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 populated with the discards of another era.

I’ve tried to imagine what those who went before us here were like. They lived on this very spot we now occupy. They did dishes, cooked, cleaned, fixed things, plowed, took care of their animals, cried, laughed, made love, ate, drank, read……all of the things we do today.

The only clue I have in answer to these questions is what they left behind, on a hillside just 30 feet from where I’m typing.

Before me and my family came, they left this place. Nearly 70 years ago. Why did they leave I wonder.? No one else came after them until now. The land passed through a succession of owners but no one saw fit to stay here. 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.

But the hillside held their secrets. Mundane, every day items such as an egg beater that succumbed to the slow embrace of the tree under which it sat. The tree hugging it more and more tightly year after year, as if afraid of losing it’s last connection to those who planted it.

Tin cans degenerated with each passing season; snow, rain, heat, wind, snow, rain, heat, wind until they began to lose their identities; their memories of what they were and why.

Parts of machinery held up better to the gentle onslaught of time, quietly proclaiming their usefulness only to become silent themselves with the passing years.

Salad forks, spoons, lamp bases, marbles, can openers, old TV dinner packages. Bottles; lots of them. Most broken, some intact, unbelievably, encased in the dirt just inches below the soil. Protected from the elements. Souvenirs from Japan, a hand poured heart made of lead from a mold, condiment jars and every other kind of product a family would use in the 50’s, 40’s and back.

A bracelet bearing the name Best, tossed down the hillside with the rest of the trash. Why, I wonder?

best bracelet
You can barely make out the name “Best” on this bracelet. I tried to find her successors to give this too but didn’t have any luck.

Did they get into arguments? Did they go to church on Sundays? They certainly had young children as evidenced by the small shoe soles and toy wagons left behind.

There are areas where bulldozers were most likely used to scrape together what was left of their existence, entombing it in neat piles. Sacred memories shoved together along with pipes, fencing, machine parts, barrels. Why did they leave and why bury everything?

I found this hillside and it’s occupants the first day we arrived on our property. I was fascinated and asked myself all of these questions. I wondered if our arrival had excited energies that had been dormant all of that time.

What did they think of us? Did they approve? Did she mind me polishing up her can opener and using it again for the first time in 70 years? I bet she didn’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.