This is a story about a wonderful crazy on going bottle digging adventure.
"A privy diggers dream"
By Rick Weiner
I have often said ?anything for a privy", but I never thought I would be travelin 3,O17 miles to visit a town called Iron Pond to dig out old outhouses from the past. I hadn?t done a lot of research on Iron Pond, but I did know that the town was named after Aaron R. Pond, a prominent businessman, who owned a glass works operation and a mill just on the outskirts of town. The village of Iron Pond was not really the age we preferred for digging old privies. It was founded in the late 1880s, a good year for bottles, but it was established a tad too late to produce the kind of old bottles that we collect. But you never know what could pop out of any given privy so we do what any knowledgeable privy digger would do ,we dig them all.
A good friend of mine, Nibs Goundie, invited my buddy Paul and I up to dig the privies on a vacant lot where a row of old runs down homes once stood. We were both on a three week vacation leave from work so we figured a few weeks at the most would be enough for this outing. Any time away from work is a good time, especially when you?re digging for old bottles. Like my good friend Charlie Cook, the 76 year old privy digger, always says:? First it's a social event; the bottles are just an extra."
So with Charlie?s wise quote firmly planted in our minds, the plans for taking the trip to Iron Pond were set in motion! To be honest, I wasn't overly excited about driving this far, because chances were, the age of these privies would probably be in the 1890's-1900's range. Don?t get me wrong; I would never pass up a 1890s privy here at home, but this trip for me was basically to go and visit my good friend Nibs and his wife Cathy-Cani. That is what I was excited about the most; I hadn't seen them in years and it would make a nice vacation/reunion. Paul on the other hand just wanted to dig bottles!!
I grew up in the same neighborhood with Nibs. We had a lot of good bottle digging adventures together as kids. The town we lived in was called Mason. It was located on the outskirts of Holloway PA. That is where this love of old glass and my bottle digging addiction all started.
Nibs?s father Hudnut was a bottle digger from the old school. I guess you could say bottle digging was in Nibs?s blood from birth, and it continues to flow through him today. I have heard stories that Nibs was weaned on a 19th century glass ?baby nurser bottle?. I do not doubt it for one minute. Nibs is the president of three bottle clubs. He's an active privy and dump digger and a collector of rare and hard to find flasks. He is also a hard core metal detector and a gold prospector. Sometimes he dabbles in Indian artifacts. He does it all.
Mr Goundie passed away many years ago and left Nibs with some very rare and unique bottles. He also left him with the bottle bug. That bug is continuing to bite him to this day. I am sure glad he still has the addiction because it is very lonely when you have the bottle digging sickness and you cannot share your excitement with another fellow bottle digger.
Now it was time to get our butts into gear, pack up and start to travel. I am a "list maker". I have to make sure all the digging tools and equipment are on the list so we don't forget anything: pulleys, ropes, shovels, tarps, barrels etc. We need it all. Oh, and let's not forget the camera! I would be lost without that. If I did not record our digs, then it wouldn't be as meaningful to me. I need to save all records and preserve our great hobby for future diggers, and also for me to look back on all the good times we had digging up the past. After all, I am getting older and one day my digging spark will fizzle out, but my love for old bottles will never die.
It was time to roll! Paul's black Ford monster truck was packed up and we were ready as we would ever be for that long drive to Montana. On the ride up, I suggested that we look for places to stop and possibly do some digging, maybe at a town dump or a roadside spot. It was such a long ride and we would need a little exercise anyway. I always have an excuse to dig.
After a few hours on the road I had to take an ?outhouse break?; this was as good a time as any to stop. We came upon this cool little town called Kohlville. We didn't know a thing about this town, but the ?Founded 1825? sign in front of the post office was all we needed to know to spark our vivid imaginations. We were always on the lookout for old homes; it was just force of habit.
Paul had an idea, ?Let?s knock on the door to one of these old houses just for kicks.? I had no problem with that, but I warned him, ?If we get a yes and we find the privy, we might have to spend the night somewhere?. It was getting kind of late in the day and I figured what were the chances we get a yes on the first knock anyway. We both walked up to the door; one knock, two knocks, and one doorbell ring: there was no answer. Just as we turned to walk away, the door slowly creaked open and there stood a very old frail looking woman who looked to be in her 90's, with bright white hair and a slight mustache to match. Just then a bad thought entered my mind: 98% of the time older people just say no and shut the door in our faces. But this woman had a look in her eyes like she was interested in what we had to say. After we showed her some pictures of our finds and told her about the digging stories I wrote for AB&GC and other magazines. She knew we were serious about our hobby, so she let us come inside. She began to tell us some history about Kohlville and how she was a bottle digger herself many years ago. We weren't really sure she was telling us the truth, so we just smiled a lot, and said, ?Oh really?? She was a very feisty woman and she looked like she was in pretty good shape for her age. After talking for a half an hour or so about our bottle digging adventures, I nudged Paul: ?We could use another digging partner, ?What do you think?? He gave me that yeah whatever look. The woman looked at us and in a serious voice said, ?I could help you boys? what could we say,it was her house.Now all we had to do was find the privy, and we might be digging with a 94 year old woman. It doesn't get any stranger than this, or could it?
