Fire Ants In The Graveyard

26 June 2010

They are everywhere. All over my feet and legs. Swarming. Eating me alive.

I am at the historic Greenwood cemetery in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I am marvelling at the jackpot assortment of graves belonging to family members of Dr. John Marrast. He is the man whom I believe owned the plantation from which my paternal ancestors emerged at Emancipation. The graves so distracted me that I didn’t notice the convergence of the ants. This cemetery doesn’t look like it gets many visitors, so I am probably a very welcomed visitor from the ants’ point of view. That’s what I get, I guess, for crawling around in old cemeteries.

I had no idea ants were so common in such places. But now I know. They have been invading America since the 1930’s. By next year, their population is expected to double. That’s bad news for people like me who like cemeteries.

Maybe Dr. Marrast is angry because a descendant of one of his slaves has come back to haunt him. Perhaps he is burning in hell for what he did and sent these demons to attack me because I am a reminder of his sin.

The most likely explanation is that this is just something that happens and needs not be invested with magical thinking.

In any case, I am just glad to have found Dr. John Marrast — born 1793 in Haiti and died 1875 at Tuscaloosa Alabama. His journey was surely not as long as mine, and certainly not as fraught with introspection.

It should be written on his gravestone: “John Marrast, one of the largest slaveholders at Lowndes County.” In 1860, 160 human beings were documented as his property. My great grandmother Rhody was one of them.


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