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Lubbock, continued from page 20 ers began to contact Claus’ office with similar stories. Hundreds of graves, like Allen’s, simply can’t be located from the city records. Worse, some gravesites may have been used more than once. Fred Gaytan says four strangers are buried on top of his father and baby sister, who diedalong with his aunt and unclein a car accident in 1949. One of Gaytan’s uncles paid for the funerals, but the family could not afford headstones. For years, they found the graves using the temporary markers. After those deteriorated, they used familiar landmarkstwo juniper trees, a gravel road, the names on nearby headstones. Then on one visit, about 20 years ago, Fred found a stone with an unfamiliar name on his father’s grave. Today, four headstones from the same family stretch across the plots Gaytan remembers as his father’s and sister’s. The cemetery has no record of the Gaytan burials. Graves without headstones were common in the old cemetery. Many families simply couldn’t afford onethey left the city’s temporary marker up, or sometimes made their own from wood. But even graves that had stones are missing. When Melton Leyva buried his father in 1968, the family pulled together $1,200 to put up a marble angel on a five-foottall pedestal, he says. On a visit to the grave in the mid-eighties, Leyva found the stone was gone. When he asked for help, a cemetery employee pulled records that showed his father buried on what Leyva says is the wrong side of the section. Leyva insisted to staff that the grave had been further north, but they told him he was making a mistake. “I came out here a lot,” he told me. “I know where it is.” Either way, there’s no sign now of the $1,200 angel. 1 t was an hour before sunset, the day after the plaintiffs’ meeting, and I was leaving the cemetery. I pulled my car over by the front gate and was consulting my map when a woman in a windbreaker tapped on the window. “My parents recognized you from the meeting,” she said when I rolled it down. “They’re here about the missing graves.” Their names were John and Maria Hernandez. Their English was halting, and my Spanish was worse, but they told me this: They were looking for their daughter, Linda. She died of pneumonia in 1964, just one year and eight days old. They couldn’t afford a stone. The temporary marker fell apart, year by year. They haven’t known where the grave was for 20 years. They had asked the cemetery office for help years ago, but it was no good. I asked if we could try again. We made a tense tableau in the tiny two-room office at firstthe resentful family, the three wary cemetery staff, and the reporter with the tape recorder. “Well, of course,” cemetery clerk Molly Martinez said, when she understood what we wanted. “That’s what we do. We find people.” Sylvia Chapa, the cemetery’s service coordinator, turned to the file cabinet behind her desk and pulled out the drawer with the H’s in it. She rifled through, drew out a yellowed index card, and handed it to John Hernandez. “Is this it?” It was. The card gave a section, a row, and a space number. Chapa and Martinez drove out with us to the indicated spot, and measured it out for us in long strides. The ground was soggy with melting snow, and squelched softly as we crossed it. “This is it,” Martinez said, reaching a small, blank space of ground. “You can tell there was a grave here.” She pointed out the slight rise of the earth, the subtle change of color in the grass. “This is where she is.” The Hernandez family looked down at the spot in silence. “Obviously we can’t be completely sure,” Martinez went on. “But I guarantee you this is it. The only way to be 100 percent sure would be to dig her up and do a test.” John translated this for Maria. She shook her head. “No, no,” she whispered. “No, no, no.” She was crying. “We tried before to find her;’ John said. “But they didn’t do nothing to help us. Just gave us a map.” Martinez sniffed. “I’m sorry to hear that. Maybe it was someone new Maybe they were confused. You can get turned around out here. It took me a long time before I could find my way around, before I could really tell somebody where a grave was and feel 100 percent sure. I’ve only been here 10 months. Sylvia’s only been here a few years. Everyone working here is brand new?’ John nodded. “It wasn’t you,” he said. “It was a white man. But they didn’t help us.” He took his wife’s hand. They talked together quietly for a minute, pointing out things they remembered: the name on a headstone, a nearby tree. “This is it,” he said, finally. “We’ll have to get a little bit of money together and buy her a stone.” Maria nodded, her eyes wet. “Una angelita,” she said. “For the stone, an angel.” Emily Pyle is an Austin-based writer. 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 12/17/04