Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Projectile Points and Stone Tools

Last week was another interesting time at the farm.  On Thursday afternoon, Bryan Jameson, Archeology Steward of the Texas Historical Commission, and his wife, Carol Macaulay-Jameson, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, Baylor University visited to visit with Allan and Jef and John and me, and to look at the arrowheads, spear points, stone tools and the like that have been picked up on the property over the years.  Bryan and Carol are volunteers at the Clifton Historical Museum, and are acquaintances of our cousins, Kathy Cash and Eric Vanderbeck of Cranfills Gap, who also joined us on Thursday.  

The majority of the artifacts were collected by Allan’s and my parents, Bob and Evelyn Jones, who purchased the farm in 1959 and spent most of their weekends here until they turned it over to Allan and me in the early 1990s.  They had a lot of help from my Aunt Frankie and my uncles, Watt Atwood and Gene Cash.  Here are Mother and Aunt Frankie with my Uncle Watt on the left, my Aunt Frankie in the middle, and my Uncle Gene on the back right.

The photo below is of my mom on the left, my dad and Aunt Frankie.  It was taken at the kitchen table in the farmhouse, probably sometime in the 1960s.

And here are Aunt Frankie and Mother.  I think they have been fishing instead of looking for arrowheads from the looks of the tackle box and the heavy bucket...presumably filled with fish from our stock tanks.

Most of the artifacts we have were picked up in a small plot near the Middle Fork of Neils Creek that we call “the sanctuary.”  Since the area is level, and near a water source, we think it might have been a spot where the early native people camped.  Eric and Carol discuss what treasures might be hidden beneath the grass.  

Bryan thinks he has spotted a piece of flint, or chert, that has been "worked."

The sanctuary was plowed frequently over the years and was planted in crops that would provide food for deer, turkey and other wildlife.  This was the only area of the farm that has been regularly cultivated for the past 60 or so years.  We surmise that there may be other treasures lurking beneath the rich grasses along the creek, but they will likely stay hidden.  

Because the sanctuary was plowed often, from the early 1960s until the late 1980s, my mother and my Aunt Frankie, liked to walk the freshly-turned soil and look for arrowheads, spear points and stone tools.  They found quite an assortment…not only projectile points, but scrapers, hammer stones, knives and a drill.  We were amazed to learn from Bryan and Carol that many of the items we have been showing to friends and family over the years are thousands of years old.  A few are from Native American tribes that roamed this valley in the last several hundred years, but most were made by ancient peoples 2,500-10,000 years BC.  We now have a new project…sorting, organizing and cataloging our new-found treasures.  Once we have done that, I’ll post some photos.

There is another hillside area on the property which has never yielded points or tools, but is rich in the type of stone known as chert, or flint.  It is Bryan’s assessment that this was used as a quarry where material to make weapons or tools was gathered.  

The third area we investigated in winter is a rattlesnake den.  In the past we have cautiously (very cautiously!) explored the rocky outcroppings that shelter the den.  On sunny days in the late fall and early spring, the snakes can be seen around the entrance or napping in the sun on nearby rocks.

Since the days have been warm for some time, we were reasonably certain that all the snakes had left the den to forage in the surrounding woods and pastures.  We were right; no snakes were lurking near the den.  The dogs were very curious about what other critters might be using the den area in the “off season” but we kept a close watch on them just in case.

Bryan and Carol did not think the overhang, even several thousand years ago, would have been large enough to be used as a permanent home by native cultures.  Instead, they thought it might have provided a temporary shelter in bad weather or been used by  travelers.  We have never found any artifacts in that area, so they are probably correct.  Who knows, though, what Goat Hill, as we call the farm, might have looked like 10,000 years ago?  It’s certainly fertile ground for speculation.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Another Sad Goodbye

Having said farewell to one good friend a few days ago, I find myself saying goodbye to another this week.  Jo Anne Noble’s heart was as big as her personality, and her death yesterday afternoon is being mourned by the entire Central Texas herding community.  I did not know Jo Anne as well as some, but she was unfailingly kind and encouraging to all of us.  When handlers and their dogs did well, she congratulated them, and when we faltered and failed, she built us up and convinced us to keep on trying.   She was a genuinely nice person and always had a smile on her face. 

Below are a couple of photos of Jo Anne and her dogs I took at herding events last year.  Jo Anne treated people and dogs alike with courtesy and respect.  I’m sure there were dog spirits waiting to greet her yesterday at the rainbow bridge, and I hope the green fields of Heaven they walk will be filled with flocks of sheep.  

My classmate, Gary Ragsdale, recently put it very well when he said, “A downside to living so long is having to say 'goodbye' to so many who added meaning to our lives.”  My life is certainly richer for having known Jo Anne.  She was a person to be emulated, and she will be remembered and sorely missed.

Monday, April 17, 2017

A Gathering of Friends

We have had a wonderful week with good friends and family.  Last Tuesday, Jimmy Joe and Danine Jacks, who hosted us in their home in Cambodia a few years ago, arrived to spend a few days with us.  The four of us had a relaxing couple of days in Volente, then packed up for a trip to the farm.  