We thanked Miss Jacobs Odell and proceeded to her back yard. The yard was very long and narrow, just how we like them. There was only one problem; we did not see any depressions where a privy might be. The house was built in 1850 so there had to be at least three privies in this yard. Sometimes the holes were filled in by different owners over the years. If they kept up with it, there usually were no sinking spots. That is a bad thing for the privy digger; it only means we have to look harder to locate a privy. But despite our extensive probing experience, we could not find one single privy on her property. I suggested we get back on the road and make our way to Nibbs?s house. Paul agreed. The pits in this yard must have been covered over with more new soil than we knew. We didn't have a whole lot of time so we had to keep things moving. As we started to walk out of the yard, Miss Jacobs came out of her side door and yelled, "Boys! Watch out for my rotting back porch! I wouldn't want you to fall through?. Just then a light went on in my head.
We walked over to the porch and noticed a big hole off to the left side. It seemed she hadn't used the porch in a very long time. Paul looked in the hole and said, ?I know where one of the privies is.? This outhouse hole must have been dug very close to the main house. Maybe a handicapped person lived here in the 19th century or maybe they were just lazy and did not want to walk too far; whatever the reason, it worked out in our favor!
With one stab of the probe to verify it, we were ready for action. We made a deal with Miss J. If she let us dig the privy, we would remove all of the bad wood from the deck of the porch and put it out front for the trash man. She agreed. Mrs. Jacobs was happy to get that old porch torn out and taken away, but she was also excited about what we might find in the ground at the house she had lived in most of her life.
It looked like we are spending the night in Kohlville, maybe two nights. Who knew at this point? ?I sure am glad we have two weeks off of work?. Paul just shook his head and gave me the thumbs up. It was getting dark, so we were off to look for a hotel to spend the night. We hopped into the truck, and were just about ready to drive off, when Miss Jacobs came to her front gate and hollered, "If you fellows don't mind a few mice, you are more than welcome to spend the night in the bungalow above the garage!? We didn't think twice, ?Yes that sounds great! I love mice, anything for a privy!" Miss J was really starting to grow on us. She knew about the love of old glass just like we did. There aren?t too many situations where an old lady in her 90s would let strangers stay over night. But we bottle diggers stick together.
We thanked Miss Jacobs and got settled in the bungalow. It wasn't all that bad, I did see a mouse as soon as I turned on the light, but so what? We were digging a privy tomorrow! That is all that matters. I think I would have slept there if she said rats lived under the beds. The night went by quickly. We were tired from getting up at 4:00 AM and driving, so falling asleep in a strange place wasn't too hard. The next morning, I saw mouse droppings on my blankets; the rodent pellets were highlighted by a ray of sunshine that was shining through a hole in the wood shingled roof. Thank God they weren't calling for rain! I am sure that roof leaked like a sieve.
I quickly jumped up and got dressed. When I called for Paul he was nowhere to be seen. I looked around, but it was such a small room you couldn't hide a mouse in it. I staggered over to the door leading down to the yard, I looked out, and saw Paul taking some of the rotted boards off of the porch and stacking them neatly near the white washed stockade fence. He was almost finished! I yelled out, "I would have helped you man!" His reply was,? I wanted to start this pit sometime today.? He was just saying in a nice kind of way that I was a lazy bum. I was just tired from the journey. I tried to look busy and took the boards to the front of the house for trash pick up. Miss J stopped me on the way back to the yard and asked me if I wanted some coffee. I said,? How did you know I was just thinking of Java?" She smiled and handed me an old looking blue and white metal coffee pot and two cups to match. Paul guzzled down a full cup of the black brew. I took a few big slugs and the cup was empty, I was ready to dig.
Everything was in order now. It was time to take a shovel full of dirt from the sunken hole under the porch. I asked Paul if he wanted to make any bets. He guessed it will be the newer privy 1890s. I hoped he was wrong. We took turns digging and checking for any signs of old life, hopefully in the form of a bottle, or at least a good shard so we could age the privy. While I was looking through the fill on the tarp, I came across an old blob top. Not a whole bottle, just the blob top. The hole was only two and a half feet deep at the time, so our thoughts were that the blob top was tossed in when they filled the privy in. At the blink of an eye, whole iron pontils were popping out at only two feet into the dig! I ran to the house to get Miss Jacobs, and tell her what we were finding. By the time we got back to the hole, Paul had seven colored sodas and an OP medicine sitting on a board from the dismantling of the porch. Don?t forget: Miss J is 94 so it took us a while to get her back to the dig. That gave Paul time to pull out all those bottles. But it didn't stop there. It seemed that this "privy" was used as a bottle dump right before it was filled in. There wasn't much of anything else in sight, just shards of glass and old bottles, most of them were whole with only a few broken ones. There were bottle?s on top of bottle?s, mixed in with a small amount of fill and ash..
When we told Miss Jacobs that this probably was the oldest privy in her yard, she was as excited as we were by the look on her face. ?I hope that I am still that excited over old bottles when I reach your age,? I said,? hell I will be excited if I just make it to your age!" She chuckled as she reached down and picked up a beautiful colored soda. Then she said, "Just think, this piece of glass was tossed here before I was born." Miss J had a cool sense of humor.
As the dig continued, more and more bottles were popping out. Miss J was sitting in a cane back rocking chair next to the porch as she watched us dig. She helped here and there by dusting the dirt off a bottle and telling us what it was. A strange thing happened when the next bottle popped out. I handed it over to Miss J and she let out a light yell.? It?s from my town!" she said. The bottle was a green G A Kohl. It turned out there was no connection to "Kohlville" because the GA Kohl came from Easton Pa. a bottle that was a long way from home. Who knows what a little research will uncover. History is cool, but now it was time to dig for more bottles!
