‘Cowards’ barely describes slithering cemetery vandals

Late last month, vandals knocked over many of the gravestones and damaged other artifacts in Eastland County’s Merriman Cemetery. Located in Ranger’s backyard on Farm Road 2461 about one mile south of Interstate 20, the cemetery is one of the oldest in the county. In a July 3 story by Star-Telegram reporter Lee Williams, Jeane Pruett, secretary of the Merriman Cemetery Association, said: “They’re cowards. That’s what they are. This is a person’s last rites. The people who did this … they’re cowards because they picked on someone who has no way of fighting for themselves.” Williams wrote that the oldest gravestone in the cemetery was toppled and moved from its grave site. It belonged to Orthosias Scarborough, who died Jan. 6, 1879.

What a black eye the vandals have given to the reputation of famous Ranger, Texas. How far that foul dastardly deed performed under the shroud of darkness is removed from the reverence and respect shown by Ranger citizens of a hundred years ago when Texas Pacific Coal and Oil Company’s No. 1 J.H. McCleskey well roared in and opened all of West Texas to oil and gas production. The United States had just entered World War I, creating a billowing demand for petroleum. Oil men swarmed into Ranger like locusts. Landmen and brokers were leasing everything in sight. The Trustees of Merriman cemetery were offered $100,000 for a lease. A poet told of what happened to that enticing and dazzling offer:

All of oildom knew the answer when the Chairman shook his head. Pointing past the men of millions to the city of the dead. Why disturb these weary tenants in their narrow strips of sod? ‘Tis not ours but theirs the title, vested by the will of God. We the Board have talked it over, pro and con, without avail. We reject your hundred thousand. Merriman is not for sale.

We are told that once upon a time, in a garden far away called Eden, a snake made its appearance, ostensibly in broad daylight, and perpetrated the first vandalization since the beginning of the world. Eons later, somewhere East of Eden, snakes crawl at night in Merriman Cemetery.

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Don Woodard Fort Worth