Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Prodigal Father and the Artifact

(Part III in a series)

The third miracle occurred April 12, 2003 on the Stones River. Between Goochie Ford and Trimble Rd.

Although not directly related, the first sign that something special was going to happen on this trip came during the shuttle. There was a zebra grazing near Halls Hill Rd. - right there in the middle of a Rutherford County pasture.

On the river, it was only a seven mile float and we were deliberately trying not to hurry. ("The hardest part is to get slowed down." Goodbye to a River, p. 22.) So we stopped at a big, clean gravel bar about half way down with plans to say awhile. Even though it was April, Josh decided to take a swim.

Afterward, sitting on a cooler, air-drying in his boxers, he remarked that this gravel bar looked similar to one he remembered long ago with his father. They had found an arrowhead and Josh considered it a prized childhood possession. But one day, while cleaning up the house, his unnostalgic father threw it away. It remained a sensitive subject all their lives.

As he finished the story, Josh looked down, lost in thought. Then he noticed something sticking out of the ground.

"Fucking-A," he said.

Right between his feet, half buried in sand, was a beautiful flint indian arrowhead. And at that moment, the Prophet Josuha was caught up in a rapture and he began dancing about the gravel bar clad only in his swaddling clothes and continued to exclaim these famous words over and over:

"Fucking-A, Fucking-A, FUCKING-A!!"

And he rushed home to his father and they were reconciled. And they killed the fatted calf and said "It is a miracle!"


Above there the old Painted Campground lies, twenty or so acres of worked-flint chips, potsherds, burn-marked hearthstones . . . There are dozens of places like that along the Brazos, traditional stopping places that, judging from the thickness of the midden in some of them, must have been in use for unknowable centuries before white men came, by tribes in migration or seasonally encamped. If you poke around any of them long enough, you can usually pick up a couple of arrowheads to rattle against each other in your pocket until a nephew or a friend's son begs them away from you - though, by the very principle of middens, most of what you find is fragmentary or faulty.

I've never heard why they called it the Painted Campground. In '72, settlers trailed a raiding band to it, waited till dawn, and were easing in on the their bellies when one of them lost the steel control that tactics require and let out a berserker yell. Fast wakers, the Indians hit the brush, leaving behind them a few artifacts, some stolen horses, and the distinctively long-haired scalp of Chesley Dobbs from down the river, whom no one till then had known to be dead.

Goodbye to a River, pp. 64-65.


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