Gravestone Rubbings at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, MN.

I didn’t know what I was going to post about today, but then a friend called and asked if I wanted to go to the cemetery.

This is not an unusal occurrence in my world.

He picked me up, armed with coffee, at about eleven. He’d already done some research, consulted with the staff at an art supply store, and obtained the required materials. He had been advised to start with these:

We set off with the intention of doing eight rubbings from his father’s gravestone – one for himself and one each for his siblings.

Turns out, doing gravestone rubbings is hard work.

We managed to get four done, before our arms gave out. Because neither of us had actually done this before, we ended up experimenting a fair bit. In the end we decided that we both liked the look of layered colors. (Thus they required several coats of wax, most applied with significant pressure.)

I’ve really got to start going to the gym again.

Once we’d worn ourselves out, we went to THREE different bakeries, then to a diner for lunch. The biscuits and gravy were nearly southern, they were so good. Stuffed full and laden with three loaves of bread, I returned home.

fort snelling lunch

Then I had to drop my 17 year old off at a bar, so he could experience an hour in an environment that was uncomfortable for him. (Anthropology class has weird assignments.)

And that has been my day so far.

Now I plan to turn the amazing baguette I got at one of the bakeries into some garlic cheese bread.

If you’re looking for more graveyard-centric thoughts, you might want to check out my post: Graveyards, churchyards and cemeteries: spending an afternoon with the dead.

If you’re suddenly taken with the idea of doing some gravestone rubbings of your own, you should read Some Gravestone Rubbing Do’s and Don’ts.

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12 Comments on “Gravestone Rubbings at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, MN.”

  1. Paul says:

    Thanks for sharing to the world. I much appreciated your help and companionship. And I am sure my father enjoyed visiting with you as well.

  2. angryscholar says:

    Woo anthropology! Woo cemeteries! Woo biscuits and grave-y (PUN!)!

    • The Boy is actually irritated with Anthropology. We’re several weeks into the semester and they are STILL talking about impartial, non-interference v. cultural immersion and involvement.

      Me: I thought Anthropology was the study of human cultures.
      The Boy: No. Apparently it’s the study of THE STUDY OF human cultures.

      • angryscholar says:

        He apparently has his thumb on the pulse of the social sciences. We really do spend a ton of time talking about ourselves as scholars–sometimes more than we talk about the “things” we supposedly study (I’m actually writing a paper that’s partly about this phenomenon in my own discipline).

        But in fairness to the field, there’s over a century of terrible baggage that has to be erased. Anthropology and its related fields were so closely linked to European colonialism, race theory and other horrible stuff that we’d be remiss if we didn’t spend a long time talking about this stuff. And unfortunately it’s the kind of stuff that we all tend to take for granted until someone challenges us on it, which is what his prof is probably trying to do. Like ideas about “primitive” cultures, which are still totally prevalent absolutely everywhere you look in pop culture.

        I know it’s frustrating when you want to be learning about something, rather than just plowing through a lot of dry theory, but it’s important to know the limitations of the tools you’re using.

        • The Boy and I took your response as a reason to talk through some of these ideas. What we ended up with, is complicated.

          At first, we agreed that an intro-to anything class ought to be an interesting overview of the subject. Front-loading an entire field of study with too much meta-study can turn off students that might otherwise happily wade into the deep water once they know it’s worth it. (His Anthropology class is FAR from the only one that falls into the same trap. It KILLS me to see how badly the required classes of Comp I & II are being taught.)

          Eventually, though, we had to back off our indignation a little. We were unable to conceive of a correctly taught class that would be useful to everyone. We realized that The Boy’s education thus far has been unorthodox – what with the 6 years of homeschooling. He’s kind of all over the map.

          I taught him basic writing when he was 12 … and I told him that he had to master the boring, rigid formats (like the standard 5 paragraph essay) so that he could more on to a more creative form of writing which would be expected in college.

          Consequently, when – as a home schooled high school junior / college freshman – he was asked to churn out one unimaginative 5 paragraph essay after another for Comp I, he balked. He got his first ever C, in Comp I, last year. (And he’s still choking on that.) At the same time, when he has been asked to write essays for Philosophy, Lit or (even) Anthropology, he pulls As.

          There is something fundamentally wrong with that system.

          But I went off on and English tangent there, didn’t I. Moving on.

          The THIRD major point we came across led me to this: I don’t think my son’s generation takes on the sins of its fathers the same way we did. He (and his peers) are SO much more “color-blind” (or gender-blind or ethnicity-blind) than we were. Which makes sense, because we raised them while steeped in guilt for actions taken before we were born.

