Grave Thoughts

This installation of the Franklin Stove Blog is a departure from the usual format.

It’s fictional, based on accounts of actual events.

It might even be considered a ghost writ post.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental.

Evergreen Cemetery is located across the street from Bryant-Denny Stadium–the home of the Crimson Tide

Evergreen Cemetery existed before there was a football stadium nearby. I don’t believe that there are any former players who are laid to rest there in its dusty grounds. The body of Eugene Allen Smith who died in 1927 is buried there. Smith was appointed Instructor of Military Tactics at the University of Alabama by Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate states. A building on the University’s campus is named after him. Smith Hall is the home to the Alabama Museum of Natural History. Smith traveled throughout the state after the Civil War in search of coal and other natural resources. His efforts led to the creation of the Geological Survey of Alabama. Smith had been a fervent Crimson Tide fan and had often been photographed with the teams.

I don’t think that the University gave much thought to whether building a stadium next to a cemetery was inappropriate. It had been a much smaller structure almost one hundred years ago when it was first built. Later building cranes that encroached upon the cemetery as the stadium expanded were strategically placed to avoid any destruction of the tombstones.

As I looked out onto Colonial Drive from Bryant-Denny Stadium at the sea of blondes who were participating in Sorority Recruitment, a memory of my what my friend Estelle had said returned to me. Estelle lived on the eleventh floor of Tutwiler Hall, the place that I’d returned to haunt after I’d blown my brains out on Christmas Day. I’d met her long before that, when I first moved into the hall in 1968. After Tutwiler’s recent demolition I’ve haunted the stadium.

Estelle was a black student who reminded me of Angela Davis. Her afro hair style seemed to me perfect for a Black Panther beret. But Estelle was more like a deacon in an African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Estelle once said, “Honey, my Maw Maw would beat the tar out of me if I ever considered joining one of those lily white sororities. It’s got to be AKA or DST if I evah pledge!”

Maybe that’s why so few black girls ever go out for Rush?

I thought about Estelle’s use of the term “lily white” when Neil Young released his 1970 song “Southern Man.” The song was about Lily Belle, who had golden brown hair and a black boyfriend. The song went:

Southern man, better keep your head
Don’t forget what your good book said
Southern change gonna come at last
Now your crosses are burning fast
Southern man

Alabama’s “theme” song–Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama”–was written as a rejoinder to “Southern Man.” Its lyrics were:

I miss Alabamy once again and I think it’s a sin, yes

Well I heard Mister Young sing about her
Well I heard ol’ Neil put her down
Well I hope Neil Young will remember
A southern man don’t need him around anyhow

I remember reading an article by this dude named Clowney. He thought that the Southern sorority house should be considered as a monument to the Confederacy. He thought that the design of sororities in the South resembled antebellum plantations, a tribute to the Lost Cause. He wrote that the houses had “Gone With The Wind” Tara-inspired design tropes.

I’ve read in the student newspaper The Crimson White about members of sororities posting God Awful things. One girl, from New Jersey of all places, was expelled for posting racist videos. I guess she absorbed too much Southern Charm? Then there was the text from a sorority president from inside a Tuscaloosa bar: “I’m gonna yack, it smells so bad in here.” The recipient of the text, another member of her sorority, texted back, “…“cigs, weed and black girl.” They both were ousted from membership of the sorority, which was founded in 1872.

What I’m hearing from way up here in the stadium these days is that the University is upset about a film company making a documentary about Rush, or “sorority recruitment,” as it’s now called. The acoustics are pretty good so I was able to make out what some of what the girls were saying. The University said that it was was concerned about unauthorized filming taking place in the sororities. I bet they’re more worried about what the girls are saying than about any privacy matters.

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