I am glad we made the choice to stop in this town, because this had to be one of the best times I had digging a privy in a while. Things like this do not happen to a bottle digger every day. When we hit bottom in the privy, we had twenty-four bottles of color sitting on that board; the colors of the bottle digger?s rainbow, amber, green, blue, yellow, puce and teal. Mostly unembossed sodas, but all iron pontils. It was a strange pit, in a strange situation. But we wouldn't have changed a thing. It was time to start thinking about packing up and saying goodbye to Miss J. We were really going to miss her, and the sad part is we would never see her again. But I was sure she would be with us in spirit when we are digging for glass treasure at home in the future.
After the long goodbye with Miss J, we got our digging tools and equipment together and packed it all back on the truck. Before we left, we gave Miss J a few of the colored sodas and the GA Kohl to remember us by and went on our way.
I kept Nibs informed on our location from the start. It was once again time to call and tell him we were on our way. We were still a good distance away, which meant another outhouse break would be on the agenda at some point. I wondered where this one would take us. We would have to try our best to keep our thoughts free of old houses and 19th century crappers. After all, I did plan this trip to visit my friend and dig up an 1890's lot. But after that last yard full of iron pontiled colored sodas, it was very hard not to think about what kind of old glass is under the ground in all of the old towns we would see on this journey to Maine.
After a few more hours on the road my thoughts were drifting more towards food than bottles. I started to scan the highway signs for an eatery. Ten minutes later we were sitting at a Denny?s restaurant. It was the only food stop for miles. Paul said, ?I think I am going to get a ?GRAND SLAM?.? Not a bad idea, but I really hoped we would hit a grand slam with the privies instead of their signature meal. As we walked in the door, the smell of good food hit us in the face like a ton of bricks. The bottle talk was on hold for a while, at least until I chewed my burger and washed it down with a Vanilla coke.
Our plates were almost empty when I remarked to Paul, ?Those colored sodas were nuts, weren?t they?? After that comment, we were reliving that whole crazy dig over again. While we were talking about the adventure, someone behind us who must have been eavesdropping chimed in and said, "Old bottles huh?" Right away I thought ?Uh oh, someone who knows everything about old bottles.? The majority of the time when people get in on a bottle digging topic of ours, they "think" they know where the ?best? old dumps are and everything else there is to know about old bottles. But this guy had a good vibe about him. So we listened to what he had to say. He introduced himself as Dr Jay Moore. He began to tell us about three old properties he owned a mile from where we were. He knew nothing about privy digging, but he was listening to our conversation long enough to know he might have a few privies in the back yards of his three rented out homes. All three homes were built in 1860. I looked at Paul and sent him a telepathic message, (((Here we go again))). We told the guy our story about driving up to my buddy's house and getting side tracked with Miss J?s privies. He replied, "Well, if you want to take a look at my properties you?re welcome to it?. Paul replied,? What the heck, one look won?t hurt.? With a condescending look on my face I said, ?Are there any hotels close by?? He got the hidden message right away.
We had lost track of time, it was nearly 5:30 am and we were still a long way from Nibbs?s house. But we couldn't help ourselves. We had to see these yards in person. Mr. Moore was just about ready to leave, when we quickly walked up behind him at the register and said, ?Could we follow you down?? His reply was, ?Yes but don?t lose me, you will never find your way out of the maze of back streets and alleys.? He lived in a small town called Tippecanoe Point with a lot of small narrow streets and row homes that were almost on top of each other. The first thing I thought about was a bunch of un touched loaded outhouse pits. Loaded with bottles amazing bottles.
Back in the 19th century, there was nowhere to go with the trash when the houses were packed together like most row homes are. In a farmhouse situation they had plenty of woods and fields to dump their trash. In small towns and cities they had the privies.
We finally arrived at Mr. Moore?s first property. The place was really run down and looked almost abandoned. As we started to walk around the back yard, a large grizzly looking black man literally jumped out of the back door and said, ?Do you want to git shot?" I froze in my tracks; Mr. Moore was standing by his car on his cell phone, he did not see what was going on. I had to let out a yell,? Mr. Moore! Come here!!? I didn't feel like getting shot that day, all I wanted to do was dig a privy. When he came over he explained to the trigger happy tenant what we were there for. The guy really didn't understand why someone would want to dig up a crappy outhouse hole. It seemed like he didn?t want us in his yard period, but the landlord rules in this case. That is why they call them Land- Lords, I guess.
The yard had a lot of junk and trash lying around. It also had a large chicken coop off to one side. There was no grass to worry about but that coop gave us a scare. We prayed the pit wasn't under it. Our eyes did the probing at first. Unlike Miss J?s yard, this place looked like Swiss cheese. It had sunken holes all over the place. With a few stabs of the magic privy finder our probing was done; there were two privies right next to each other along the property line. The only problem was that damn chicken coop. A privy was located right next to it! By the way it looked, we would have to tunnel under it to get the whole pit dug out. But things like this have never stopped us before. One time we built a mini mine shaft out of wood, and went from the first property we dug to the one in the next yard where an old hag lived. She had given us a big ?NO! GET OFF OF MY LAND!? I heard she ate privy diggers for dinner. But that is a whole other story.
The first line of business was to take a sample out of each of the holes to make sure they were privies. Once that was determined, it was time to try and dig these pits in a reasonable amount time because we still had a lot of miles to cover. I was living on caffeine, plenty of Venom, Red Bull and some black mud coffee to wash it down. I felt this was the best vacation I had ever had. I told Paul not to tell my wife that, she would never let me do it again.
