Good morning!

When the autumn leaves had all fallen, I began leafing through old photos.

And…here’s a random closeup.

Not a thing of beauty, but just kinda interesting.  Can you guess what it is?

(I show the answer in just a minute.)

This fall, turning over a garden bed (but not a new leaf), this odd stratified object was unearthed.  It looked pretty ancient, but isn’t – based on a couple minutes of research on the manufacturer’s stamp, it was made sometime after 1929.  Because it’s stainless steel, I think these veins and patterns are some sort of mineral deposits on the surface, rather than corrosion, but basically just thought it looked kinda interesting.  Some sort of tiny electro-chemical mystery, transpiring down there in the dark substratum beneath the innocent-looking cabbages.

Here’s some other archaeological treasures from the garden:




An old medicine bottom, fragments of china, stoneware, and glass. I think the metal ornament isn’t a toy, but a kind of hood ornament – we’ve never had a snowmobile, but one of our neighbors enjoys fixing up vintage Ski-Doos, and sometimes rides around the neighborhood, so that probably explains that.

Here’s another picture of the strata:



Yes, an old spoon.  Who would dare say, we don’t have an exciting time of it in my hometown.

When I was a kid, I was excited to dig up a couple of horseshoes.  Although it was sad to think of some horse years ago, limping around, or left jacked up on blocks by shoe thieves.

But the artifacts turned out to be stragglers from the lawn game, not actually from shoeless horses.  (Un-shod horses?  De-shodded?  Slipshod?  Shoe-eschewing?)

Yes, people still play horseshoes in my town, and the previous residents of our house had installed lighted, sand-filled pits in the backyard.  I did wonder, since they had this opportunity to practice whenever they wanted, why I found the horseshoes buried in a flower bed twenty feet away.  Excess enthusiasm, I guess, or evidence of some long-forgotten domestic tiff?  And I also wondered, if a pit is filled up with sand or sawdust, is it still a pit?  You have time to contemplate such deep thoughts, while you’re throwing pieces of metal at a stick.

There have been people living in this house for 150 years or so, all of them pretty steadily dropping things in the yard.  My dad’s thing is coffee cups, left half-full in odd places – behind some tomato cages, in the crook of a tree, under the pole beans –  we usually harvest them all during the fall cleanup, but probably a few have ended up sinking beneath the sod.  Kind of a mug’s game, and some future generation will find all these ceremonial chalices, and be wondering, who exactly was this nameless World’s Best Dad.

An old lady used to live across the street.  Mrs. Z told me her uncle and aunt lived in our house, in the ’20’s, when there was still a barn, chicken coop, and grape arbor – all of those long-vanished – and that explains the rusty plowshare, bits of chain, etc. I sometimes dig up.

So – getting close to New Year’s – – out with the old, and in with the new.

But instead of throwing this stuff in the trash, I’m going to (if the ground isn’t frozen too hard!)  find a spot at the base of a maple tree, and bury these fragments of history, for some kid to find in the future.

I’ll throw something into the treasure trove, too.

Trying to decide between a fork, a subway token, or a Jabba the Hutt figurine.

Heck, all of the above, I’ll just dig a bigger hole.


History, Uncategorized

A strata gem for the new year


39 thoughts on “A strata gem for the new year

  1. The blog “photos from the loony bin,”, now discontinued, used to show closeups of objects and ask readers to guess what they were. Now you’ve followed in that tradition. I’d never have guessed the first picture is a closeup of a metallic object, much less the bowl of a spoon. The revelation literally bowled me over; the doctor said it had been a long time since anyone came in for treatment of wounds inflicted by a bowling ball.

    You’re in good form with a horse left up on blocks.

    It’s a shoo-in that more people know shoo-fly pie than know the verb eschew, and some who do know eschew eschew it.

    In the end, by deciding to bury a fork, a subway token, and a Jabba the Hutt figurine, and carving out a larger hole for them, you turned holier than thou on us.

  2. WOW! What can I say? How did you know about the horse shoe thieves leaving horses up on blocks. That was an old 19th Century ploy. In those days the loss of shoes meant the horse was off work and that was a Very Big Deal. No horse, no transport. On another note I have a medicine bottle similar to yours but dark green. No doubt some light sensitive potion was within.

    • It’s fun finding old glass things that’ve been buried, they sometimes get weird patterns, too, that seem to be permanently etched into the glass. The man who ran the local hardware store for many years, collected old bottles. At first that seemed like an odd hobby, but he’d sometimes show us all sorts of strange-shaped bottles, and pretty nice colors, I can see why he liked it. But not the hobby for me! I drop things all the time!

    • Thanks, Liz, it was strange to dig up a spoon in the first place, and then to find these strange patterns. I think I got mug’s game from an old movie, Bogart or Guys & Dolls, some of that old slang is pretty fun.

