Mister Babb, the manager, introduced me to the two permanent workers at the city’s Cedar Grove Cemetery: “Dub” and “Mister Bill.” No last names.

I have written about all three men and the cemetery in my Lebanon Democrat columns and posts here.

Dub intrigued me and earned my respect as a hardworking, good man. This is about what he and Mister Bill did for a living as well as what my summer job entailed through three summers of high school.

He and Mister Bill put me to work as the primary mower of the grounds and trimmer of the cemetery stones. Then, we got to our real job. Digging graves.

My first grave digging came about a week into going to work there. Mister Babb had told us exactly where as we put up our tools one afternoon.

The next morning, we the gathered the tools from the stone structure with multiple uses. It was where we met that first morning. It was where the mowers and tools were stored. It was the refuge in bad weather although i don’t recall ever using it, maybe once, even in thunderstorms (i was young and impervious…and not all that bright. I was a bit queasy when i first learned that bodies in their caskets were stored there in the winter when the temperatures rendered the ground too hard to dig the graves, delayed until the warmer weather allowed the grave to be dug). We didn’t use back hoes back then.

We went to the grave site and Mister Babb, whose home was on the city property where the current cemetery office now stands. He pointed to the plot which Mister Bill and Dub griped about because it was clear by the name where the grave was to be.

The old man left. With Mister Bill giving us more direction than we needed, Dub and i took the old 2×6 lumber strips and outlined the length and width of the grave, 2½ feet wide and 8 feet long. I was relieved a bit when Mister Bill, confirmed by Dub, informed me the graves at Cedar Grove were only dug to four feet deep due to the water level being too high to go down to six feet.

We laid out the 2×6 worn, wood planks, dark gray from use, age, and moisture. The long ones marked the sides of the grave to be; the short ones marked the ends. We took straight bladed shovels and dug next to the woods for the first cut. The first pass of digging took up all of the sod and was deposited on the side of the grave away from where mourners might gather.

Then we began to dig in earnest.

Dub was usually the lead on the digging. He would take the pickaxe and loosen the dirt a foot or so deep from one end to half way. Then either Mister Bill or i would take over and work from the other end with the pick. The third person would shovel out the dirt onto the sod on one side of the grave. Then, we would start the process over again: loosen the dirt with the pick and then shovel it out until we reached 4 1/2 feet. Once finished digging, we smoothed out the floor and sides of the grave, cleaned around the grave, adding any loose dirt to our pile and then covering the pile with a green fabric.

i have told many stories and will tell more about my three summers as a grave digger. But this is for Dub.

i really didn’t know him other than at work. He always had on bib jeans and a tee shirt with a worn sports coat over them. He wore brogans and a fedora as equally worn as the sports coat. This attire was standard throughout the year, hot, humid, Tennessee summers included. He did shed the sports coat when digging the graves but that was it.

It seemed to me, he was always smiling, one that just made you feel like you were his friend. Occasionally, when something a bit odd happened, or one of us did something askew, i detected the smile becoming wry, with a slight shaking of his head beneath the fedora.

When i left my summer job of grave digging to go to college, the three of us said goodbye in an orderly fashion. i never saw Dub or Mister Bill. Mister Bill’s son contacted me a number of years when i wrote a column about my grave digging. i don’t know how to find out what happened to him, complicated because i only knew him as “Dub,” Not to mention it was 1958, 66 years ago.

There are a huge number of people whom i’ve lost track who i would like to sit down and talk about who we were and what happened afterwards.

Dub is high on my list.

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