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Monday, April 2, 2012

Catch & Release.. with Texas collectibles.

Can you read this history?

Sometimes I’m out in the woods with my camera, looking for that award winning Ansel Adams moment, and in the corner of my eye, I catch the shine of… something, deep in the jungle, reflecting back a ray of the sun, and I know, I have to go investigate. Forget photography, it might be time to go BOTTLE DIGGING!

History is not only where you find it, or where it throws itself in your path, but lurking in the deepest, darkest recesses of the wilderness. Almost every deer hunt I ever went on turned into a rock and relic hunt, because after the sun gets high, and you can actually see inside that dense Texas wilderness, all kinds of artifacts begin to emerge. Old beer cans, Indian arrowheads, sometimes an old farm implement. The animals are no longer stirring… it’s time to go get those shovels in the trunk! Sometimes all you have is a tire tool. No matter.

More often than not, whether we bagged any game, we often came home with a new pile of… some would call it junk. We called ourselves bottle diggers and called our finds pieces of history.

For some an unsightly, rusting trash heap, for me a prick to the senses.

Probably the most common “history” we found was the discarded waste of yesterday’s hunts, going back to the early 1900’s, when hunters left behind all kinds of beer, liquor and soda bottles in creek bed dumps, some of the discards very collectible. We proudly came home with those old brown snuff bottles, Purex bottles, and Coke bottles. Almost any gulch in East Texas will harbor such refuse. We would get so excited, gathering up the old glass as if it were treasure, sure we were about to find a motherlode.

It was something to do.

I began to imagine the stories behind the objects. A forest floor spread of long necked bottles and old Falstaff cone-top cans suddenly conjured up the sound of a midnight poker game, or dominoes slapping on a formica camp table, or the smell of gumbo filling my nostrils, or maybe the taste of hot Pearl beer, foolishly sipped out of tossed tin cans when nobody was looking.

And the grown-ups could get a nap. And today I can look at a bottle and tell you when it was made, what it was for, and how much it is worth… more or less. Not a skill in high demand these days, but one that kept me busy and out of trouble many a summer day. And when I am out photographing, sometimes I forget myself, as I see a twinkle in the brush. Here are some shots I took… in my element, the heart of thicket darkness, my knees pressing age- old broken bits of glass, taking in the history, while out photographing the spring flowers.

Found on top of the ground: An old embossed Texas-town Coca Cola "patent number" bottle, which I left for the raccoons to play with. Even bottle diggers practice "catch and release."

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