Just yesterday Elaine Irvin came by just for a moment with a brown paper grocery sack and when I peered in, there were the seeds from the low growing yellow flowers she has along her walk way that I had admired this summer. She like some others of us, find the treasures left behind after the first freeze as treasures for the spring and this sack contained enough to get us ready to be able to share our own come this time next year.
Brown paper sacks used to be a thing we all had, but now they are the tool used for the Pollinator seed collecting done by people from places like the Euchee Butterfly Farm. I keep some in my car to reuse each time I go for groceries or stop at a dollar store along the way. But I have to peek inside first. One time recently I got one out of my car for the groceries and to my surprise, when the grocer attempted to fill it with my purchases… the milkweed seeds tried to float out of the sack and get loose!
Some gifts are just like that, light as a feather or a milkweed seed, others like the next surprise to come through the door this week were I would say some of the heaviest gifts we had ever received. Buckets and a bushel were lugged into the office and immediately ogling began. That is a thing that had to be done with the things my friend Dale’s Uncle George had spent his prime collecting.
In these containers was the proof when I talk about the miners having the first viewing of the underground fairy caverns they would chisel into and lug out the pieces to make the batteries that still start our cars to get us to the grocery store or made, as we know the bullets that won both World Wars. Heavy, yes, but the light made the chunks inside shine and glitter, like gold! But the dominate color was SILVER with lead and zinc brilliance twinkling inviting the common man to reach in and lift it to admire. We could not resist it ourselves. But the mothers, the grandmothers who go home to the babies in their lives must be protected from the tiny bits of dust we might create with our delight to explore the ore within these most appreciated lugged in treasures.
They are the teaching tools we will use when the batches of students and researchers come as they do in waves to the largest abandoned lead and zinc mining site in the lower 48. What is the fuss about this place? What was the work, what did the dads and uncles, the grandfathers we never knew because they died too young to tell these stories fail to be allowed to tell us? These weighted gifts will demonstrate how strong these men got to be, the able ones, tearing the walls of the earth beneath us down and finding the minerals men were paid living wages at the time to pull down and haul out to feed their families and provide the whats to make their children watch for them each day the whistle blew.
Dale Allen’s Uncle George collected these specimens bringing them out in the pockets of his overalls piece by piece. And this is the what Dale hopes we will do with them now. Let each one take one. Not this for that, but this one from Uncle George, to pass along a bit of treasure in what we now may call a teaching stone.
Before this collection leaves, we will invite our “rock” loving friends to come for a viewing of sorts, a naming of what piece of the history of the world might be in each of these treasures hauled out by a man who spent his youth, his productive life bringing them out, only to have their dangerous dust enter not just his pockets, but his lungs, his bloodstream and that dust took his life, injuries to his organs no man is strong enough to endure. These specimens are the poison that took him and the men in our county for the generations the mines brought jobs. But the jobs took their youth and made them old men too soon, and even sooner gone.
This for that. What a teaching tool, my friend Dale has brought for us to use. The minerals that made this county cost us all. Some more than others.
This for that, whether that in the lives of our dead relatives, or the substitutions we use in the kitchen when we don’t have buttermilk and have to add vinegar to milk for a recipe. Or the lives of the Ukrainians on the line waiting for military aid to protect their homeland from an invader while their leader and our leader negotiate over what might be said so their lives might be saved.
Respectfully submitted ~ Rebecca Jim