In the public library late this afternoon, I picked up White Crosses, by Larry Watson*. Immediately, an image of the crosses on the hummock on the edge of Seney, called Seney’s Boot Hill, popped into my mind. This was one of my favorite stops on our tours of the north woods during my childhood. I was spellbound by the oblong depressions, the dampening of my footfalls by the thick layer of brown and crisp needles, and the susurration of the breeze in the pines above.
Bodies were regularly planted in this cemetery back in the heyday of logging, when, like the miners of the “Old West,” the loggers would get their pay and head to the bars and bawdy houses of Seney for some R&R. Inevitably, fights boke out, and sometimes a logger would die with his boots on, and the town would do its civic duty and plant the fellow out here on the edge of the Tahquamenon swamp.
More recent do-gooders have added new crosses, and generally keep the place, well, spruced up.
* An anonymous reviewer found Watson’s tale “annoying,” but I didn’t know that when I brought it home. Perhaps my experience will be different.