Vol.XI No.VII Pg.8
September 1974

Stuff About Things

Robert F. Turner

This summer I hunted in the woods of Kentucky. Kith and kin of a Casey County Kentuckian named General Washington Luttrell made up the hunting party and we looked for a home-made grave marker —throwd into the woods years earlier, when it was replaced by a regular stone.

In 1939 I had visited Wash Luttrell in his bachelor cabin. We talked Bible, traded rifles, and inspected a ginseng and golden seal garden. But gentle Wash spoke little of himself. A neighbor told this touching story.

When Washingtons unmarried sister had died in 1921, there was no money to buy a head stone for her grave. So Wash canvassed the country for zinc fruit-jar lids, melted them down, and beat the metal into plates which he used to weatherproof a heavy oak timber. Somehow, he lettered the marker and set it up. Now, 35 years later, I sought this symbol of family devotion.

Some spit and whittlers directed me to a man I had once known; and after we had howdied and recollected for quite a spell he took me to the country cemetery. We found Washingtons grave, and that of his mother and sister; but no home-made zinc marker. We visited some Luttrell kin who lived near by, and found what first seemed a strange reluctance to discuss the marker. Folk came to see and talk about it, she said. They talked about that bonnet on it. And then I realized that these very proud people were ashamed of what, to them was something less than the regular stone due their family name.

My desire to search the woods was discouraged—its probably covered with dirt and growd over— until my sincere appreciation of Wash Luttrells deed became apparent. Then we all slowly, hesitatingly walked into the heavy undergrowth. Its not that way, the lady corrected; so we held back, and she led us to our goal.

A foot piece was on the surface, but we had to dig the head marker out of the red clay. It was almost like.. perhaps it was a resurrection of understanding for the tender heart of a once-lonely man. Cleansed and brought to the sunlight, there lay Wash Luttrells work of love. We straightened the bonnet (a zinc hood above the lettering) and chalked the raised words for a better picture. And then, we carried the markers back into the woods and leaned them against a tree.