If I grow up I think I will try archaeology

I’ve spent the day working in the sandbox again. Those of you who are wondering what a senior citizen is doing playing in a sandbox, rest assured I am not experiencing my second childhood. Yet! The truth be known, I have not yet left my first childhood. But, I digress. The sandbox is the whole of my backyard and it is part of an ancient raised beach of Lake Superior.

My current project is to reshape the beach so that there is no grass to bother with. I don’t want to water, fertilize or cut backyard grass again. To that end, my wife, Joy, and I have been hand digging out the roots of crabgrass, poplar trees, and sundry other forms of plant life. And ants! Big ants! Big red ants! We have chosen to hand dig for a variety of reasons. A few years ago, (Did I mention this was a big project? Yeah! Really big!) We tried using a gas driven cultivator to clear the vegetable garden. It worked!

The next spring the grasses and other plants came back with a vengeance–especially the crabgrass. It seems that when one uses a cultivator, the big crabgrass roots get chopped into thousands and thousands of little crabgrass roots. Given time, water and sunlight those chopped roots become–you guessed it–more crabgrass. So we dug the whole of the garden with a twisty thing to loosen the soil and roots and a garden fork to separate the roots from the sand. It worked. I now have a crabgrass free garden and the soil is very easy to dig and turn for the next year’s planting. This proven method of root extraction, while labour intensive, is effective. It is also green, quiet (I get to commune with the birds and the wind in the trees, the buzzing of mosquitoes the roar of the motorbikes practicing motocross in the easement) and it is great exercise.

So the project expanded and now we are removing all the grasses one root at a time from the backyard. That’s what led me to thinking about being an archaeologist. This digging is a nostalgia trip. WE are digging up things not only from the ancient past but, we are finding things from our past. Things that became lost in the sands since we built our home thirty years ago.

Today I dug up an aluminium tent peg. It came to be there from the night we had a company of Girl Guides camping in our backyard. My wife was a guide leader and the girls wanted a camping badge. At that time our home was backed by boreal forest and the backyard was the perfect place to practice camping skills in relative safety. The Guides set the tent, built a campfire and cooked their dinner. Later in the evening we joined them around the campfire and sang songs, told stories and ate somemores and drank hot chocolate and watched the stars. It was a great evening.

At lights out, I made certain that the girls and Joy were settled into their sleeping bags assuring them that if they needed me, the doors to the house were not locked and they could come in and waske me. You know the kind of things to which I refer–the tent fell down,; it is raining and everyone is wet;… Sure enough, in the wee hours of the morning I was awakened by a passel of girls running into the house more than a bit distraught and squealing loudly. They heard gunshots in the woods behind the house.

Guess who was sent to check this story out. Just guess. I got up and dressed and headed outside while the girls huddled in our room with Joy. No sooner had I stepped round the corner of the house when I heard the distinct sound of a firearm being discharged in short bursts. In short order I, too, was hunkered down with Joy and the guides wondering if we were under attack.

All that from an old tent peg buried in the back yard. Some of the details are blurred and no doubt I have done some embellishing. But that’s OK. It is my story and my memory. I don’t quite remember the outcome of it all other than it was a young man who had purchased a firearm through a magazine. He was out trying it out!

I wonder if archaeologists feel the same kind of rush when they find a tent peg or a musket ball or a… Yes, I think I will try archaeology when I grow up.                           GRB

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