We decided to tackle the outhouse hole by the coop. Our first guess was correct, the pit was 80% underneath the chicken condo. We didn't bother to tell Mr. Moore about this technicality . We had no time for that; we just ripped into it and we didn't like what we saw! After we dug down around three feet, Paul saw what he thought was a blue plastic detergent bottle. I said ?Oh man, someone must have dug this one?! In the next few seconds something crazy happened, Paul held up a bottle and I almost pissed my pants! It was a cobalt blue U.S.A Hospital bottle! We were only three feet into the pit. It looked like we had a good civil war era pit on our hands.
A few more bottles popped out of the small hole. When Mr. Moore came to the back fence in the alley he asked,? You guys gettin anything?" We showed him the H.O.S. bottle and he couldn't believe it. The next thing that came out of his mouth was what 98% of the non bottle diggers say when they see a bottle we dug: "What?s it worth?" Since we liked this guy and he had given us permission, I didn't lie to him, I told him the true value. He almost choked on his cigar.
As I was talking with Mr. Moore, Paul held up a flask he just uncovered; we both walked over to see what it was. It was an un embossed puce quart flask that was whittled to death! When the hot blown glass hits the chilly air it gives the bottle a hammered/whittled effect, sort of like hammered metal. I love when I find bottles like this, everyone is unique.
It was my turn to shovel out some 19th century dirt. As soon as I jumped in the pit I heard a pop, like breaking glass, and that is actually what it was! When I bent down to see what I had smashed, I said to Paul, ?Man I need to lose some weight!? I bent down and picked up a large shard from the layer. It was a six log St Drake?s bitters. To make it more painful, the bottle was light yellow! When these things happen all you can do is move on, but first I needed to slap myself with an old shoe I found in the pit.
As we dug deeper we were pulling out some pretty good bottles, a few green slug plate iron pontled sodas, lots of embossed medicines most of which we never heard of since we were in a town far from home. One was embossed ?Who Ville Center." I wonder if the Grinch used this stuff ? Here are a few of the other names on the bottles: Beaver run, Schnapps Ville, McCracken Pharmacy. We also got a number of stone master inks and colored cone inks. The pontiled sodas had to be late throws or maybe they were missed by the night men - the "privy cleaners of the past?.
At the very bottom of the privy, I saw something that looked familiar. I thought to myself, ?NO WAY!? But as I slowly pulled it from its resting place my eyes lit up like two prison spot lights! It was another blue U.S.A Hospital Bottle! I have one word for this whole day.? Insane!" We admired the bottle for a while, held it and shined it up, then I came up with an idea. ?Let?s give this one to Mr. Moore." Paul agreed. Good karma is a gift to the privy digger. You never know what will come your way from good deeds done. We are living proof of that.
There were other privies to do in this yard, but we both decided it would be best if we hit the road and starting making our way to my friend?s house. We thanked Mr. Moore and made plans to come back and do the other pits at a later date. As we walked to the truck I chimed out,? Grand Slam!" Maybe we should eat at Denny?s more often.
This road trip was becoming a little far out. It wasn't going exactly as I planned, but I wasn?t complaining, I was just feeling a little guilty because I was supposed to be going to visit Nibs, not digging bottles along the way. Then I thought what would Nibs do? No question about it. He would be digging bottles! That thought eased my mind a lot because I had a feeling another digging opportunity might happen again.
After a few more hours on the road we felt like we were making some time now. I was losing track of time on this trip. The landscape along the way was beautiful. It was early fall and the leaves were just turning bright reds, golds and yellows. It was a good time of the year to dig for bottles, and take a road trip. We were far from any town at this point and Paul needed to use the outhouse this time. I decided to pull over and stretch my legs and take a walk in the woods below the guard rail. I told Paul, ?It?s all yours, the biggest outhouse in the world," referring to the woods. Paul yelled back in a joking voice, "There are no outhouses around here, Thank God!"
I wandered off a little and came upon a rusted tractor half buried in the ground. It looked pretty old. It had those metal wheels with the nubs on them for traction. There must have been an old farm near by. I checked out the area like an Indian scout on a mission but I didn't see anything else interesting. As I was making my way back to the truck I heard the horn honk. Paul was getting anxious and wanted to get to our destination. Just then I spotted a blue piece of glass, then the bottom half of an 1858 Mason jar, rusted metal, and a broken lamp top. IT?S AN OLD FARM DUMP! My first thought was should I say anything about it? We needed to make up for lost time on the road.I guess I had to break the news to Paul and see what he thought.
We would probably have another ?short? lay over. But it wouldn't be an overnighter because we had nowhere to sleep. I yelled for Paul to come down the hillside and check out what I found. I guess he didn't hear me too well with all the big trucks going by on the highway. When he finally got out and worked his way down the hill, he saw all the glass around me and said, "Oh no! We are never going to get there!" But we couldn't just leave that old dump without digging just a little, it would be going against our nature.
