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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Texas Treasure Hunting!

OK, so it's not gold or diamonds. But antique hunting, (I am not talking about shopping) especially bottle digging and other such endeavors have been some of my most favorite pastimes. The idea that I could acquire something, absolutely free, that some people were actively looking for, and would give me money for it if I found it, was planted in me very young. When we used to go deer hunting in far central Texas, we would hunt for geodes in the afternoons between hunts. We never found a good one, but that was just the start.

When we decided to move to Plantersville, we purchased an old parsonage in the Heights in Houston and were preparing it for relocation when I discovered my first real good find. Underneath the old house somebody, perhaps the parson, had rolled and an old whiskey jug about ten feet from the back door step. As I was loosening the plumbing, something was in my way, a muddy mass of something .. looked like a stoneware or glass jug but it was hard to tell in the dark...

Soon I heard the whoops of my father and brother as they reported that I had slung them a one gallon Henke & Pillot jug, in excellent condition. Henke and Pillot later became Henke & Kroger... Of course we argued about who found it... I had just found a lump of mud. My brother washed it and found the old whiskey/wine jug within. Needless to say, I have the jug today. Texas advertising jugs are a very big deal. For the record I have sold some just like it for $250-$300 wholesale and I know they have sold for much more.

We soon learned to examine grown-over dumpgrounds, old wells and cisterns, outhouse holes (if they were old enough) and rotted, abandoned out-buildings. Attics often produce cool things, if the heat hasn't destroyed them. Often, the nearest depression in the ground near an old homestead is a dump, where old bottles and metals survived.

Brad Seigler has sent me this photo of a very early Texas pitcher he dug up in an old dump near Rusk, Texas. He collects old medicine bottles. Thank goodness he did not just chunk the old clunky clay vessel, as it may be one of the earliest I have ever seen. My guess it is an early Leopard or Cogburn, but it could be an experiment... and not even a potter we know about. He has been offered quite a bit for it, probably because it was dug up, and very near a known early pottery producing area.

When we moved to Grimes County, it was not long until I knew where the good digs were... or had been. Great finds had been found behind downtown Navasota, where the old Cedar Creek had been filled in during the Depression era. There had been a fantastic deposit in a lot adjacent to the old Horlock Bottling Works. Hundreds of collectible bottles had been found there during City construction projects, as the City owned that lot and used it for various water treatment processes. They were always digging up another stash of old bottles. And it seemed everybody used to be a bottle collector. Many of the old guys in Navasota had great collections, and would show them off from time to time. Still, there are many bottles we know existed that we have no complete specimans of.

Some of my buddies used to walk the creeks looking for old dumps. And sometimes we would actually just wade in the creek and sometimes kick up an old bottle that had worked free from some ancient dump along some old backwater. Just the other day, one of my bottle digging buds found a Horlock "slug" bottle, Coca Cola logo in script embossed on the back side, in great condition. They used to bring around $100.00. The guy with him had just said he was looking for one... and what he supposed they were worth. Then my friend pulled it out of the creek. "How much do you want for it?" The guy asked.

Having just established a price, you can imagine what my bottle-noodling buddy said!

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