Hunting for artifacts in historic Beaufort County helps beat back winter blahs
[ÉTATS-UNIS] Lu sur islandpacket.com
Mitage patrimonial ordinaire en Caroline.
It's hard to believe December is here. I don't usually pay much attention to what day it is, much less what month it is, but unlike the old days when I duck hunted almost every morning before work, these days I have to hunt for things to do ... in the winter.
The ducks aren't around in mass like they used to be, and even though that saddens me, it's probably not all bad since I ain't the spring chicken I used to be. I can just imagine the aches and pains I would experience if I were to attempt to load a boat full of decoys, guns, dogs and then meander through swamps in the pitch black looking for the perfect spot to set up. Chances are it would be the last time anyone saw me. The newspaper headlines from 20 years in the future would be "Missing columnist Collins Doughtie found petrified in pluff mud. Perfectly preserved remains rival that of baby wooly mammoth found in Siberian Ice Pack."
Yep, age seems to change everything. I think about doing a lot of the things I did 30 years ago -- for the most part, I am pretty spry for someone my age, even with a broke back. Friends of mine get on my rear end all the time, telling me I shouldn't do this or I shouldn't do that, but that's just not me. I know my back is held together with bailing wire, but I'll take the pain if it means I can get out there in nature and do the things that make me who I am.
I know that many of you came here from colder climes, and, in your opinion, the cold weather here is nothing. On days when I am layered up looking like a large marshmallow, I see y'all dressed in short sleeves and shorts. It always blows my mind, but I guess it's the price I pay for being a Southern boy. Cold weather bums me out -- especially when we get into periods of flat light and gray days. It might not bother you one bit, but personally, all I want to do is hop in my car and head even father south. The only problem with that is I can't because work and family keeps me chained to the ground right here. So what can I do to fight the winter blahs?
For years I let the winter get me down, but this year I am hell-bent and determined not to let it happen. I'm fairly creative, so that is going to be an ace in the hole. It's pretty darn pitiful that it has taken me all these years to come up with this "ah-ha" moment but hey, better late than never. This past week was the debut of my new approach, and I am proud to say it went pretty darn well.
Remember me mentioning my love for artifact hunting? History has always intrigued me, and around here history is all around us. Tribes of Indians wandered our shorelines for centuries. Then early English settlers came, and later, this was a hotbed of activity during the Civil War. Now, think about all the little things you have lost during your lifetime. Coins fall out of your pocket all the time, rings come off fingers ... the possibilities are endless. It was that thought that got me on the phone to Tucker Bates, the son of local legend Bud Bates, and he and I hooked up to go prospecting near Beaufort. Tucker had bought a deluxe metal detector, so off we went in hopes of finding some little piece of history.
It had been a while since I had done this, but winter is the perfect time for artifact hunting. The weeds have died back, the bugs and snakes are gone. I was some kind of excited.
You really need a good metal detector -- as I soon found out -- because no matter where you are, mankind has not changed much over the centuries when it comes to littering. Luckily, his detector recognized iron from copper and gold from brass, which increases your chances of finding quality objects without having to dig 100 holes.
So how did we do? It might not seem like much, but we did find small lead ingots that soldiers used to melt into musket balls, a brass helmet strap (I think) that probably came from the Civil War era and a hand-made hoe that was at least 100 years old. Tucker scored big when he found brass buttons that date back to the American Revolution.
The best part of all this, for me at least, is to hold one of these artifacts and daydream about the person who owned and lost these objects. The possibilities are truly endless.
It's not the same as watching a flock of mallards with wings cupped coming into your decoys but to me, it is almost as exciting.
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.