I ran back up to the truck to get a few digging tools. When I got back Paul was holding a busted top off an amber demi. I never found a whole demijohn in my life. They are too big; therefore they have a better chance of being broken. I started to dig dead center on the mound. I thought it might be the core of the dump. There were not too many signs telling us the age of this backwoods mystery hill, but the old glass shards made us investigate further. With every scrap of the dig tool, signs of the past were brought to the surface. Paul was tugging on the neck of a bottle. It was aqua in color. He dug around it like a mother trying to get a splinter out of a child's arm. Very carefully! When the bottle popped out, I screamed as if the splinter was in my arm! "It?s a pontil! It was a un embossed food jar but so what, it was a open pontil. What did that mean? Not a thing, it could have been a late throw. Just then I taped some glass with my tool, it felt whole. When you dig bottles long enough you get that extra sense of glass perception and almost know the bottle is in one piece even before you get it out of the ground. This one was whole! And it was a iron pontiled medicine to boot! Paul just about fell over the bank that led down to a creek; he was in shock and so was I. Had we stumbled upon an untouched pontil era dump? The deeper we dug the more we believed this was a pre civil war dump. There were no signs of new glass whatsoever, this was a dream come true. But we knew this dream would end and we would have to leave this dump because we would never finish digging it in the short time we had. It was getting dark but it was so hard to leave this gold mine, so we decided to rough it for one night and sleep in the truck if we had to; but we were so pumped up that there was no way we were going to sleep anytime soon, so I decided to go to the truck and dig rustle up some flashlights from our bags of supplies.
With the little light we had it was still enough to see the crazy bottles popping out of this dump, embossed iron pontiled sodas and whiskeys we never heard of, open pontiled meds, master inks, umbrella inks and the list goes on. We had a decent pile of bottles on the ground and I was just ready to add another to it, when I heard a muffled noise. Paul said, "It?s probably deer snorting or maybe a coon." I agreed and kept on digging, but then the noise got louder, we stopped and sat quietly. All of a sudden these ultra bright lights were blasting on us! I couldn't see a thing, then someone yelled out,? You?re trespassing, boy!"
The first thing that popped in to my mind was the scene from ?Deliverance." The second thought was, "RUN LIKE HELL!" We both got up from our digging positions, skidding and sliding on broken glass trying to get traction. I grabbed the closest bottle and stuck it in my pocket as I fell to the ground! We were running like scared kids being chased by the cops! I was almost at the top of the hill where the truck was parked when I heard a loud boom, and then in an instant I felt a wicked stinging pain! Was I shot? My leg was burning like it was on fire. Paul made it to the truck first. I managed to hop over the guardrail and throw myself in the passenger side as the truck was slowly rolling,Paul asked ? What the hell just happened?" ?I'll tell you what happened; I just got shot in the leg with a load of rock salt, that?s what the hell happened! No need for a hospital,? I said, ?the pain will go away sooner or later. Let?s just goooooo!!!? With the passenger door wide open going down the highway, I struggled to close it and let out a sigh of relief and a sigh of pain at the same time. ?That?s what happens when you don't get permission first.? Well it doesn't always happen like that, but it would sure make us think the next time we decided to sneak on private property.
We came out of that bottle dream/nightmare with two pontiled bottles. Every time I look at that dark green squat on my shelf, I will remember these two phrases,? Always get permission," and ?Rock salt burns!? it seemed like we had a pattern going on here; first the trigger happy guy at Mr. Moore?s property, now this crazy back woods fiasco. It was time to seriously start thinking about getting to Nibs?s house.
We were back on the road once again. It was 4:00 AM and we didn't sleep at all that night. I was wide awake with all that rock salt coursing through my blood. Paul, on the other hand, was starting to nod at the wheel so we had to find a place to catch a few winks. There were no hotels, or road side stops around this area, but after driving another ten more miles we found this little bed & breakfast and decided to stop and see if they had any rooms available. I can?t sleep in the same room with another human being, including my wife, because I snore like a bear in a cave. That wouldn't be fair to the other person. So we both ended up getting our own rooms. I passed out as soon as I hit the pillow. My sleep was solid as a rock, at least for a few hours anyway, then I was awaken by this weird nightmare, I dreamt I was being shot at by a hillbilly with no front teeth. Man it felt so real.
I started to wake up from the dizzy fog in my head and the burning sensation in my leg. I staggered over to the window and looked out at a huge area of grass with a nice wooden bench by a big old oak tree. It was just getting light out and Paul was still out cold, so I decided to take a walk and check out the bed & breakfast from the outside. I walked to the back of the yard and looked at the place from a distance.? This is an old house," I thought. My privy digging instincts took over, and that little voice in my head softly said, "Look for sunken spots." So there I was, at 5 am walking and searching for the privies at the B & B establishment. Within a total of ten minutes looking for tell tale signs of a privy, I found what looked like a slight dip by the sidewalk. Before I got the probe out and took a stab at it, I decided to wait until Paul rose from his coma. I took a walk to the Corner coffee shop and got an ?everything bagel? with butter and some extra strong Pit Bull (an energy drink). When I got back, Paul was sitting on the front porch; he said he was ready to go. I said, ?Go? What do you mean go?? He replied,? I mean hit the road, hit the trail, and get going to Nibbs.?
I had other plans. He had no clue what I have been doing for the past two hours so I broke it to him gently. When I told him what I had found; he picked up his bags, and without saying a word slowly walked back in the B&B, his head down, dragging his belongings behind him. He wasn't mad, he just knew what we had to do. Another motto of ours is,? Never pass up a privy no matter what?. He put his stuff away and came out to the truck. We picked up the probes and headed to the back of the house like it was our job and we were just arriving for work. On the way there Paul said, ?Did you know the date of this place is 1868??I was wondering how he knew, just then a large brass plaque on the corner of the house caught my eye. 1868 that's all it said, and that was good enough for us. Just as I was ready to stick the privy rod in the ground, it dawned on me. We didn't have permission! Paul said, ?What is a little probing going to hurt?? ?It might hurt like burning rock salt,? I replied and suggested we go in and ask before we did anything else. This was going to be a hard permission. I could tell. It was a place of business. Two guys digging up outhouse pits in the yard while the guests gazed out of the dining room window in the early morning hours while they ate wouldn't be kosher. But we had to give it a shot.