While here, we have had a good visit, lots of porch-sitting time, and more than a few chilled beverages. 

Jimmy Joe and I also took a little time for photos of the bluebonnets and other flowers blooming in the pastures.  

The antelope horn milkweed blossoms were covered with honeybees and other interesting insects, as were the other wildflowers.

Since it has been several years since Jimmy and Nine have spent time in Texas, we organized a get-together with some of our high school classmates in town at Asher Cafe. Joining the four of us were Patty and John Howarth, Waylan and Darla Loyd, Jane Cartwright, Sue Kopp, Jimmy Don Thompson and Hardy Morgan.

While the gathering was filled with laughter, reminiscing, and catching up on each others’ news, we also sadly marked the passing of one of our classmates on Wednesday, April 12, after a long and courageous bout with cancer.  

Tommy Shelton moved to Hamilton from Pecos, Texas, during our freshman year and quickly became and important part of our growing-up years.  He was active in FFA, serving as an officer several times, and was one of the managers of our Bulldog football team.  He was voted "Friendliest" among other honors during our senior year, and led us as Senior Class President.   More recently, Tommy coordinated class get-togethers and distributed information about classmates until he became too ill to continue.

Tommy and I dated during our senior year, and made many good memories in the process.  We mourn his passing.  With the loss of each of our classmates we realize with increasing poignancy how much those growing-up years and the friends we made continue to mean to us.  I wish all our classmates had been able to join us, but we look forward to the next opportunity we have to reconnect.  I just hope it is at a class reunion and not to mark another loss.  

There never seems to be enough time to do everything we would like to when we're at the farm.  Thursday evening, we made a start by introducing Jimmy Joe and Nine to one of our local favorites, the Horny Toad Cafe and Grill in nearby Cranfills Gap.

It's a favorite hangout for not only locals and motorcycle riders passing through town, but also for these pool-sharks-in-training.

The Thursday night fajita special was nothing to write home about, but John's cheeseburger was a real winner.  And the company was even better.

We had family at the farm as well.  My brother and his wife as well as one of their daughters and family were staying down the hill at the little house.  After Jimmy and Nine left to visit with their relatives, the rest of us took a long walk to look for new plants that had emerged from seeds we sewed after the prescribed burn several weeks ago.

Noah and Rachel were convinced the newly-cleared ground would yield a mastodon tooth, but none were found this trip.

Allan made time for some brush-stacking with the tractor and a chilled beverage or two on their back porch.

And Noah demonstrated his skill with one of his several Nerf guns.

Not all our friends during this trip to the farm were the two-legged variety.  On my way to the pump house, I almost stepped on this beautiful eastern hognose snake that was hiding in the grass.  When I asked John to put down his hand so I could have a visual reference point, the snake puffed out its neck, cobra-like.  It’s easy to see why our parents often referred to this harmless Texas resident as a “spreading adder.”  (Actually you should say “spreddinadder” if you want to get the pronunciation right.)

This gives new meaning to the term "white-knuckled!"

This handsome fellow eyed me with his beady snake eyes, hissing loudly but never threatening to bite.  He also explored my scent with his flickering forked tongue to see if I was friend or foe…or maybe dinner.  When I looked up information about the hognose snake, I found that their favorite food is toads, so I guess I was never a candidate for dinner.

After getting a few photos, we backed away to give him a chance to slither away into the tall grass.

Later, when John was weed-eating in the yard, he came upon this pretty little prairie ringneck snake.  Just 10 or so inches long and smaller around than my little finger, they live under leaves or in crevices in the soil.  Earth worms and smaller snakes are some of their favorite foods.  

It was another great time at the farm.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Back and Forth

Goodness!  April is almost half-way over.  How did that happen?  Since I last posted, we have been back and forth between Volente and the farm and between Volente and Lake Jackson more times than I can count.  On March 13, we were in Lake Jackson to celebrate John’s mother, Maxine Johnston’s, 97th birthday.  Here she is with John and her grandson, Christopher Hightower.

Then, a couple of days later John and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary.  It sure doesn't seem like 20 years since we cut our wedding cake, but photos don't lie.  Here is what we looked like; I was 20 pounds lighter and John had black hair! 

Things have been good at the farm as well.  Cousin Molly visits often, and when we're not looking jumps up to lounge on the sofa.

Even though the game camera mounted below the house revealed a family of feral hogs visiting in the night, they haven't done too much damage so far.  If it didn't involve staying up late at night to shoot them, we would be doing our part to eradicate the destructive pests.

We have also been pleased with the way the new grass has sprung up where only a few weeks ago fire was racing across the pasture.  Using our now almost-indispensable tool, the propane-fueled pear burner, John and I burned several piles of cedar "bones" left over from the prescribed burn.

The turkey toms have been strutting and gobbling, trying hard to attract the attention of the seemingly-disinterested hens.

The bluebonnets have appeared in lovely, fragrant, patches.  And the Bagley Pack were happy to pose for pictures between swims in the overflowing stock tanks. 

It has been a beautiful spring.