump.

The people in this old plot never even lived to see the Civil War, and their graves are marked by crumbling stones. Best as county officials can tell, the families whose ancestors rest there picked up and moved west well over a century ago.

The cemetery poses a unique challenge in that instead of being torn down it will have to be torn up. So the county is bringing in the Army Corps of Engineers to help engineer the corpses.

Unless the graves are moved, the 435-acre Lund Landfill will lose a significant amount of dumping grounds.

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I'd be curious to know what these ancients would have thought if they'd known that their Final Resting Place would one day be supplanted by coffee grounds and orange rinds.

I'm sure there are some historical interests who are uneasy with this decision. But I think I have to side with the county on this one.

Isn't it more respectful to spade up the old forgotten boys and move them to high ground where they will be treated to a permanent marker and a few words about their families on a plaque than it is to leave them where they are, surrounded by trash?

In the end, they should be the ones with the final say. So I'm thinking the county should head down to the cemetery and announce over a bullhorn "All those not in favor of being disinterred, raise your hands."

An archaeological study of the cemetery performed in 1996 found the plot to be populated with German-Americans from three families. The report stated that none of the families was "historically significant."

Aw. The poor things. You like to think everyone was significant in his or her own way. Who knows, maybe one of these folks was the original inventor of Ye Olde Tippe Jarr.

Thanks. As if I didn't have enough to worry about, now I'm walking around troubled that I won't even be cold in my grave before being stamped "Historically Insignificant."

"Here lies Tim Rowland; H.I." In other words, if you ever need this spot to throw your old Pampers, feel free. What? A banana peel? I think there may still be some room in the cranial cavity.

This gives St. Peter an entirely new subgroup with which to deal. "Morally bereft but historically significant" ought to count for something. Maybe a weekend pass arrangement. Satan gets you through the week, but you can look forward to 48 hours of bliss come Friday.

Conversely, whither the "Good as gold but don't think twice about rousting the old fellow out to make room for a bale of old newspapers" category.

Suddenly, if the state is going to go around assigning or withholding historical significance on a body, it's not enough to be wholesome, you have to put that decency to work for the common progression of mankind.

This is all a little too much weight to throw in my wheelbarrow without having it pitched to one side or the other. I can be either good or useful, but not both.

And it's the useful part of me that says the folks at Lund would be better served by a respectful transplanting. Yes, I suppose there's a risk that garbage will start to levitate and compactors will begin to drive themselves.

But is that truly a risk? Think of the tourist appeal of the nation's first and only haunted landfill.

Now that's what I call historically significant.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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