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Ancestor's Ashes Placed On Fence To Keep Natural Gas Drillers At Bay

GRINDSTONE (KDKA) -- Tradition as old as Japan itself is at odds with Marcellus Shale gas drilling on farmland in Grindstone, Fayette County.

Fujiko Miller, and her husband Charles, own the surface rights. They raise cattle. But a Chevron subsidiary holds the property's mineral rights.

"There was a court order issued that the Millers were not allowed to interfere with the Chevron entering the property," says Chief Deputy Sheriff Michael Helms.

In late July, hoping to keep drillers at bay, Fujiko Miller placed bags filled with her ancestor's ashes on fence posts.

"Which was in a direct line where the Chevron needed to come through the property," Helms said.

"For these people, the ancestors, are for them, a very real connection to the afterlife," Molli Vassar, an instructor in Religious Studies at Penn State's Eberly campus, explained.

She says cremated remains are believed to ward off evil.

"The ancestors are actually in residence in these places and so therefore, the ancestors are watching out them here, are protecting them," Vassar said.

With an August 9th court order, sheriff's deputies were dispatched. Chief Deputy Helms was told by Mr. Miller said that Chevron had permission to remove the bag, but he wouldn't.

"That he could not remove them though because it was his wife's heritage - belief - that they couldn't touch the bags," Helms said.

Chevron didn't want to touch them either.

"Chevron felt that if there were ashes and remains they didn't want to be disrespectful," Helms said.

The Millers were given 48 hours. The bags came down and they were compensated for giving access.

"We haven't been called back so apparently the problem has been resolved," Helms said.

The Millers were not at home, but bags of garlic and salt are now posted which may keep away evil too and the view from their porch is now a parade of earth movers and tri-axle trucks.

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