    • There’s a lot of interest in that corner of the state, and threads leading to all sorts of things. Along the lines of toys, nearby there’s a museum where they used to make carousel horses, and a kazoo factory is still in operation. I’ve visited E. Aurora, but didn’t look up anything related to Fisher-Price, I wanted to see some buildings, etc. from the days of the Roycroft Community (a pre-WWI group of Arts & Crafts artisans). I have a couple of strange little books from the printing press there. I’ve only read a bit about the founder, Elbert Hubbert, but he seems to have been a pretty interesting mix of socialist/anarchist/Arts & Crafts Movement True Believer, and at the same time, a self-promoter/ad man – he started out as a wildly successful salesman for a soap company – and the company’s success lead to a number of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in Buffalo. Nothing to do with art, but he was pretty well-known in his day – he wrote a famous bit of propaganda called “A Message to Garcia,” among other things. There were hundreds of Roycrofters, but it all fell apart eventually, after he died on the Lusitania, on his way to chat with the Kaiser.

      • Yes, Hubbard was quite a character. I’d read a little about him and am sorry now we didn’t visit the Roycroft site when we were in Buffalo and vicinity last year. Perhaps you’ll do a post on him.

      • I ran across Hubbard when I was researching a post about William Morris. His magazine, The Fra, is really interesting, and at least parts of it still are available. If you take advantage of the ‘look inside’ feature on the Amazon page, there’s some fascinating stuff about everything from Hubbard’s lecture schedule to some light fussing about product misrepresentation.

        • I toured one of the Arts & Crafts houses, that was owned by one of Hubbard’s workers. It was appealing in many ways, and the fantastic skill shown in all the hand-fitted wood, but you have to like dark wood, and the rooms and heavy furniture definitely had an almost medieval feeling to it. I’ve enjoyed seeing Frank Lloyd Wright’s adaptations of that style, and then his evolution into more light-filled spaces.

  3. Yeah, I love that spoon too. I’ve never found anything too exciting in our yard other than bits of glass. (Apparently there was a greenhouse at one point.) Some future excavator may find a cat skeleton, though. Happy digging!

    • Thanks, Ross. I should’ve consulted with you before doing a hole in the ground post.
      I’ve always been hoping for an arrowhead, there was a Cayuga village around here, burned during the Revolution, but no luck, they were probably closer to the river.
      I hadn’t thought about it, but archaeologists may find a # of skeletons in our yard – cat, gecko, squirrel, rabbit, groundhog, catfish, moles, a couple of birds we took away from the cat, etc. They’ll probably come to the wrong conclusion about our century’s diet.
      While digging to put in some gravel, for drainage at a back door, one we almost never use, I did find a marble slab a few inches down, that was actually a 19th c. tombstone, flipped facedown, and perfectly legible. It was cracked in half, so we put it back together with auto epoxy, and took it to the old burying ground on our street (at midnight on Halloween, seriously). And I didn’t dig any deeper at the back door.

  4. I’m still giggling about the horse joke:) My dad, when he was younger, and somehow wandering the streets of Philadelphia with a friend because that’s what young children did back then for wholesome fun–found a police horse. He and his friend untied it and led into the lobby of a fancy hotel–and left it there. The horse was well-behaved and went right with them–as if to say, “Yes. I do belong in a fancy hotel. It’s about time.”

  5. The horse in the dining room makes perfect sense to me. I knew someone in Melbourne, Florida, who had a horse. During one particularly bad hurricane, the horse gave up the great outdoors for the living room of her house — came right up the steps to the porch, looked inside, and made its decision.

    That spoon is beautiful. I’ve seen silver tarnish in some interesting ways, but nothing like that. I did find a tiny red glass bottle once, down on the recently burned prairie at Brazoria wildlife refuge. I never tried to figure out its age, but it’s a lovely shape, and now it’s sitting on a shelf with other treasures, with a bit of bushy bluestem sticking out of it.

    One of the people I’ve come to know though blogging is Gary Myers, an artist in the Finger Lakes region. He’s from Horseheads, which I thought was imaginary until I consulted the map and read the history:

    “On September 1 1779, General George Washington ordered the forces of General John Sullivan to march north… to mount a raid on Iroquois. They continued north through what is now known as Horseheads to the Finger Lakes region and west to Geneseo. Devastating the already weakened Iroquois, Sullivan’s troops retreated back along the same route.

    The journey had been particularly severe and wearing upon the animals… Arriving about 6 miles north of Fort Reid on September 24, 1779, they were obliged to dispose of a large number of sick and disabled horses. The number of horses was so great that they were quite noticeable, and the native Iroquois collected the skulls and arranged them in a line along the trail. From that time forward, that spot was referred to as the “valley of the horses’ heads” and is still known by the name given to it by the Iroquois.”

