Visitors to American cemeteries are
often puzzled by stones shaped like tree stumps. Some of these are very
fancy, with tiny squirrels and birds perched on the sawn-off branches.
Catholic cemeteries often have crosses made from logs over the grave.
Closer inspection often reveals the acronym W.O.W. on the marker. These
stones are the product of Woodmen of the World, a 19th and 20th century
fraternal organization which provided such stones as part of the insurance
available to members. They were usually sculpted by local craftsmen who
used sandstone, concrete, and other materials to create the monuments.
They symbolize, undoubtably, the cutting off of life, as well as
membership in the organization.