When we got to the front desk, there was a young man who looked like he was in his early twenties. he was working on the computer. Paul asked,? Is the owner available?? The young man replied,? You?re looking at him.? We were kind of shocked to see such a young person running a bed and breakfast. But maybe that was a good thing. ? This is going to sound strange to you, we are bottle diggers.? Then I took out the bottle book album and stories I wrote for AB&GC magazine. He replied in a calm but interested voice, "Oh you collect bottles, I used to do a little of that years ago.? With that sentence, a big sigh of relief flowed over us. We knew what the answer would be. It was a yes! With only one stipulation, he needed a dishwasher for tonight because one of his workers quit without notice. It was a full house that night and I was getting flashbacks from the dishwashing days at ?Crane's Tavern? in Ambler when I was 16. I will say it again, "Anything for a privy!" From the words of the Grateful Dead, this was a very strange trip indeed. But we loved it. I couldn't think about anything else except what might be buried in that yard. As the night rolled on and the dishes started to die down a little, the owner came back and said, "Your shift is over," with a joking smile on his face. I just replied,? I am sure glad I don?t have to do this for a living anymore. But those leftover shrimp were good!!?
It was almost midnight and I wasn't the least bit tired, I had a half dozen cokes and a shot of espresso coarsening through my body. Paul was fast asleep because he won the coin toss on who would fill in for the fired dishwasher. With all this excess energy, I decided to go for a walk around the yard and check out the spot we found earlier .When I got to the yard, I noticed there were flood lights shining on the whole area. The first thought that popped into my head was, "Why not do a little probing?" I went back in and asked Mr. Crown if it was ok. He said "Sure, but don't hit any of my pipes". He didn?t elaborate on what kind of pipes, but I wasn't worried because we had never hit a pipe in all our years of privy digging. But there is always a first time I guess. There wasn't a property line at the B&B because it was an old stone farm house that stood alone. We really didn't care for old farm homes because of the fact that they used to have unlimited places to dump the bottles, woods and fields for example. That meant little or no trash in the privies. But the age of this place kept me searching for these privies from the past. There was an old log fence off to the right of the yard. I was probing along this fence like we do on every property line, even though I knew it wasn't a ?true? property line. When all of the sudden I got a pit reading, the probe sank and sounded like a kid eating Captain Crunch cereal. The rod actually went under the fence. Tomorrow we would have to check it out.
As I was ready to head back inside and get some sleep, Mr. Crown came walking down the Victorian slate sidewalk. He said, "I forgot to tell you, there was another old house on the other side of this fence. It was a late 1700's tavern.? I couldn't believe what I was hearing. He proceeded to tell me that the building had burnt down in the early 19th century. I thought to my self, if it was destroyed in the 19th century and never rebuilt, there should not be any new bottles in this yard, they all should be old. Was this another dream? I don?t think so because my leg still burned from that "real rock salt" I had a feeling sleep wouldn't come easy after hearing that great news. So it was time to pop a sleep aid and try and get some rest for the exciting dig. It was going to be a crazy day.
The next morning I was awakened by ringing bells. It was coming from the church a short distance away. It was Sunday, normally a day of rest, but for us it was going to be a day of back-breaking digging. But it sure as hell beats work! Paul was still sleeping, but it wasn't long before he rose up and was looking for that first can of Venom (a high energy drink). He had no clue what had gone on last night but he was about to find out. Paul always wanted to dig a mallet or onion bottle from the 1700's. When I told him the age of the lot next to the B&B his jaw nearly hit the floor, he was excited as a kid in a candy store. We went down stairs and had a nice breakfast of French toast and strong coffee. Paul had his bottle of Venom. I think he is hooked on that stuff. But whatever form of caffeine it was, we were going to need it.
After we ate, it was time to go to the spot I probed out the previous night. I handed the probe to Paul and told him to sink it in. "Oh yeah! It?s a pit alright," Paul said confidently. If we planned on leaving today for Nibbs we had better get digging. Knowing this other property was here in the 1700s gave us a crazy feeling inside. As Paul began to pull the grass back and get ready to do a test hole, Mr. Crown yelled out the window, "Do you guys need anything?" I said, ?Yes, we need a few more weeks off of work.? He was puzzled, but he smiled at my comment anyway. Later he came out with some drinks from the bar. Paul had a Bud and I had a cool mango splash with an umbrella (with no alcohol). The only booze bottles I have in my house are ones dug from privies.
We were down to about three feet in this privy. There weren?t too many exciting signs appearing yet, but that might be a good thing, no new trash meant it must have been filled in the old days. Mr. Crown was interested in the whole process. He stayed around to observe the start of the dig, but he couldn't stay long. He had to go back in and tend to costumers. I suggested he come back in an hour or two, then we should know more about the age of this privy. As we got more and more into it, we started to find some very old items, including a piece of green glass that looked like it was from the 18th century. A lot of wood ash was also present. When we probed this one, we couldn't get the probe to hit bottom because there were a lot of rocks and bricks to deal with. I anticipated going down about six or seven feet, but it was looking like this was a shallow hole with not much old or new trash in it. Then all of the sudden Paul spotted something; it was the first bottle sign throughout the whole dig.
