Once there was a traveller, down on his luck, who was walking through a backwoods town on his way to the city. Since he had no money he decided to go around asking for spare change and any handouts anyone could offer him. He didn’t have much luck, as hillfolk are naturally weary of strangers and most likely just as poor as the traveler was. But then he passed by an old cemetery and saw a big group of people gathered for what looked like was a funeral.
“Boy,” he thought, “if I could ask them church folks for money surely no one could refuse me.”
So the man walked up to the group as they were a-standing around the grave watching it being filled in with dirt and put out his little white cup already clinking with coins. The people that were still there, and there couldn’t have been more than five or six, all looked at each other with great joy and surprise and passed the man handfuls of coins with many saying “Thank you” or “What a kind soul” to the man before joining the others at the church house.
The man left the cemetery with a big ole smile on his face thinking he had plumb cleaned up from those ignorant church folks. As he walked toward the road from the church house he stopped to smoke a cigarette near an old black oak tree. As the man smoked he heard some talking coming from the other side of the tree. “Must be some of those mourners,” he thought. He decided to listen in on the conversation between these two women.
“A sad day,” one of the women said.
“Truly a sad day,” the other woman replied.
“But at least we know his sins are taken away,” the first woman said.
“Oh? Did you find someone to take them?”
“Yes ma’am, we’d waited and waited for someone in the family to take the sins, but just as we thought no one would be brave enough to do it an old beggar came by and took all the coins we had to offer him! No telling how many sins he took off of granny, we all know she was a sinning woman!”
The women laughed then headed back up toward the church house. The beggar man just shuffled in silent shock to the road thinking about all the sins he just took that were now sitting there on top of the multitude of his own.
This folk tale is based on a belief many of the Ozark hillfolk had that if coins were passed over the top of a grave the person receiving the coins would get all the sins of the person in the ground. Certain unbelieving people in town could make a decent earning at funerals if they had no fear of the repercussions of this act.