Even as late as the 50’s many people were not embalmed in some parts of the country when they died.
A rich widow in the rural south fell into a coma and stayed that way for weeks.
The doctor informed her grown children that she had no vital signs and that they could plan her funeral.
During her funeral services a man named Otis, the town vagrant, came by to see what was going on, and to get a free meal.
He noticed that the woman was being buried with her expensive diamond ring on and hatched a plan to steal it.
He decided that around midnight he would sneak to the grave yard and unearth the casket and get the ring.
He dug all night and at dawn he finally reached the top of the casket.
He was breaking the latches with his shovel when he heard a faint cry.
Then the cry got louder, “Thank God! Thank God!,” the woman was crying hysterically.
“I have been trying to wake up for so long. I have been trying to tell the people that I am not dead! I heard everything said at the funeral!”
Otis sat staring down at the previously dead woman confused, not knowing what to do, especially when she cried, “Oh Otis, you are my hero! You saved me!”
Hero? Otis looked at her ring. He looked at the casket. Then he looked at his shovel…maybe he should just buy her again--no! His Christian charity overcame his greed and he ran and got the sheriff.
The woman was lifted out of the grave and taken to the hospital.
The sheriff was embarassed and angry. He decide to do an interrogation of Otis.
He took him into a small room.
The town coroner and the mayor were also present.
The sheriff was no small town numbskull. He was a graduate of the police academy and knew how to set the scene.
He sent for coffee and cigarettes for Otis to loosen his tongue. Otis said he preferred a beer, but was told he could not have alcohol at the police station.
The sheriff looked Otis square in the eyes and told him that he knew he dug the widow up to rob her.
“No!” Otis cried.
“Yes, you did,” the sheriff said, “Why else would you spend hours digging up that grave?”
Otis thought for a moment. “I just didn’t believe she was really dead!”
The coroner was mad. “Do you know how this makes me look?”
The mayor was on Otis’ side, “This man saved a life and you two want to put him in jail?”
Then the mayor went on, “Go on Otis. Tell them what you told me.”
Otis took a deep breath, “Er, I, I… was taking this home study course on doctoring... and on the chapter on dead people, it said that sometimes people are not dead just ‘cause they look dead!
So in my heart of hearts I got to thinking, “What if the widow’s not really dead? I just could not stand it, and had to rescue that poor woman.
She was always doing good things for people and I wanted to make sure the coroner here didn’t make a mistake.”
The coroners face resembled a storm cloud, as tears of compassion rolled down Otis' cheeks.
The sheriff didn’t believe it. He asked Otis to show them the home study course.
Otis scratched his beard, slapped his knee and said, “Sorry. I lost it.”
The sheriff wasn’t buying any of it and wanted to arrest Otis, but the widow and her family pleaded his cause and asked to be his guardians.
The matter was finally settled.
The rich widow and her children built Otis a little house and took care of him for the rest of his life.
He never did find that home study course on doctoring.
The sheriff and the coroner were still peeved because people made jokes.
The joke warned that if you slept too long in that county, you might find yourself buried alive!