In hindsight, Kathy’s and my field trip Sunday may not have been the brightest activity during a pandemic.

Up until last month I had never even typed the word “pandemic” before.

With social distancing during this outbreak, hopefully, it won’t rank as one of the worst in history.

MPH Online, an independent online resource of public health students, say the HIV/AIDS pandemic from 2005 to 2012 resulted in 36 million deaths.

Who remembers the 1968 H3N2 virus? We called it the Hong Kong Flu and it killed an estimated one million people.

Our field trip Sunday started harmlessly enough.

Kathy and I loaded up her mother Doreen’s vehicle (since it has a bigger trunk than either of our convertibles) with four bags of pea gravel and a few tools and we headed to the Rose Hill Cemetery just east of Wayne, Kansas.

Wayne is up north, close to other well-known towns like Agenda, Brantford, Jefferson and Cuba. There are several small cemeteries in the area.

Wayne is where Kathy’s grandparents, Roy and Naomi Nordquist, and her great-grandparents Leonard and Mary Ellen “Mollie” Ekstrom are buried.

We had also packed a rake, shovel, clippers and weedkiller to clean up an area at the cemetery.

The bags of pea gravel had probably been sitting in my garage for close to a year but the monsoons of last spring and early summer prevented a trip to this cemetery only accessible on a dirt road. With everything closed and a weather forecast of 63 degrees on Sunday, we headed north.

Our intent was to spruce up a rocked-in area in front of the Ekstrom gravesite. The last time Kathy and Doreen visited it, it needed more pea gravel.

What we found was a 15 foot by 20 foot area surrounded by a small concrete wall that needed lots of pea gravel.

It was completely overgrown with weeds which had been nicely mowed.

And our four bags of pea gravel wasn’t going to even come close to covering it.

As a footnote, the temperature didn’t get to 50 and there was a pretty strong breeze. I would say, simply, it was cold.

What to do? Roundtrip it’s about a 3 hour drive from Abilene.

We had a couple choices.

There certainly wasn’t a store open in Wayne but we were halfway between Belleville and Concordia. We consulted Google and headed to Concordia.

We tried a hardware store that was open but it didn’t have any gravel.

So we went to Walmart.

The last time I went to Walmart was probably last year to buy ink for my printer.


The store had a modified entrance with red lines, six feet apart. An employee counted the number of people as they entered.

I bought ground killer and at the checkout paid for six bags of Pea Pebbles which were stacked on the parking lot and we’d already scouted them out.

I thanked the young lady who checked me out as I helped her find Pea Pebbles on her list of outdoor products.

Shopping for needed supplies seemed like the thing to do at the time.

“Do you think what we did was essential?” I asked Kathy when I got back to her where she was waiting in the car.

“The governor said we are supposed to get outside and exercise,” she said.

We were the only ones in the cemetery that day so we maintained social distancing.

Our adventure did, however, end with a good deed.

One of the headstones down the row from the Ekstrom area had been pushed over. I doubt by its weight that the wind had blown it over. It had been there laying on the ground for quite some time since the grass under it was dead and it was buried in the dirt a bit.

“Let’s set it up,” I said.

Between the two of us, we managed to get the three very heavy granite pieces upright and stacked in the right place.

That headstone belonged to Charles J. Asklund. He died in 1880 at the age of 24 and was the first to be buried in the Rose Hill Cemetery. He had no apparent family members in that cemetery as his headstone was on the southwest corner by itself.

Kathy’s relatives’ gravesite and that of Asklund (pictured) will look pretty spiffy if we manage to get over the COVID-19 pandemic by Memorial Day so we can go see it again. Let’s keep up with social distancing so no coronavirus victims are added to the cemeteries in the area.

Contact Tim Horan at

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