Sunday, September 4, 2011

MEMORY: ARROWHEADS...april 28, 2003

Across from from Mama Gene’s lake house, which we called the camp , at Bailey Springs there was a place where the land was flat and barely above water level. The edge of the water was sandy and pieces of small rock were everywhere. There were willow trees near the water’s edge . Since it was sandy I could easily pull my boat right up to the shore. Of course there is always a chance of seeing a snake around any water edge there and especially where people are not frequent visitors. The water was very shallow and only gradually got deep away from the shore. I don’t know what I was doing there the first time I went. I guess I was just checking it out as I did many places and I especially liked to experience areas that were not inhabited. No one lived there at that time.

I thought this could be a place were arrowheads might be because the natural  rocks were sharp and various colors. This rock was of course flint that  Indians used to make arrowheads. I do recall my first find. I saw a sharp piece of maroon rock protruding out of the sand. I pulled it out and it was a perfectly formed arrowhead about one inch long. I even remember placing it on the dash board of Mama Gene’s ‘55 chevy and it slipped into the crack in front of the window. It was several days before I managed to retrieve it. I had found one arrowhead before then in a farmer’s field back in Florence where a friend had taken me for the very purpose of finding them. After this first Bailey Springs arrowhead I continued to go back to that spot for several years and nearly without fail would find at least one. I found as many as four at a time on some occasions. It was such an exciting process.

Bailey Springs On Shoal Creek, Florence, AL
I usually did it alone and preferred to do it that way. When others went with me they were not usually successful. I developed a skill of observing the rocks as I walked along the shore. It is such a thrill to find one. I would imagine that mine were probably the first human hands that had touched it since some Indian had crafted it hundreds or even thousands of years ago. I didn’t think a lot about what those people would have been like and what kind of beliefs they had but it did cross my mind that they had observed, probably with reverence, the same Bailey Spring cliffs that I so much liked to view. (You would think that the thought of ancient humans would have made me question my belief that only the members of my little religious denomination were the people going to heaven. I know there were Sunday afternoons I would be looking for these prehistoric pieces and have to stop to go back to town in time for Sunday night church. It is pretty obvious to me now which was having the more spiritual impact on me. I wonder what would have happened to me if I had questioned my religion at an early age instead of at age 40?) The creek would have only been a small stream then and the place I found the points would have been nowhere close to the water. I ended up with about fifty arrowheads and they were so different from each other in style, shape and color. Of course often I would find only pieces of an arrowhead and knew that it had broken, either after or while the craftsman worked on it. I never did find out anything about what Indians these would have been or how old these artifacts likely were. I just enjoyed the experience of searching and finding them. I would spend several hours at a time doing this. I always liked to go after a big rain storm because the rock assortment would have changed and I would have a chance to find them in places that I had searched before. I recall the most amazing find I ever made. The water was very clear and calm so I found myself looking out into the water and at the bottom of the lake. I saw a piece about fifteen feet out in the water about a foot in depth. I could not tell it was a find but I walked out to just check it out and to my thrill it was a perfect five inch long arrow head. I guess it must have been a spear point. That is the only time I found one by looking out in the water at such a distance. It was my prize arrowhead. I still am amazed that so many could be found after this long a time since their creation. I imagine I had found a place that was naturally covered with flint rock and so this is where the Indians would go to make the arrowheads for themselves and other members of their tribe. 

This tale has a sad ending. I kept those arrowheads, first glued to a board and then finally in a paper bag. I had them as an adult until 1985 when I was teaching school at Riverton Middle School. I heard that a person was coming to school to talk about American Indians and I took my arrowheads to show him. He was impressed and offered to mount them on a nice board if I would give him a particular one of my collection. I told him I would give that some thought. I had them in the teachers’ lounge because I did not have a classroom of my own. I left them there overnight and the next day I could find them nowhere. I do not know who took them and I still have a mild nausea  when I think of what I lost. I did not value them as I should have or I would have already had them properly mounted and I would not have left them at school but I did. I don’t imagine they were worth a huge amount of money but I think if I had them now I would really enjoy touching and viewing them and finding out more about the people who made them. It would have been a nice thing to pass on to my kids but I wonder which one  would have gotten them ?

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