April 1994

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Iroquois Stories


Thomas D. Cornell

Preface, Essay I, Essay II, Essay III, Essay IV, Essay V, Essay VI, Essay VII

Essay II. The Last Arrowhead Hunt


Over the years my boyhood experiences of finding Indian artifacts took on additional meaning. Although my college studies and graduate work led to a series of moves from one city to another, I was still able to find arrowheads whenever I returned home. Even the development of the area "behind the fence " could not fully break my ties to the land—as I demonstrate in my second essay, entitled "The Last Arrowhead Hunt."

For Christmas 1991 my three brothers, with their wives and children, all came home to our parents' house in Mississippi. That year I too made the trip, driving down from Rochester.

It was still light when I arrived. Hearing sounds from the backyard, I headed there first. On the porch, Don was cracking pecans, and Anna (brother Bill's older daughter) was helping him. Ten years before, she had been born in the new hospital, which I could see through the leafless trees. Also in back, Brian (Don's middle son) was shooting arrows at a target that brother John had set up for him.

From the porch I went inside to greet the others. Soon, however, it was time to leave for the Christmas Eve service at Trinity Presbyterian Church. The drive didn't take long, for Trinity Presbyterian Church was located on the hospital road. Even so, we cut it close, arriving just as the congregation was preparing to sing the first hymn.

While I was growing up, my family had attended First Presbyterian Church in town. But while I was away at college, Trinity had formed—drawing many of its members from the older church.

Once the Christmas Eve service was over, some of these familiar faces from my high-school years came over to say hello. Unfortunately, there hadn't been enough time after the long drive south for me to reestablish my inner equilibrium—so when a part of me responded as if it were still the late 1960s, the rest of me panicked: out I went to the parking lot at the first possible moment.

In the cool darkness, I was able to breathe more freely. The surrounding woods weren't familiar, for the church property lay west of my old walking terrain. But above the treetops stood the North Star, just where it had been those times I had camped with the scouts "behind the fence."

Back home, I shared Bill's old room with Don's boys. Steven (the oldest) and Brian got the sofa-bed, and Justin slept on the cushions (which we arranged end-to-end on the floor). Meanwhile, I settled comfortably into one of the Ranch Oak beds that my brothers and I had each used when we were growing up.

The next morning—Christmas morning—Steven, Brian, and Justin were awake by 6. But knowing that they were supposed to stay in bed until 7, they talked quietly enough for me to go back to sleep. At the agreed-upon hour, they joined Bill's kids for the rush to see the gifts that Santa had left them and to examine the contents of their stockings. Next—according to family tradition—came breakfast. Then we spent the rest of the morning unwrapping presents.

By the time we had finished in the living room, serious preparations for Christmas dinner were underway in the kitchen. But I knew the meal wouldn't be ready for another hour or more. Besides, it was a beautiful day—clear and sunny (in contrast to the wet, overcast days of too many Christmases past)—so I suggested an outing.

While coming into town on Highway 82 the previous afternoon, I had noticed that the field near Sand Creek seemed reasonably dry. Years ago, one of the senior scouts had taken me and Don there to hunt for arrowheads. Since we could no longer find them "behind the fence," I suggested trying the Sand Creek field.

It took a while to sort out who was going, to get the kids to make bathroom stops, and to locate a supply of small paper bags—just in case we were successful. We took two cars, and after a ten-minute drive we turned onto the gravel road that ran along the edge of the field.

Very quickly, I found a piece of an arrowhead. That in turn got the kids to searching in earnest.

Unfortunately, half an hour went by and nobody found anything further. I was still at it, and over toward the creek so too was Don. But the others had mostly lost interest.

At that point, Don's youngest son, Justin—who had been with Don—came up to me with something in his hand. One glance and I was yelling to the others: "Look what Justin has found!"

It was a beauty, the largest arrowhead we had ever come across.

Don had also found several arrowhead fragments— and after a quick look around, I too found one. That clinched it. "Ten more minutes is very likely to bring success," I told the kids. Sure enough, Steven and Anna each found an arrowhead fragment—and I gave Brian the one I had found earlier.

Back home, we washed our artifacts and then put them on a small tray. After sitting down to Christmas dinner, I sent the tray around the table for all to examine. "One of these days we'll no longer be able to do this," I said. "There aren't places behind the fence to look for arrowheads any more. But at least there's still the Sand Creek field."

© 1994, Thomas D. Cornell
Preface, Essay I, Essay II, Essay III, Essay IV, Essay V, Essay VI, Essay VII
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