WHICH CENTURY? MARCH 3, 2014
Gotta tellya: Some of this story is very recent, and some of it is very ancient. We were sitting around the other evening shooting the breeze, or maybe it was chewing the fat, who knows? The Warden was there to put in her 2 cents worth, and we would allow her since she is the strongest, and you always let the strong ones have their say-so. The weaker can just get their say-so in when the Warden has run out of breath. You have to be nimble in this conversation, and sometimes we don’t bother for the talker to take a breath — we just barge in. Tammy was there, and Dorys (with a “y”) was there, then Barb, and there was I lurking to jump out from nowhere with a story to tell which had crawled into my head as others were taking up the talking space.
Dorys had somehow grabbed the opportunity to speak to tell a little story, and her story was about “oranges” and these young people just loving them — I caught the word “oranges,” and because it was past my bedtime of 8 o’clock, I was probably half asleep, but the word woke me enough to conjure up a story of many moons ago.
The Scene changes: I had grabbed the mythical mike, and was off with one of MY stories. The others didn’t stand a chance. They either had to hear my story, or they could sit there and try to sleep through it. It was a story from my Mom, and it was about her folks, and also about her when she was a little kid. Grampa and Granny Moore had emigrated from Plymouth, England with an infant son, Jim, around 1874. Grampa had come alone first, and was working in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. He sent for his family because he was all hot to trot out to the silver mines in Nevada. (Well, wouldn’t a silver mine be cleaner to work in than a dirty old coal mine?) So it was that Gramps ended up in the big Sutro Mine (very big time mine) in Virginia City, Nevada and became one of the Superintendants, and my Mom was born there in October 1878.
This doesn’t seem to follow along with the “oranges theme,” but please hold on — I’ll get there. It just takes me longer when I keep on, inexorably, at that, into my advanced years.
So my Mom, Salome, and her younger sister, my Aunty Mabel, had arrived in the Moore household, and moseyed around with their little friends, playing, and just being kids. What they loved the most at that young age from about 6 years to 11, was for some Chinese person to need a funeral. There was quite a contingent of the Chinese there in those days because the Big Guys who were building the railroad cross country needed many, many bodies to pound those big spikes into those railroad ties, and they sent for loads of Chinese. After the railroad was completed, thousands of the Chinese stayed on in the States, and in Virginia City they worked in the silver mines.
So it was, that during the year, there were always some of these immigrants who would pass on into their next world, and would have to be laid to rest, and their survivors would give the “late” person a huge send-off. The big thing was to leave them a great mound over the gravesite filled to overflowing with food — all kinds of food for their journey because it may be a long one. The kids would hunker around staying under cover until the funeral cortege would leave after the burial ceremony. Then they would emerge like a horde of locusts to swoop upon the gravesite, and grab the food. Mom and Aunty Mabel especially were crazy for the oranges. Not too many oranges made it to Virginia City, so what a feast they enjoyed under these circumstances.
In my minds eye, I can see them with the oranges, peeling them, or maybe not bothering to peel them, (I eat the skin lots of times) the juice all over their faces, in ecstasy every second, munching away on those fragrant, juicy, sweet ORANGES. Those kids were in Heaven on Earth.
What a scene! And as if those Chinese people didn’t know what was going on behind their backs as they trudged out of the cemetery, after having said their final farewells to their relative or friend.
If you ask me, I’d bet that the funeral organizers would put out more food than was needed — they had learned to gauge just how much those little gremlins could go through, and then there had to be enough left over for the late person to be able to arrive at his destination — in Chinese Heaven, of course.
Dorys, I apologize for butting in.
MELITAS FORSTER MONDAYS WITH MELITAS