The Interment of a Wool Hat in a Sheep Graveyard

13 Apr

Things have been going great here in the life of Derrick. I’m still loving the job–where else can you get paid to design labels for products to be marketed in Mexico and Peru, research phrases commonly used on packaging for infant formulas in Germany, translate a new regulation on food put out by the Colombian government, and sketch kids in various athletic and liquid-consuming poses (this all being part of today’s to-do list alone) all in one day? Outside of the job, my personal/social life has been a little minimalist in these past few months, but with the stirring of Spring has brought some interesting experiences my way again–gardening, dying Easter eggs, painting, hatching salamander eggs, and playing trumpet on a cliff by a Sheep Graveyard during the interment of of a wool hat. This last activity being the focus of this post.

The story of this post begins about three weeks ago, with a strange voicemail left on my home machine. It was left by an old lady, who shall remain anonymous here, who laboriously explained that she was calling because she had heard from an old friend of my father’s that a member of our family might be capable of playing the song “Taps” on a musical instrument at a private burial she was planning at her father’s farm on such-and-such a road about halfway between this place and that place, so if somebody could call her back it would be much appreciated. It was a very long and awkwardly-worded message, but I called back and left one of my own, trying to be a little more concise.

The next day, Old Lady called my office phone (yes, I have my own extension at my new office, it’s pretty sweet!) to follow up. She was literally ecstatic that I had responded and that I was available to play Taps at this burial she was planning. She had searched high and low for a willing instrumentalist and I was her only lead, so she was exuberantly appreciative. I’ve never talked to someone who was so excited about a burial ceremony, but she spilled forth with the details of what was a meticulously planned, although a bit eccentric, ceremony.

As she explained it, the only beings in attendance of this ceremony would be herself, her late father’s farmhand/best friend, me, and a few miscellaneous farm animals. The service would be relatively simple: just a few lines of poetry and a Psalm read over the pet cemetery, followed by a prayer and the lowering of a wool hat filled with her father’s ashes into a pit between the interred carcasses of his two favorite pet sheep while I stood on a cliff playing Taps into a lonely valley. And then she mentioned something about ritual sacrifice, and a book she was writing on the topic, which made me a little uneasy. I sensed that something wasn’t quite right with this lady, and I weighed the risk for a moment, but when she mentioned the price tag of my proposed role–in the neighborhood of 100 George Washingtons–I figured it couldn’t be that bad.

So everything played out last night, at sunset on the dot. I arrived on the farm around 19:00 hrs. and proceeded up the hill with Old Lady, Farm Hand, and Photographer Friend (an unexpected addition to the event) to the Sheep Graveyard. Farm Hand carried with him a tray that held a wool hat, woven from the deceased’s favorite dead sheep, that was presumably filled with some of the deceased’s own ashes, and Old Lady carried two dozen roses, which she laid on a stone near the cliff where I was to perform. The ceremony went very smoothly, and my rendition of Taps brought tears to several of the eyes present. Then we descended the hill together and said our good-byes. That was it. There was no (visible) ritual sacrifice,  no maniacal plan to knock me off the cliff edge to be swallowed up by the canyon below, no plot for a horror film–just a very beautiful ceremony beneath the setting sun. Just another quirk in the adventure I call Life.


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