When I was three years old, my parents bought their own farm by Buckman, Minnesota, after initially living on my grandpa’s farm. The farm house at the new place was in rough shape and so they made a decision to tear it down and build a small new house for their growing family. The farm had great land, but the buildings and farm yard had been somewhat neglected over the years. They cleaned it up over the next few years, and over 30 years made it one of the nicest places in the area. They took a lot of pride in their farm.
When we first moved in the farm had what we lovingly referred to as the junk pile. It was back in a wooded area behind the barn and not visible from the house or driveway. It contained 50 years or more of discarded machinery and parts, an old car, fence posts, a sink from the turn of the century, a fish house, railroad ties, wagon wheels, hitches and harnesses for horses, old glass bottles, an old suitcase, tires, tools and the stuff went on and on. There were trails through the things, many of which where getting very overgrown by this time in the 1960’s and there was even a tree growing though the discarded car body. In hindsight it looked like the opening scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the leaves and trees are growing over the statues and you have to swipe the green leaves away to reveal the treasures being hidden by years of jungle growth.
As we were growing up this should have been named the treasure area. We were fascinated by it. I spent a ton of time back there digging through the piles and piles and into the ground around it looking for treasures. I had a large ring where I collected all of the keys I found out there. I had glass bottles in multiple colors and I had treasures that I did not know what they were, but I kept them because they were cool. Hopefully I had a tetanus shot back then, because a lot of these treasures were rusty and some were sharp. I don’t ever remember getting hurt, but I do remember spending a lot of time looking at stuff, digging for stuff and collecting stuff. I still have some of that stuff.
On a back eighty acres on our farm, far from the farm yard was also an old farmstead sight. It was cow pasture for us, but in the 1800’s it had been a homestead for a local family. Many farmers in the 1800’s only had about 40 to 60 acres. As time went on and equipment got better, each farm could support more land. So more of the homes went away and land was sold to neighbors to increase the size of their fields. We knew little about this old homestead, other than we could see part of the foundation sticking out of the ground and the earth was all sunken around where the house used to be. A stray lilac bush stood a ways away almost as a silent tribute to a woman who had once lived there and tried to bring a little beauty to her prairie homestead. We had heard tales that the couple who had lived there traded and got along well with the local Native American tribe and in fact the woman would get a visit from the local Native Americans when she baked pie or bread and she would share it with them. I cannot remember where we had heard that or even if it was true, but it made for a really nice story to go along with the mysteries of the old homestead.
Growing up we found a lot of arrow heads in the fields all over our property and at our grandpa’s property. My mother still has a box of spear points she has collected form the farm land around there. We pulled old pottery pieces from the ground surrounding the foundation and we even found old tins and medicine bottles. I was reminded of all of these digs the other day when talking with my daughter who is studying Archeology. She is doing exactly what I was interested in back on the farm. I just did not know what to call it. I dug stuff up and I tried to figure out what some things were or were used for, and I tried to learn something about the people that had lived there. I day dreamed about it. I always wanted to know more about them. I missed my calling. I should have been an archeologist. She had said once people are messy and I love looking at their garbage from the past. I said me too.
I have always liked to read about past cultures and see their things. So it occurred to me, was it a genetic predisposition for my daughter to get her interest in digging into the past by looking at another man’s garbage, or in raising her did I make that sound interesting, or is it something that we humans all find interesting. I think we all want to know someone else’s story, especially a story from an era gone by. I would have loved to have met the young woman who planted the lilac on the prairie and gave bread and pie to the Native Americans. We make connections in this world on a daily basis with those around us, but when we dig into the earth and look to the people of the past, I feel we gain better insight into our own existence and it reminds us again to appreciate our time here on this earth. It reminds us that man has been living and loving on this earth long before us, and will hopefully continue long after us. What is important is for us to live each day to our fullest, to follow our dreams and passions and in the process to build good will, be kind and leave behind something to inspire others.