Blast From The Past

About a year ago, I found a broken and rusty bracelet in the farmer’s dump on our hillside. It’s embossed with a boy’s name.

Bottles and jars are cool to find intact but whenever I’ve uncovered something personal, it’s always gotten me to thinking about the person to whom it belonged to and what life was like when they lived here so long ago.

Our property had not been occupied since about 1957 until we moved in. Back then, people threw their trash in dumps right on their land. Their trash is now my fascination – but back to that bracelet.

I wondered who this kid was and I figured there was a chance he might still be alive so I looked through the list of previous owners and did some additional detective work on the Internet and found him! He is 80 years old and still lives in the state.

I prepared a script before I dialed his number and he actually answered the phone. I felt a bit awkward but I asked him if he had lived where we are now and he confirmed it. I told him we had bought his family’s old property and I explained how I’d sifted through the old garbage heap on the hillside and found many items that were most likely deposited there by his family.

I told him about the bracelet with his name on it and asked him if he remembered it. He hadn’t, to my slight disappointment, but he was friendly and open to conversation.

I described the horseshoes, TV dinner containers, bottles, toys, and marbles we’d unearthed and questioned him as to whether or not he remembered them. He mentioned he had two older brothers who might have been the marble’s owners.

I told him I was using what may have been his Mother’s can openers and how what might have been her egg beaters were now growing into the side of a tree. He laughed and told me he was nine when his family moved here.

The call was very pleasant although, for him, it had come out of the blue. I said goodbye and thanked him for his time. Although he didn’t recall everything, I’m hoping he’d hung up the phone with some old memories rekindled.

It felt nice to make a connection with someone who had shared the history of this property with us. It once was his own.

I forgot to ask him if they had a well and where it was located. The privy too. Those are supposed to be treasure troves!

Another Man’s Treasure

A hillside tells a story from another time.

The last people who lived on our property left in the late 1950’s.

We’ve narrowed the time down by going through their trash.

Back then, people who lived away from town dumped their garbage on their own property away from the house.

When we first found bottles laying on an embankment near our trailer, we excitedly set to work sifting through the dirt and piles of garbage. We pulled out bottles, cans, car parts, broken cookware, the first TV dinner trays, and other stuff dating to the early 1920’s.

We noted, through the artifacts we uncovered, the evolution of man’s refuse from heavy iron objects meant to last a lifetime to the beginning of the disposable age of cartridges filled with replaceable razor blades, the TV Dinner trays, and old tubes of toothpaste and Preparation H (hemorrhoids are nothing new, after all).

spoons and vacuum tubes

Holding someone else’s possessions in my hands after so many years left me wondering what their former owners were like. Of course they did dishes, cooked, cleaned, cried, laughed, drank, and read books……all of the things we do today but was the culture different? I’m sure their leisure time was spent much differently with the exception of some old standbys Endcap Entertainment.

The land passed through a succession of owners but no one saw fit to stay here for sixty years – to care about the place. It sat quietly waiting with only the deer, the ants, the trees, rocks, and soil to occupy it’s time.

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Toy plane.

But these family’s stories have been preserved, ironically, in the things they cared least about at the time they were left behind. An egg beater thrown near the base of a young tree is disappearing into decades of its growth.

old english

Tin cans, rusted into scraps, litter the slope. Parts of machinery that held up better under the gentle onslaught of time, still insist they are useful.

Salad forks, spoons, lamp bases, marbles, and can openers lay encased in the dirt inches below the soil. Protected from the elements, souvenirs from Japan, a hand poured heart made of lead, vases and every other type of thing a family would use during the early to mid-twentieth century stayed behind when they moved. I wouldn’t think of taking my trash with me, either. 🙂

One day, I found a bracelet bearing the name Tommy Best, tossed down the hillside with the rest of the trash. Why, I wondered? I called him and asked:  Blast From The Past.

bracelet tommy best
I found the owner of this engraved bracelet. He’s now eighty years old.

With every mundane object or broken keepsake we unearthed, I wondered what the family might think of us happily digging up what they threw out after dinner one night in 1945?

Would the lady of the house mind that I polished up her can opener and was using it again for the first time in sixty years? I bet she wouldn’t.

wouldn’t mind if I was a ghost.

PS As I was finishing the editing on this post, a cupboard door in my kitchen quietly opened by itself. I really wonder if they’re watching now. 

It’s Been One Year

Feeling a little nostalgic.

I was outside around one this morning near a hillside filled with litter from decades ago, as an unseasonably warm breeze blew and the chirps of the last critters of the summer drifted through the air.  It was a nice feeling and it brought me back to the early days and nights of a year ago when we first arrived at our new home.

It’s funny how nostalgia works. Even if times were rough, thinking back on them often leaves us feeling good. As I stood in the darkness, I thought back to those first weeks.

We were excited as hell to be new land owners and it was my husband’s first time living away from Western Washington.

On the morning we arrived, I explored every square inch of our land. It was like having huge back yard. It had two hillsides, a flat-lands, “forests”, and The Craggy Windy Highlands as I call them. I thought about how I could make a map of our place as a fictional land.

The parcel we bought was one of four that had been divided up from a larger piece of land. Ours was number three in the top left area of the “map” below. We wanted to buy the adjacent lots but someone beat us to them.

property

There was a farmer’s dump on the parcel next to us but we had our own portion of the junkyard on our property. The last time anyone took out the trash was over sixty years ago. Their garbage is now semi-valuable as antiques that we have sold.

Wanting to know more about the history of our new acquisition, we ordered a title search of the property from the county courthouse in town. The first owner in the line of succession bought it from Teddy Roosevelt (the government), in 1908. The last people who lived here left in the late 1950’s as near as I can tell. I wonder why?

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This place has been quiet and still for over a half of a century. Now we are here to wake up the ghosts of days gone by.

It’s been a year since we first drove up our driveway pulling the trailer behind us. We’ve been through so much. Walking near the farmer’s dump this morning brought it all back to me. That feeling of excitement and wonder – the pride of ownership. The explorability factor was high then and it still is.

It was those early days of adventure and discovery that inspired me to write so I wouldn’t forget.

Besides, this is the biggest, bestest back yard I’ve ever had and I want to tell the whole world about it. 🙂