prairie cemetery
Prairie is somewhat of a surprise. It’s good sized for a rural cemetery—two open acres-plus, and a couple more acres in reserve—properly cared for, and while short on epitaphs, is long on personalizations. The unquestioned centerpiece is the totem cross in full Coastal regalia, deep carving and bold colors, over the grave of Karan White (1942-1973). Another stone boasts membership in the Chinook Indian Tribe. This was their territory.

The other noticeable phenomenon is the large collection of occupational images, including, as one would expect on the river (it’s Knappa Dock Rd.), a slew of fishing boats, but unlike the ones one finds on the coast, many of these are gill netters. Boats with poles exist here, but they’re in the minority. There are also two fork lifts represented. I’ve always wondered quite what forks lifts as tombstone embellishments means. The felled and limbed tree trunk (death, north-woods style) is a popular image here, one of which is found on the marker for WWII POW Clarence Barendse (1924-200?), which has an unusual engraving of Clarence sheet-shooting on the front side. The appearance of POW medals on tombstones also gives one pause for thought.

The real merit of Prairie Cemetery (where’s the prairie?), is that it gives meaning to the river hamlets slowing traffic on Hwy. 30. The Columbia, for all its size and majesty, is nothing like the Mississippi, which is festooned with whilom working towns stiff with red brick, Victorian buildings; and it’s easy to forget that, however short, the Columbia does have a history and part of it is written in these riparian communities. You don’t see gill nets in Portland cemeteries. They don’t show up in Hood River. Down here is where the river really got working.

Directions:

Knappa Junction is 15 or so miles east of Astoria on Hwy. 30. Look for Old Highway 30 slicing off to the north. Knappa Dock Rd. runs due north off Old Hwy. 30. Take it. Cemetery on west side of road less than a mile up.
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