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Willa Cather Foundation - Red Cloud Nebraska (NE)

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Suicide Grave

Suicide Grave

The former location of the Mr. Shimerda's suicide grave in My Antonia was described by Willa Cather as a little island of tall red grass. Francis Sadilek, the prototype for Mr. Shimerda, committed suicide in February 1881 and was buried on his own farm, near the cross-roads. The grave was moved into the Red Cloud Cemetery sometime between 1905 and 1914. 

“Years afterward, when the open-grazing days were over, and the red grass had been ploughed under and under until it had almost disappeared from the prairie; when all the fields were under fence, and the roads no longer ran about like wild things, but followed the surveyed section-lines, Mr. Shimerda's grave was still there, with a sagging wire fence around it, and an unpainted wooden cross. As grandfather had predicted, Mrs. Shimerda never saw the roads going over his head. The road from the north curved a little to the east just there, and the road from the west swung out a little to the south; so that the grave, with its tall red grass that was never mowed, was like a little island; and at twilight, under a new moon or the clear evening star, the dusty roads used to look like soft grey rivers flowing past it. I never came upon the place without emotion, and in all that country it was the spot most dear to me.”— My Antonia