"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A soldier's rest--Memorial Day, and a rose

The unusual gravestone stands out among all the rest of the uniformed stones at Santa Fe National Cemetery. My uncle Mike told me about year a few years ago, before he was also buried there Nov. 10, 2011.
Prone to wander cemeteries and emotionally involved with military cemeteries--both National and Confederate, I've wandered many, and written about them--Santa Fe, Fort Smith, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Manassas. Just search this blog for Memorial Day and you'll see.
I've photographed it in spring, when covered with snow. He's leaning against a tree, hat in hand, as if  wounded, dying. Once, there was even a rose draped across the soldier's lap.  New Mexicans don't forget their veterans..
The inscription is intriguing as well. Pvt. Dennis O'Leary died April 1, 1901, at age 28, 9 months. 
 Here's what the Santa Fe National Cemetery records tell: "A few private headstones are in the cemetery. The most unique marker is a sandstone statue over the grave of Private Dennis O’Leary. O’Leary died on April 1, 1901, at the remote Fort Wingate in northwest New Mexico. Originally interred at the fort’s post cemetery, his remains and marker were transferred to Santa Fe National Cemetery in 1911.  Local legend claims that the bored O’Leary carved the statue with the date of his death. On April 1, he committed suicide, leaving a note directing that the marker be placed over his grave. Military records contradict the story, citing tuberculosis as the cause of death, thus leaving the statue and the private’s death a mystery today."

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