The rabbitbrush is in full bloom throughout the Kern River Valley, and those yellow puffs (Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus) behave like mini terrestrial suns, lighting the KRV from the ground, while the sun plays its overhead gig. The valley becomes bright and colorful, and with fewer tourists this time of year, the bees in the rabbitbrush, the ravens in the trees, and the river seem to make more noise. I hanker for an hour or two of this mellow little show. And with the approach of Halloween, formerly known as a holy day to honor the saints and pray for the recently departed, it seems like a good day to visit the Old Kernville Cemetery.
“Dedicated to the memory of Quartzburg and Kernville pioneers who lie here. Kern County is their monument.” So reads a plaque at the gate to the Old Kernville Cemetery. A plaque on the other side of the gate marks the monument to Old Kernville, relocated in 1953, when Isabella’s newly dammed waters flooded the site.
I open the gate and herd my two little dogs inside with me. Immediately, Keji, the mostly-corgi, honors a recently departed seagull by rolling in its headless remains. I leash him and bring him to a bench next to the 1997 gravestone of Dorothy Mae Feldmann.
Ninja and I wander the small graveyard.
We confirm what we already knew. Most of those buried here passed before 1953. Many passed well before 1953. But there are some newer graves, even some brand-new ones.
I sit for an hour or so on the bench overlooking the river, the sound of sporadic traffic behind me on Burlando Road, the sound of the river in front of me. A steady breeze circulates the scent of pine, creosote bush, cyprus. As the hour passes, tree shadows migrate across the gravestones, lighting one marker, shading another. The colored glass shards in a nearby pair of cement grave markers sparkle like crown jewels.