SECRETS FROM THE DIRT

Being out there in the garden wasn’t where I really wanted to be. After all, I’d already put in a few hours in the cow barn. It was hot. Dead summer. The cucumber patch didn’t impel my interest. This was just more of the same. In a word… work.

My flailing hoe kicked up a little stone; nothing unusual about that. My double-take, however, may have been similar to something in a Red Skelton skit. What was on that common-looking stone? I knelt to pick it up.

To my nine year old wonderment, one side of the stone was fossilized with several imprints of
tiny seashells. Holding the stone in my hand, I tentatively looked around me, as if to conceive of the next breaking wave! Wait a minute, I sought to reason. This is our garden; a long drive to the nearest ocean. How did this happen?

It slowly dawned on me. In my hand was a connection to another place in time, kicked up by one of the many swipes of my hoe. Perhaps the last time that this stone was “unearthed” was when it was actually formed, an impressionable piece of igneous matter formed by untold volcanic action.

That sounds a bit fantastic, but how else did this happen? And, now many millions of years ago? This farm had obviously been under water. Those seashells had to have an explanation… somehow. There I stood, this momentarily befuddled farm kid attempting to conceive the nearly inconceivable, a connection with when the earth was forming… right there in the palm of my hand.

Who knew what humbling evidence lay beneath the surface, in the very dirt of the Garden State, that dirt that sprouted the veggies that filled our freezer to the brink.

On another matter….

Where the hell is Hoover’s Gap, one might expectedly ask? Oh, believe me, there’s things in the dirt there, too. They tell a story of a different sort, from a much later point in time.

For a while, we owned a farm in middle Tennessee. A stone’s throw from this farm is a tiny Confederate cemetery where are interred the remains of maybe 20 or 30 soldiers. Each of their gravestones reads only three words… “UNKNOWN CONFEDERATE SOLDIER”.

These were the soldiers, at least the Confederate soldiers, who fell at the Battle of Hoover’s Gap. Where are the Union boys who also fell there? They are lost to the vestiges of time, I suppose.

We sat on the porch there at the farm one hot summer day when a gentleman drove up the driveway. He politely introduced himself and explained his unusual hobby. With his metal detector, he occasionally scoured these parts with intent to unearth Civil War artifacts. He asked permission to do so on our fields.

I watched as he began waving his metal detector. He was soon digging in various spots around the farm. In an hour or so he came back up to the porch. In both hands he carried numerous Union minies and Confederate round balls, surely artifacts from the Hoover’s Gap action that had apparently spread over the hill and onto the farm in 1864.

Unbeknownst to me, we owned a civil war battlefield. From there on the porch, one couldn’t have found a more tranquil, a more serene location in the Bedford County countryside. The beauty of the place belied its past. I

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