Sioux Falls times---"The Light @ end of YOUR Tunnel"

Friday, December 08, 2006

Grave Digging the hard way

If you were in the excavating business in Sioux Falls during the 60's one of the ways to generate cash flow was to dig graves.

Our most common calls came from Hills of Rest, Woodlawn & Mt. Zion cemeteries. Hills of rest was the easiest. You did not have monuments to get in your way; but you did have the ultra-finicky caretaker, Mr. Powers! The place really looked nice; but he was nearly impossible to please--before and after the burials.

The process was to strip back the grass sod, dig out the dirt to the typical depth of 6-8 feet, depending upon the size of the burial vault that was used to contain the casket. If you could use a backhoe it worked very well. However, if you had to do it by hand in one of the older cemetery with lots of trees; the roots really made it tough going at times.

Backfilling and tamping after the graveside services were sometimes our responsibility and other times the cemetery personnel preferred to do it themselves. The real challenge was to get just the right mix of clay and black dirt that would tamp in well around the vault; so a minimal amount of settling occurred after the sod had been replaced.
If excessive settling occurred over the winter we had the opportunity to go back in the spring, strip off the sod, fill in more dirt and tamp it up again; so that when the sod was replaced the surface was even and smooth.

This whole process was much more challenging when we had to use air powered jackhammers to break out the frozen soil down to the frostline---typically 2-3 feet; but occasionally 5-6 feet.

More about that process on another winter adventure, really a grave that seemingly never ended in a future episode.


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