Two Times the Fun Memorable Memorial Day


May 25 1998 is a very exciting time in Indianapolis, Indiana with the Indy 500 race, Memorial Day parades, summer time, and reunions. It was a very exciting day for me as well in the field finding relics.

My sister Terri was in town, staying with us, from Three Rivers Michigan, (see my column Brothers of Three Fires in IAM), for the Indy 500 race being ran on May 23rd. Attending the race being a family tradition that brings in many families from outlying states, the Anderson family has for years hosted a family reunion the day after the race, making use of the long holiday weekend. Like the last number of years, the Memorial Day weekend was a wet rainy weekend, and it was lucky to have been dry enough to get the race in. I am never mad to see rain being a relic hunter.

Ax found in Hancock County Indiana 5/25/1998

We were all very tired after attending the race, and for the first time in many years the annual reunion was moved from the Memorial Day weekend to the weekend following the NASCAR Brickyard 400 race also held at the Indianapolis 500 mile racetrack. My sister was planning on visiting my brothers new home so this left my Memorial Day free for my own indulgences.

Deciding quickly to hit the fields, while drinking my first cup of morning coffee after hearing her visitation plan, I knew I would not have a lot of time available. If I drove very far, I would not have much time to hunt the fields. Unfortunate the better fields were a longer drive from my house.

I drove to a location in Hancock County which I have been searching for twenty years. It was a favorite of mine in the mid eighties to take off work on a beautiful spring day and walk the fields. I thought of those times now and remembered the axes I have found in this area. Mentally placing the locations in my mind I calculated where they were found in relationship to each other. I wondered about why I had found a nice trophy three-quarter groove ax, but all other axes where full grooved. I wondered why I had only found one slate celt in the entire location. I had been hunting this area a quite hard in the last year since there are some new relic hunters in the area and I wanted to search it methodically and well. The finds here have been dwindling recently so I followed the creek north a few miles to a site where I had found many points and some slate artifacts.

As I was driving the gravel roads, I noted a small knoll that I had searched intermittently for the last few years but only found a few flakes and even fewer relics. These relics not being whole but only being small parts. Checking out the creek, it was up some from the rain the previous day, but I was hoping the fields would not be excessively muddy.

As I pulled my car up to the field I had planned to search I could see the farmer had not cultivated the prime locations and had only recently planted the far area using the no till method. I thought my best chances at finding anything had fell like yesterdays rains so I turned my car around and started back the way I came.
Ax found in Hancock County Indiana 5/25/1998
Passing the small knoll again, I thought "What the heck, I haven't checked the knoll lately. I don't have all day, and the corn will be knee high with all the rain we have had in another month." As I entered the field I could see that the corn was fairly uniform in height throughout the rise area, only being about five to six inches. I walked over the rows to the beginning of the first rise, which is fairly small in comparison to the knoll.

Even though ground conditions were close to ideal, I did not see many flakes as I scanned the ground. The previous day's hard rain had soaked and flooded many fields but this field was only damp. Making the ground a nice chocolate brown which made the rocks stand out.

Making my way to the main rise where I had found pieces before, I started to casually across the crest of the smaller rise, flipping over larger stones and looking for flint. I noted a semi squared off stone barley exposed and flipped it over. The stone looked flat and flipped over landing on the damp ground with a thwack. I thought it might be a mano or some other type of grinding tool when I started to bend down to pick it up. I thought to myself I could almost see a groove area in the stone. I do see a groove in the stone! I picked up the ax and looked at it.

This was a large ax for this area. A nice patina covers this undamaged ten-lbs. ax. Made of granite, the entire surface has been pecked and exhibits no polish at all. The ax dimensions are 6.5" in length, 2.25" wide across the poll and 4.5" in height. The circumference of the groove is 11". Holding the large ax in my hand, I was amazed at my good fortune. The bit end had been barely exposed, unrecognizable as it lay. I excitedly called my brother Doug and told him of my find. I then placed the ax in my side pouch by found it awkward due to being so heavy. I thought about putting the ax in my car trunk but that would take away time for my searching. Finally I decided to walk back to the car since I was not very far away.

I thought about chapter 17 in the Lar Hothem book Indian Axes & Related Stone Artifacts, which is written by a Mr. Carr in Iowa. Mr. Carr has the distinction of being the top Indian Ax finder in the United States, possibly the world according to Lar Hothem. Thinking that I should look in the vicinity that I found the large ax, but further down on the rise along the cornrows, I proceed to the area.

It only took me one, maybe two minutes to get to the area and I just arrived there when I spied right in front of me sitting in line with the cornrow another ax, this one being a small full grooved ax. This small ax was lying in the smooth earth, half exposed. Half of the poll and body was showing with the bit end completely covered. Sort of lying at a slight angle out actually. The exposed groove and shape of the body was a dead give away of an ax compared to the larger ax found only minutes earlier. Excitedly I squatted down to look more closely at the ax, wishing I had brought my camera. I turned on my cell phone and called my brother Doug. "You are not going to believe what I just found" I told to him when he answered the phone. After a brief flurry of excited words from him I told him that I had just found another ax.

I gently pulled the small ax from the earth, gazing at amazement the perfect imprint left in the dirt. Hold in the small ax I could see that it was virtually undamaged. There was only a very small scratch along one side, and I hesitate to say it may be from a plow strike. There is an ample amount of patina found throughout the entire ax. Made of granite, one side of the bit has a small one-inch by one-inch area of very smooth polish, while the other side exhibits none. The entire bit area does exhibit some polish from use. The ax dimensions are 3.75" in length, 2" wide across the poll and 2.5" in height. The circumference of the groove is 5.75" and the circumference of the poll is 7.25".

Strangely enough it is not all that uncommon for me to find two hard stone relics in a single day. In the past during the same day in the same fields I have found: 1) a large Mississippian celt and full grooved ax, 2) a full grooved ax and a pestle, 3) a pecked unpolished full grooved ax and large slate flaked preform of a gorget, 4) a small full grooved ax and a bell pestle.

The holidays are always more memorable when you find a nice relic during them. Even more so when you find more than one. The Memorial Day of 1998 will long be remembered by me as continuing with what already had been a very good year of finding relics, with keeping with the two times the fun tradition.

Jeff Anderson works as a computer consultant in Indianapolis Indiana working in the computer field since 1983.

References:

Lar Hothem, Indian Axes & Related Stone Artifacts
chapter XXVII


By: Jeff Anderson
Thursday, June 11, 1998
© 1998 Jeff Anderson