Another Find

Well sure, while it certainly isn’t another friggin’ German army helmet, the backyard did surrender yet another intact artifact while I was out there doing a little clean-up this morning: another semi-unique vessel. To my unschooled eye it resembles one of those mini wine bottles, and there’s a seam so its nothing as archaic as some of the other glassware I’ve uncovered (sorry for the crap image… my cheapo digicam won’t focus on anything less than 40 feet away).


It measures 41 picas tall (just shy of seven inches) and holds 5.5 ounces of fluid when filled up to the tippy top of the mouth. On the bottom it is the now familiar Anchor-Hocking logo in the center. Above it reads 8903-2; to the left of the logo is a 6, to the right is a 54 and below the logo is a 41. It was packed full of dirt so it had been there a bit. But now she’s cleaned up and will take her rightful place in the Backyarchaelogy Gallery above my desk.

Manual Labor

So I decided to add a brick patio bordered in river rock to the end of that brick-and-river-rock Path To Nowhere I built for the hell of it a couple days ago. I began around noon, and finished around 6 p.m. It involved bagging up what must easily be 500 pounds of cleared greenery, hauling upwards of 300 bricks and another 60 or so river rocks, and then figuring out how to put it all together so it only looked like a quarter-assed job, at worst.

Here’s the before during and after shots:




What that doesn’t show you is how much time went into me rubbing most of the bricks together to get rid of thick old mortar. What that also doesn’t show you is that several times I had to pull up the bricks because since it wasn’t a matter of geometry and architecture and instead it was just a matter of setting them down on the bare ground and crossing my fingers, they didn’t necessarily want to cooperate.

I didn’t blame the bricks. They’ve been stuck in a pile under a loquat tree for close to seven years. The ones that ended up being used were just damn happy to get some fresh air and sunshine and have a purpose again after all that time. “We’re a dang patio!” they yelled in unison. That’s right bricks. I couldn’t have done it without ya. I was just glad to put them to use as much as I was glad to finish the job.

But speaking of finishing, let me tell you… when I have to do extended physical stuff I’m fine as long as I keep moving and doing. But I’m about 45 minutes done and everything is freaking balking. My back, my neck, my arms, my legs, my ass. Even my fingernails hurt. What the hell’s up with that? Oh well, nothing four ibuprofen and a hot shower can’t reduce a more manageable level.

Finding My Way

I won’t torture the analogy too much, but these last few months I’ve been wandering a pretty unscouted path. When I get a little lost — or at least more lost than usually — I can still take pride in the fact that I don’t take refuge either in a bottle or under the bed.

To many it may be more than a bit frivolous. There are any number of better more productive things to do with the heart of the day than wasting it with a rake and my strength and a vague idea of laying a bit of perhaps unnecessary and structurally unsound walkway between two short points in the backyard. But I did it anyway. I did it because the physical labor brings about something of meditative state. I did it because it was gorgeous outside. I did it because looking for the thousandth time at the heavily marked first draft of my Rwanda piece that I got back several weeks ago from the editor who was interested in it, makes me get mad and get sad and get up and walk away from the computer with expletives trailing in my wake and the dog and cats scurrying to get the hell outta my way

I could go get drunk. I could go see about that job at the neighborhood video store looking to hire “smiley faces,” but then I have no smile so I’m ass out for that, too, thanks to the residual nerve damage to my face from my motorcycle accident 12 years ago this July that leaves it easier for me to benchpress 300 pounds rather than raise my upper lip an inch or so off my top teeth in anything resembling what used to be a smile that was easy as it was nice.

Or I could go climb under the covers. No, I go outside and I get to work.

I heave and I ho and I lug and I scrape and I dig and I haul and I tote and I lift and some three hours later I ached but goddam it if there wasn’t something of which I’m pleased. Something that I did. That I conceived and started and finished — all 16 feet of its quaint little bend with its 100 used bricks that had to have the old mortar ground off, and its 80 river rocks:


Did it get me where I needed to go or need to be? Nah, but it didn’t send me in any wrong direction, neither.

And if that weren’t enough, there’s a bonus. My exertions yielded the latest in my growing collection of backyarchaelogoical items, and by far the strangest and most incongruous of them all. It’s one thing to unearth 50-year-old whiskey bottles and hotels spoons. It’s a far different thing to come up with a freakin’ World War II-era German infantryman’s helmet:


I kid you not. I found it full of dirt after moving some pieces of old foundation that were underneath the pile of river rocks. In the back-dang-yard! At first I thought it was just a bucket of some sort, but once I had it clear I knew immediately what it was. Unfortunately the extremely rusted-out top gave way only moments after I’d extricated it, but the tell-tale brim and flared rim are still intact.

Anyway, I wrote a bit more about it on and there’s another picture there if you wanna check it out.