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Stashes of Ashes

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    “That's not Dad!” exclaimed Sharon. She was staring at a wet paper sack containing an even more saturated cardboard box. "That's Dirkie! Your brought Dirkie, Jack!” Her astonished gaze fixed on her brother. There had been a big mistake.

    This story began when Jack Bigger bought 35 acres of land next to the Peninsula road north of Priest River, Idaho. For a few years, he had campouts each June and brought with him all of his family that he could lure out of Southern California. Gathered around the huge fire pit, they talked, cooked, ate, slapped mosquitoes, and watched for bears. Some of them went fishing in the river.

    When Sharon's boyfriend, Dirk, died suddenly, she obtained permission from his parents to bring his ashes to Jack's property for burial. Carefully selecting a spot at the top of a high bluff overlooking the Priest River, she tenderly consigned them to the earth.

    As the years went by, the campers dwindled away, and Jack came back to North Idaho only occasionally to check on his property. When their father died in North Dakota, Jack persuaded his brother Tom to bring the ashes back to Idaho for burial on the bluff. Tom did so, selecting a point at the top of the same cliff occupied by Dirk.

    The ashes were in a container the size of a cigar box, and when Tom placed it in the ground he gently put along with it a can of Miller's Genuine Draft Beer.

    Somewhat later, Jack was reminded of the fact that his Dad had at one time expressed his desire to be buried in the Selfridge, North Dakota cemetery. After a long bout with his troubled conscience, Jack made the decision to

return to Idaho, dig up the ashes, and take them back to North Dakota. He made an elegant burial box in his wood shop, flew to Spokane, Washington with his son Del Ray, and they drove into Idaho to complete their mission. However, upon reaching the property, they found that part of the cliff had fallen away, along with the marker stumps and trees.

     During the search, Jack fell over the edge of the cliff and had a hard time climbing back up. While scrambling to reach the top, he found a soggy box of ashes. With great relief, he plopped it into a large paper bag, then he and Del set off for home in California with their precious cargo.

    But when he proudly displayed his find to his brother and sister, Tom said “wrong ashes!” and Sharon exclaimed “It's Dirkie! Dirkie Baby!” She then took possession of the sack and carried it home with her.

    The next year, Jack came back to his property to inspect the logging job which he had ordered the previous summer. This time he found the box with his Dad's ashes, which had slipped down the face of the cliff along with the can of beer. Then, to quote him, “I flew him back to California, dripping sack and all, and put him out on my patio to dry him out.”

    When they were sufficiently dry, Jack poured the ashes into his fancy box. He made arrangements with the Selfridge cemetery officials for a marker, then flew to North Dakota.

    Jack collected all the family members he could summon, along with the children of his Dad's old business partner. They put the marker in place and dug a small hole under it.

    “Dad logged more frequent flyer miles after he was dead, than he ever did while he lived,” said Jack to the assembly.

     Then Sharon, Tom and Jack deposited the elegant new box in the hole, along with a fresh can of MGD beer.

Kathryn Hamshar is an award--winning poet and author who lives in Priest River, Idaho.    


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Kathryn Hamshar is a member of the Idaho Writer's League and has four times been named Published Poet of the Year. She was also the 2000 winner of the Vardis Fisher award.

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