William Cox and Serena Snead were well along in years when they married. He had been through the golden hoop twice before and she had given it a good turn once. Both had their own children. Both should have known better. Neither had the sense of a peanut.
What might have been love in the beginning turned to bitterness and bickering quicker than Christmas. Their constant arguing was well known to the people of the community, and a ‘hot topic’ on many a front porch.
During one particularly heated disagreement, William swallowed hard and predicted that he hoped he would live to see her “toes turned up.” Serena shot back, “Ha! I’ll live to eat the goose that picks the grass from the top of your grave, mister. This remark is said to have made his face turn beet red, and, ‘cut him to the quick.’
In those days, 1834, cotton was “king” in eastern North Carolina, and it took a lot of labor to stay in the game and keep crabgrass from choking the precious plants and robbing the soil’s fertility. As an aid in crabgrass control, just about every family kept a flock of geese that roamed up and down the cotton rows and deftly picked and ate the tender young blades of crabgrass as quickly as they appeared. The cotton plants were not appetizing to the old geese, so they were left alone.
Some folks even fenced around their family graveyards and used geese to fill up on the grass and weeds and keep them clean. Thus, William knew exactly what Serena had in mind when she had slung that last insult at him.
As fate would have it and time wore on, William’s health did indeed begin to fail. He began to dwell more and more on the stinging remarks Serena had made; and unfortunately their relationship did not improve one iota. They rarely sat at the same table anymore. The honeymoon was so over; they couldn’t remember there ever was one. So, after much soul-searching William finally thought he had figured out a way to beat her at her own game. He was mightily tired of their devilish sparring match.
He called on his lawyer and left specific instructions that he was to be laid to rest in a thoroughly bricked-up mausoleum beside his dwelling house. And, as will finally be the fate of all humans, William did die.
Relieved to go to a better place, certain he had settled his earthly problems in a timely manner, William died peacefully in late 1834; and according to his exact instructions, was placed in a bricked-up mausoleum, precisely where he specified.
To say that Serena was heart-broken would be a stretch. Most said that ‘nary a tear a tear slid from those bonny blues, even that a smile quivered eagerly at the corners of her usually turned-down-mouth. And a nervous giggle escaped those prissy lips on occasion.
Her own health somehow miraculously improved, and it was even whispered to friends she gleefully took up “courting” again.
In any case, William got the last laugh, (well, depending on how you look at it), because dear Serena never got to eat the goose that picked the grass from William’s grave, because of course, none could grow there. Probably Serena wasn’t very interested in the old threat anyway. Now that money was no longer wasted on corn liquor and chewing tobacco, she became a favorite of the local dress shops; and eagerly pranced around the neighborhood, dining out whenever the opportunity presented itself.
And it was said, that not a kinder, sweeter-mannered woman could be found in all the county. As a final gesture, on his tombstone, she had it added; “Rest in peace, dear William, until I get there.”
Moral being: All marriages are not made in heaven, even if they end up there…