          He looks at that historical baggage you mentioned, realizes that such biases were completely ridiculous, condemns those no-longer-relevant bias-holders as willfully ignorant, then thinks, “lesson absorbed – time to move on and do this the right way.”

          Now, this concerns me. You see, I have watched women make that mistake. When I was a little girl in the mid to late 70s, women in society were gaining ground. There was push-pull, and backlash, and not everything that should have been was achieved, but things got better. Now I’m watching some of my nieces undoing the work that was done. Not necessarily in an active way, but certainly in a stand-idly-by way. They do not see the machinations that are going on just under the surface. They are not watchful.They are not getting mad about binders full of women or clinics being closed in Texas.

          (The Boy is far more of a feminist than his age-mate female cousins.)

          Whoa. I am now getting dangerously close to discussing politics, and that is something I REALLY don’t want to do here at the blog.

          So. Yeah. Nothing is as simple as it seems, is it?

          Back on topic. Sometimes it feels like all I’ve ever done with this boy is to try and get him to the place where he can really let his intellect fly. I think I have to tell him that the best stuff is STILL coming. I was hoping college would be better. (You know I didn’t go, right? Watching my kids go through it is as close as I’ve ever been. ‘Very blue collar family.)

          It has been mostly good so far – every time he gets the chance to learn something we haven’t already covered, he gets excited and engaged. Soon most of the generals will be behind him. I’m looking forward to a time when he’s discussing things like this with people like you, rather than me. (And, no, I can’t get him to start a blog. I’ve tried.)

          Sorry for the ramble. Now back to my regularly scheduled programming. BTW, I blame you for my letting comments get away from me again. I’ve been thinking about how to answer yours ever since you left it … and I couldn’t just skip it and move on 😀

          I knew you were going to be good for me.

        • angryscholar says:

          🙂 I think you give me too much credit. I’m just a cynical grad student–all we ever do is problematize stuff. But I’m glad it could be useful, for once!

          It’s encouraging to hear that things seem better from your perspective (except the gender stuff, anyway)–a necessary counterbalance to my own, I’m afraid. As an instructor my experiences with first- and second-year college students hasn’t always been as positive as your read on the situation. I’ve found that a lot of those old biases do still linger, though often reconfigured as an inability to think analytically about ourselves (it’s okay to analyze other, “strange” cultures, but we can’t look at ourselves that way).

          On a more nuts-and-bolts level, there’s a general inability to analyze anything at all–a total lack of critical thinking. Of course I’m generalizing here, but it’s definitely an observable trend. So I think your lad may have a serious leg-up, thanks in no small part to your own approach to education. We have to take our intro classes through basic essay-writing stuff (intro/thesis statement, body, conclusion) that many of them just don’t know, but which clearly should have been taught in high school or even earlier. I wasn’t a great student in college, myself, but I could write. Something has happened in the intervening years, definitely.

          I’m loath to talk politics on here, too, but I suspect a certain set of educational policies, a horrible little legacy of the previous administration, are largely to blame.

          But you’re definitely right to suggest that intro courses in general are not great. Good instructors do their best to teach them well, but the reality is that they’re university-mandated, which means we don’t really want to teach them, and students, of course, usually aren’t crazy about taking them. That is a broken system if ever I saw one.

          I think we need a major reorganization of university bureaucracies, personally. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m a scholar first, and a teacher second. If teaching per se was my passion, I’d have been an education major. I have a lot of fun teaching (sometimes), and I definitely do my best; but it’s rare, until the upper level and grad school, that an instructor can teach the topic they’re actually researching, which means we have to reach outside of our own area of expertise to instruct students in these gen eds. Something is seriously wrong here, but I don’t see this model of liberal arts education changing any time soon. More’s the pity.

  3. I actually have done lots of gravestone rubbings growing up. We used just plain black charcoal chalk and after each one, we’d use a clear spray coating over it to preserve it. The chalk would glide over edges easily, yet pick up a lot of detail and we used just regular rolls of art paper (like thin butcher paper). I don’t recall the task ever being tiring, but I was so much younger then. Thanks for the post!

    • I’m absolutely going to have to try the chalk and spray – scrubbing that crayon hard enough to get a good impression felt wrong. The stone we were doing was new, and solid, and not terribly ornate. I couldn’t imagine using that kind of pressure on some of the delicate pieces I’ve seen.

      Do you know what kind of spray it was? And where I could get some? Is it a fabric store thing or a hardware store thing?

  4. […] Gravestone Rubbings at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, MN. ( […]

  5. Hunter Shea says:

    I’ve always meant to try a gravestone rubbing, especially in an older, small cemetery. Just don’t know what I’d do with it once I got it home.

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