Something that’s been on my mind lately………..

Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

Welcome back. This week’s story started two years ago in Taos, New Mexico. While visiting the area movie star Dennis Hopper died. People from all walks of life came to Taos which is where Hopper wanted to be buried. Although he was not originally from New Mexico he had fallen in love with the Taos community years before while filming the cult classic Easy Rider in the area. He eventually bought a home there and spent as much of his free time in Taos as possible. But this story is not about Dennis Hopper’s death, or Taos or the mountains. It is about timber; pine to be exact.

With all his success Dennis Hopper could have been buried like Michael Jackson whose casket cost an estimated $30,000 but Hopper chose a plain pine box.  His brother runs a jewelry shop on the Taos square and he and I became friendly several years ago. He told me Hopper could have been buried anywhere in the world and in any kind of casket but he wanted something simple.

His burial in a pine box interested me at the time and with the recent passing of several friends I decided to do some investigating and see what I could learn about this very basic approach to burial.

I learned that while some states require a more sophisticated casket in Oklahoma you can be buried in a pine box. All of our local cemeteries require a concrete liner to put the box in except for Ochelata Free Cemetery. After checking local casket prices I found they can range from $2,000 to $5,500 for standard caskets.  The cheapest caskets are made in China and look like wood even though they are actually a type of plastic?

Cloth caskets are also inexpensive. On the other end of the spectrum are custom made caskets covered in cowhide, alligator and just about everything else. These can run into the thousands.

If that’s not your style, there’s a “green” cemetery in Stillwater where they simply dig a hole and lay your body in it, wrapped only in a biodegradable sheet.

I also discovered that you if want to be buried in another state you can pre-arrange to have your body driven there in a friend’s truck or van. Another question you may ask is can you be buried on your own land? In Oklahoma the answer is “yes” but your surviving kin will be required to disclose this if the land is sold.

After checking further I found out that you don’t have to buy your casket from a funeral home. I spoke with several local contractors who all assured me that for $500 they could build anyone a nice pine box, with or without handles which is fine with the funeral homes. At Overlees Woods Lumber I estimated that a person could build their own box for less than $150 and that’s also OK in Oklahoma.

The bottom line is build your own box, buy a shovel to dig a really deep hole and leave instructions that you are to be buried with 24 hours to save embalming costs and that there should be no marker. The entire burial should be less than $300 if your friends fill in the hole.

I leave you this week with shovel in hand. Till next time I’ll see ya down the road…







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