As he slowly started to uncover the dark green bottle, it looked like the neck was intact. It had a string ring top!! The first thought that came to mind was this was a black glass mallet. If it was one, I knew Paul would be doing back flips across the lawn. Little by little it started to come out of the fill. He had it down to the shoulders and then it just popped it out. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It wasn't a mallet. It was an onion bottle! Paul was beside himself .He always wanted to dig a mallet or an onion. The strange part about this whole dig was that the onion was the only bottle in the privy. It ended up being a four foot pit, with no trash, one shard and a 18th century onion bottle. Weird things happen in this privy digging hobby. That privy was the only privy we got to dig at the B&B. We were soaking up our time and decided to hit the road for the 20th time. Before we left, we thanked Mr. Crown for the good time and the great hospitality. When fellow bottle collectors meet we wouldn't expect anything else. As Willie Nelson says, We were "on the road again." But this time we were going to try and make up for some lost time by not stopping for any outhouse breaks, if that was at all possible.
It was early morning, 5:00 AM, and the weather was rainy and miserable. Paul was driving and I was just daydreaming about the weird events that had been happening. "Was this the Bottle God?s plan? Or was it a fluke?" Whatever it was, I would not forget this experience for a long, long time. But I had a strange feeling that this adventure was not over just y
We had been on the road now for what seemed like hours. This was a good thing, because it meant we were getting closer to Nibs. Driving through the fog, mist and the rain was kind of relaxing. I was starting to drift off, when all of a sudden I was jolted forward. Then I heard a bang and felt a big thud. Paul had hit a deer! His truck has 44 inch tires and lift kits, so it is really high off the ground. He was going too fast for the road conditions. He skidded and came to a sliding stop. We got out to see if we could spot the deer, but there were no signs of it on the road. However, there was some hair and blood on the bumper. We chalked it up to internal injuries and hoped it would be a quick death for the poor animal.
As we walked back to the truck, we heard someone yell, "It?s over here!" As we looked toward the sound, we saw the faint outline of a deer on some guy?s front yard. The impact must have sent the deer through the air and about 30 feet onto this guy?s front lawn. As we walked to the house we were praying that the deer was dead. By the look on the guy?s face; our wish had come true. The deer was gone. He began to tell us how many times this had happened over the years. He asked if there was any damage to the truck. Then he asked us if we would drag the deer carcass to the back of his house. We were happy to comply. Paul asked, "Is the game warden coming to pick it up?? The man replied,? No my fork is gonna pick it up. Around here we eat the fresh ones. There is no sense letting them go to waste.? I agreed with him and laid the deer down next to a huge old oak tree and covered it with a green tarp that was lying there near his shed. Our job was done here. It was time to get back on the road.
As we were walking to the front of the house, I fell into a large hole along the pathway. The man said, ?Oops, I?m sorry fellows I should have warned you about that. I have been tossing deer carcasses in that hole there for a few years now. I tried to fill it in with junk, but it keeps coming back." I asked,?How old is your house?? He said, ?Around 1848. Why? ?This might be an old outhouse pit, I replied.? "No, there weren't any outhouses here when I bought the place,? the man replied. I said, ?Unless you bought the place in 1848, you would probably never have seen one standing. We are after the old outhouse holes, not the buildings anyway.? After a little explaining, he finally got the picture.
We started to tell him more about our hobby, so we finally introduced ourselves. His name was Sam Drake. Once he knew we were not joking when we told him we dug out old crap holes for fun, he seemed to become very curious as to what might be buried in his yard. I went back to the truck to get my picture book and some magazines to show him we were serious about our bottle digging. Soon I had to pop the question,? Would you mind if we looked for the privy in your yard? Or in your case, look to see if that deer hole you have is a privy? ?He laughed and said, "Go on and take a stab at it." With the go ahead on the table, we were ready to do just that. We planned to stab it with our probes to see if it was a toilet from the 19th century. It looked like we might be making a layover once again. I was beginning to think about calling Nibbs and asking him if he wanted to join us on the road, but that just wouldn't be right. As those thoughts ran through my head they quickly vanished when the probe slowly sunk in the depression with ease. I was beginning to think the bottle gods might be following us, because our luck just never seemed to run out. We were meant to be digging these privies. So we just accepted it and forged ahead.
Would this pit break our streak? We would soon find out. Paul got back from the truck and dropped some tools on the sidewalk. I grabbed my lucky shovel and dug in. The first scoop of fill out of the hole verified that the man did indeed use the area for a deer dump since the first item we saw was a leg bone. Then we saw a rib bone. We got all of the old bones out of the hole and then we started to see the familiar dark looking loam mixed with ash. This was a sure sign it was a privy.
