texanist burial

Is it legal to be buried on my own property?

Illustration by Jack Unruh

Q: My wife and I are working toward finally buying some property in Washington County to retire on and have a place for the kids and grandkids to come and enjoy the simple life on occasion. I would like to know if it is legal, when the time comes to pass on to that great pasture in the sky, for us to be buried on our own property. Do we need a special license?
M. Cermak, Ackerly

A: The Texanist hopes that it is a good long while before you and your missus have the opportunity to push up the trademark Washington County bluebonnets. But he is very much in favor of y’all’s doing so, when the time does come, from the comfort of your own family boneyard. Why bother with the clamor and din of a public cemetery when you can opt for the peaceful convenience of at-home eternal rest right there in the family patch? Cermak Cemetery has a nice ring to it. There are, however, some red-tape-adorned hoops to jump through before you can actually break ground, and since no one’s getting any younger, you are wise to get the ball rolling. The Texas Funeral Service Commission, the agency responsible for the ultimate disposition of most dead Texans, recommends that before burying yourself you check with the county authorities to ensure that you don’t run afoul of any local rules or regulations dealing with deed restrictions, flood plains, underground pipeline or cabling, and the like. The good folks at the Funeral Service Commission and your county clerk’s office will provide the rest of the details and help guide you along your journey. Once all your ducks (and plots) are in a row, it’ll be time to think about the finer details: creaky gates, rusty fencing, and some tall grass for the wind to spookily rustle ’neath the full moon. Do you have the number of a good grave digger? Have you thought of an epitaph? Maybe something like “Here Lies M. Cermak, Husband, Father, Grandfather, Cemetery Establisher.” That’s okay, but it’s a little clunky. Needs some work. Luckily, you’ve still got time for that.

Q: My neighborhood has been absolutely crazy with grackles in the evenings lately, and they’re driving me nuts. They’re loud and very messy, if you get my drift. I don’t think I’m allowed to shoot at them, but I’m seriously considering it. How can I rid my yard of this nightly nuisance?
Carly Ballard, San Antonio

A: If the grackle possesses a redeeming quality, it has escaped the Texanist’s notice, unlike their loud, filthy, Hitchcockian roosts. So what that they eat bugs?! They also eat the tortilla chips of unsuspecting diners who momentarily step away from the patio table to answer nature’s call or place an order for another Mexican martini. Believe the Texanist when he tells you that he feels your pain. He hates these ugly birds with a passion. Alas, peppering the cacophonous menace with bird shot, a tantalizing thought if there ever was one, would be ill-advised, as the cowardly creatures take cover behind the protection of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, among other local ordinances preventing their hot-leaded extirpation. The lamentable fact is that there is no easy way to rid oneself of these useless winged rats. The Texanist has made many futile efforts, including but not limited to the deployment of rubber snakes and plastic birds of prey, the rattling of a huge variety of noisemakers, and the clutching of a baseball bat while pacing up and down the driveway with a cruel look in his eyes. In each case he’s simply ended up covered in grackle droppings. The best tactic he’s tried is running around yelling and flapping his arms like a deranged asylum escapee. The grackles hardly notice, but it’s a good way to let off a little steam. Hope this helps. The Texanist will now await the sacks of hate mail from ruffle-feathered grackle lovers with their sights set on setting him straight about the worthiness of these gimp-legged, gotch-eyed limb urchins. On that score, he will not hold his breath.

Q: How can I get my thirteen-year-old daughter to have an appreciation for the classic country music that her mother and I love so much? Currently she listens only to Top 40 bubblegum pop, which irks me a little bit more than it probably should. Please help, as I fear she could be causing permanent damage with her musical choices.
Name Withheld, Lubbock

A: Here is a yarn as old as four-four time itself. But look, the fact is, the Texanist is not a wizard. He gets paid to help folks out with his signature “fine advice”—he cannot undo the natural way of the universe. How, you ask, can you get your thirteen-year-old Bieber-obsessed daughter to have an appreciation for the classic country music that her mother and you love so much? You might as well ask how you can consume a pot of beans and not emit gas. The Texanist is sorry he can’t help, but there are two things he doesn’t do: tapioca pudding (it’s a long story—childhood overindulgence) and miracles. That said, he sees that you hail from Lubbock, the Hub City, a place with a very rich musical heritage—Buddy Holly, Mac Davis, and Natalie Maines have called it home, among many others—and thinks that this can’t bode ill for your daughter’s music-appreciation horizons, as something from the Lubbock school is bound to rub off on her along the way. The Texanist can only suggest, for your own pleasure and the slight chance of an osmotic effect on the girl, a heavy rotation of Ray Price, George Jones, Don Williams, and Jeannie C. Riley. Additionally, there’s always prayer.

Q: I once thought that I would live in this great republic my whole life, but lately I can’t help but wonder how the rest of the world lives. I think I might like to hang my hat in another place for a few years just to see. Where would you suggest I do this?
Earnie Solomon, Conroe

A: Your newfound adventurousness is to be commended. Spending a little time in a foreign locale is a grand idea. The Texanist, worldly by some standards, is himself fairly well traveled, and even spent a whole semester across the pond in merry old England during his early manhood. Where should you go? Well, the Lone Star State is incomparable, especially when compared with anywhere else, so the places that are unlike Texas make for an inestimable number of possible destinations for your experimental transplantation. It’s a great big un-Texan world out there, and it’s worth seeing—if even for only a little while. In the end, though, it’s not where you go so much as it is that you go with the intention of returning home. Still, your temporary stakes shouldn’t just be thrown down any old place at all. For instance, the Texanist probably wouldn’t choose somewhere like Wewoka, Oklahoma. Or Flint, Michigan. Or Mauston, Wisconsin. Or Wilsonville, Oregon. Or anywhere like that.

THE TEXANIST’S LITTLE-KNOWN FACT OF THE MONTH: The Texas Department of Transportation nurtures our population of picturesque roadside wildflowers, bluebonnets included, by annually sowing some fifteen tons of seed over the 800,000 acres of right-of-way under its care.