Clipped From The Baytown Sun
THE BAYTOWN SUN Wednesday, June 19, 1985 7-C Old-fashioned way Gravedigger uses 2 shovels , measuring club OWATONNA, Minn. (AP) — He's called a gravedigger. According According to Lyle Bohlman, that's about the only name for his profession. profession. And Bohlman, 52, loves his work. "I enjoy it! I like working outside outside in the fresh air," said Bohlman, whose three sons are his part-time helpers. Equipped with nothing more than two shovels, a measuring club, a pair of boots, a hat, and an earful of chatter, Bohlman talks and works non-stop as shovelful after shovelful of soil is tossed out of the hole. Bohlman's father, Leo, got Bohlman started digging graves in 1965 when Leo was digging graves and mowing grass for a local cemetery. Bohlman was hired as a church custodian but was told that with a family to support, he'd better find other work to supplement his income. So Bohlman joined up with his father in the gravedigging business and has been in it ever since. "When we had our first death, we worked eight hours diggin' that grave," Bohlman said. "Since then, I've gotten better and better. "1 wouldn't cover that first hole, either. I felt like I had butterflies butterflies in my stomach," Bohlman said. "But after a period period of years, you get used to it. It's like another job now." Since then — about 1,670-plus graves later — Bohlman has improved improved his time to about three to four hours for a 3-by-8-foot, 5- foot-deep grave, depending on the type of soil. There are no laws governing gravedigging except those that the cemetery association makes, Bohlman said. The law that concerns concerns Bohlman the most is the one that requires 18 inches of soil above the vault to enable the grass to grow back better. The Bohlmans wiJl begin their third generation of gravediggers after Pa Bohlman retires and the three Bohlman boys take over the business. Brian, 27; Stuart, 30, and Leon, 28, have been digging graves since they were 16. They now have full-time jobs but help their father at night and on weekends. "When us four get in there the dirt really flies. Yeah, the boys, they got a lot of good years of diggin' in them yet," Bohlman says. Bohlman's skin is already dark and sun beaten from his work this spring. His palms are tough and leathery, offering his hands protection for the gloves he doesn't wear. The Bohlmans use nothing more than shovels to remove the hundreds of pounds of dirt from the grave and into a wagon. He bought a backhoe a few years ago, but didn't like it, he said. "It doesn't work in cemeteries that well. It's too hard to get between between some of the stones with it," Bohlman said. "I went back to the old-fashioned way. It doesn't tear everything up." Bohlman figures he dug only about 45 graves with his machine. Bohlman charges about $130 a grave, which is comparable to what his colleagues get, he said. The funeral directors include his charge with the amount they charge the family. But in the winter, the price can be up to $175 if the frost is thick.