“Aim for the stars. Keep grinning. Be bloody-minded. Argue with the world. And never forget that writing is as close as we get to keeping a hold on the thousand and one things—childhood, certainties, cities, doubts, dreams, instants, phrases, parents, loves—that go on slipping, like sand, through our fingers.”
It’s a steamy July in the summer I turn eleven. The hot sun is beating down on a broad field of sandy soil, where I tramp down a quarter-mile-long row of green tobacco plants, cutting off the secondary stems from each plant so the main leaves can grow.
There’s a cold watermelon waiting for the field workers at the end of the row. I plod toward it and continue to lop off the suckers, as we call the unwanted stems.
Then I see it, a thin, wedge-shaped piece of blue flint. An arrowhead. When I pick it up and wipe away the dried dirt, I can’t help but gaze in wonder at the craftsmanship, or to imagine its story. Who made it? Who used it?
Being the bookish sort, the relic means much more to me than just a neat-looking curiosity. At the first opportunity, I locate books on Indian artifacts at the High Point Public Library.
Many people think the Indian artifacts they stumble upon in farms, gardens, and construction sites are a few hundred years old. In fact, the Palmer point I found was over 8,000 years old, a testament to the enduring legacy of the first North American inhabitants.
Over the years, I continued to search for relics and accumulated a sizable collection. What began as an escape from drudgery turned into a lifetime hobby that not only taught me a lot of history, but also introduced me to primitive weapons. More important, it gave me an appreciation for both Native American culture and fine craftsmanship.
For example, the grooved ax in the first image was a formidable weapon and vital tool. The disc scraper shown immediately above required a great deal of pressure flaking from a skilled hand. The Kirk Serrated point beside it may have functioned as a saw. Running my finger over its barbs, I can’t help but appreciate its usefulness and beauty. It reveals the patient work of an experienced artisan, a product of a long tradition of craftsmanship.
Lesson learned: Every landscape conceals hidden wonders, not to mention forgotten stories waiting to be discovered.