    Anyway: Gary has a group of paintings he calls his archaeological series. I love them, and this post reminded me of them. Here’s just one example.

    • Oh, that’s excellent, and fun! With the lifespan of stainless steel, glass, plastic, etc. what a mass of relics we’re leaving for future generations.
      Horseheads has got to one of the strangest place names. The Sullivan expedition came through the Finger Lakes, and burned the Cayuga village, Skoi-Yase, that once stood where my hometown exists, along with 39 other villages, orchards, stores of corn, etc.
      Kids are usually fascinated by the Boyd-Parker site, and its “torture tree,” along the Genesee River, south of Geneseo. One of Sullivan’s scouting parties was ambushed, and two soldiers were ritually killed, in a spectacularly gruesome manner. It was also another example of post-mortem travel – back when William Seward was governor, the city of Rochester swiped the remains of Boyd & Parker, and moved them fifty miles north, as part of the advertising for their new Mt Hope Cemetery.

  6. Who would have guessed, with that opening shot, that you were spooning us? Talk about getting up close. But then the truth came to light, you were just horsing around. Fun post.

    Have a Merry Christmas, and a better year to come.

  7. The Use of the word gem in the title threw me off not that I would have guessed a spoon. I have seen metal so discolored and blogging friend Linda Grashoff regularly posts such things (well not spoons so much as dumpsters and bacteria slicks) but it didn’t occur to me. It’s quite lovely and should be a treasure. 🙂

  8. I never would have guessed the patterns were on a spoon. Cool!
    The mention of Hubbard and the Arts and Crafts movement reminds me of a historic house near me, Stonehurst, the Robert Treat Paine estate ( The house was designed by H.H. Richardson and the grounds by Fredrick Law Olmsted, and there’s beautiful woodwork from English Arts and Crafts workers.

    • I looked at that website, it looks wonderful, it would be great to examine and admire the woodwork. And great to still have a hundred acres to walk through.
      I’ve walked by the Wilson Soule house, in Rochester, NY, many times (not far from the George Eastman mansion/museum) and always thought that was one of H.H. Richardson’s designs, but it’s just in his style. The massive Richardson-Olmsted Campus in Buffalo (formerly the State Asylum for the Insane!) is now being restored, and converted into apts/hotel I think, but a historic preservation group does tours, and I plan to do that too, once the epidemic is under control.

  9. Pingback: A strata gem for the new year — UpState & Away – – – – (Reblog) – The Elloe Recorder

  10. Darts and Letters says:

    That snowmobile badge is pretty darn cool, I like that one. The spoon is neat. that’s funny about all your dad’s coffee mugs, haha! All of your finds remind me of the mantle of the side table in our dining room where we’ve propped all sorts of artifacts like this from walks in the woods, mountains, beach or the backyard and the way the boys and I have cultivated stories, ideas or theories about the signficance behind each. Half of the stuff is just junk or common minerals, petrified pieces of wood or sea creature limestone. i feel like I’ve turned my kids into total packrats but their engaging curiosity thrills me. It’s part of what makes exploring and walks with them so fun. When you mentioned horseshoes it reminded me we’ve found a handful of buried horseshoes in our yard from the old, olden days.

    Btw, I only spotted this writing of your’s a few days ago. I might only follow a dozen journals in my WP Reader yet it’s surprising sometimes how easily I still miss stuff even though I’m fairly observant. Your travels and time with your folks must have been conducted efficiently and safely as possible and therefore you are now in Milwaukee with your back at the wind? Any forthcoming essays, pictorials and ponderings of monster snow drifts or snow plows in upstate NY? I hope although I know you may be getting busy with some more courses. At any rate, happy new year (though for me the new year is the 20th). As always, good coming over here reading you, figuring some new things out….

    • Yes, every time I walk down a beach, I get home and find I’ve put a couple of pebbles or glass in my pocket. But I live near Lake Michigan, not the ocean, and freshwater-glass isn’t quite the same as seaglass

  11. One of the puzzling things I find is where do all those spoons come from? I had to make space in a wardrobe for my spoons. More and more would turn up. I feel next time at a party I will give guests a spoon before they leave.
    Some are tarnished badly, but the Sunday afternoons that were used to polish the silver in many societies and cultures have not been taken up in this solitary household.

    • That’s a good idea, to hand them out at a party, no one can be allowed to leave without their spoon. I’ve seen people use old silverware to make wind chimes, too.
      I’ve seen videos of a magician from Israel, named Uri Geller, who would appear to bend spoons with his telekinetic powers, maybe he’d like a boxful.

  12. This is great, Robert. Love seeing the treasures you’ve unearthed and the close-up of the spoon is excellent! Brings back memories of finding bits of pottery or old bottles on the beach.

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