Sam came back to see how we were doing. When he saw the big pile of bones on the sidewalk, he said, "Man, did I eat all those critters?" Before I could come back with a witty comment, my train of thought just went blank. I was digging with a shin bone at the moment and I uncovered the bottom of an open pontil! I slowly dug around it like a surgeon removing an important organ. With one final tug, out it came. ?Wow!!? was all Paul could say. It was a sapphire blue Cornucopia & Eagle flask! It was the first bottle out of the deer hole. Our minds started to bounce all over the place.? What?s that thing worth?" Sam asked. That question would usually scare us, but it turned out Sam just happened to be a rich hillbilly who won the lottery a few years back. He could care less about money, he was just curious. I guess it is human nature to be curious about how much these bottles are worth. When we told him what the bottle might bring he said, "Git out of my yard! And leave the bottle!" With a smile and a laugh he said, "Make sure you toss dem bones back in that there hole when you?re done. Have fun, fellows.? When Sam left to reload some rifle shells, the bottles really started to flow. The people that lived there must have been hard core drinkers, or possibly it was some sort of tavern. Paul just pulled out this odd shaped bottle. As he had it in his hands, I noticed he was shaking a little. It was a dark yellow summer/winter tree flask! The majority were all liquor related bottles that we were finding! I wondered if these people ever ate! I had to bite my arm to make sure this wasn?t a dream.
As we dug deeper, this wood lined privy turned into a brick lined privy! By the way it was looking, they dug a privy on top of another filled-in pit. The top wood liner was very shallow, maybe four feet deep. The bottles we were getting were from the 1850s and earlier, so I tried to guess what age would the bottom of this surprise brick liner might be. The excitement was off the scale! But there was work to be done. As we dug down into the very dark rich loaf of fill, I had time to think about why we had made this road trip in the first place. After a mutual decision we made a pact, this would be the last privy we would do on the road. The next one would be with Nibbs.I really was starting to feel guilty now. The whole idea of this trip was to go visit my long time friend and all I could think about was digging old bottles! But I had to wipe that guilt from my mind for the moment, because we had an old bicker to dig!
We were down at least six feet in this pit and there were no signs of glass whatsoever. Our thoughts started to wonder,? Was this one cleaned out and filled in?? Before I could comment on our negative thinking, my shovel broke glass! My stomach sinks and I think the worst whenever I hear that crunch! I This time was no different. As I uncovered the top of a busted black looking bottle, I asked Paul if he had his 44 pistol with him. He laughed and said, ?For what?? ?So I can shoot myself! I replied.? I pulled out a whole dark green onion bottle minus a freaking top! It looked to be from the 1700's! I was so depressed. I needed to get out of the pit because I couldn?t breathe.
I told Paul to go in because I could not bear to find out that was the only bottle in this hole! The buckets were coming up and the privy was getting deeper. Paul was checking out the construction of the brick liner when he found a few loose bricks. He tossed one up and said, ?Look how crude this thing is.? As I was admiring the old orange brick, Paul?s voice changed from calm to squeaky and extremely hyper. He had three coins in his hand, from the 1700's, all of them Spanish. We knew this privy was very old, first the onion bottle now the coins. Paul decided to come out of the hole and clean up his bounty to get a better look at the condition of these silver beauties. As he climbed out, I slid into the privy. This time I would be extra careful not to break anything else! I grabbed for my three pronged dig tool and started to kneel down closer to the dark use layer. As I drug the tool over the fill, I felt nothing but glass! I was almost too scared to move since it seemed like the bottom was totally covered. So I just used my gloves to move the dirt and old fill away. When I revealed the objects, I was in total shock! Paul kept saying, ?Rick ,Rick what it is?? I think I lost my voice at that time; I was trying to talk but nothing was coming out. It was a digger?s dream. The bottom use layer was filled with mallets and chestnut bottles from the mid 1700's! Some were broken but most were whole! What a way to end the outhouse break road trip.
The total take from the privy was eleven mallets, seven chestnut bottles and an odd looking knife of some sort with colored stones in the handle. To say the least, we were overwhelmed with our latest finds, but we had to get back to reality and start to make our way to Nibbs?s house. After all, he was the main reason we took this road trip in the first place. I guess I?ll have to keep saying it because it never sinks in. I hoped he hadn?t forgotten about those 1890?s privies we were supposed to dig.
It is a very strange feeling being in a privy, the thought that you are in a place from a time when there were no cars, no electricity, no phones, no computers, no TVs and no plumbing. For that short time when we dig down to the bottom in one of these time capsules, I forget about the hustle and bustle of the 21st century, and enjoy the time we have in the past. It is an indescribable feeling to be a privy digger.
To be continued ------- Edited
A Privy Diggers Dream
Part 2 --- EDITED
In the last episode we were still trying to get to Nibs' house. We finally finished up with the ?mallet hole? at the B&B and made a pact that we would not stop for any more crazy privy digs on the way. I am not saying it wasn?t fun as hell! But we should have been concentrating on getting to Nibs . I promised him from the start of this fiasco that we would be there at a certain time. I guess I lied.
We were making real progress this time. We were on the road for a solid four hours. All of the sudden, we were at a standstill. It was mid afternoon on a Friday and the traffic was horrendous. I had to go the bathroom and the traffic jam was preventing me from doing so. I decided to jump out of the truck and run to a gas station just a stone's throw away from road. I was praying the traffic didn?t start to move too quickly. As I got to the bathroom door, I looked back and the cars were still not rolling. Ahhhhhhh, what a relief! We didn?t stop at an old house this time. It was just a modern gas station ?with no privy." As I finished drying my hands, my phone rang. My first thought was it was Nibs and he would most likely be pissed. I was wrong. It was my good friend ?Badger.? Some people call him Dave. I call him the Badger because he digs like one!
As I stood in the doorway, peering out at the traffic, I could see that it was still a parking lot. So, I took my time talking to Badger while walking back to the truck. He said he was on a job run. He delivers custom refinished building parts to people who own old homes all around the country. To afford this kind of service, the clientele would have to have a well-padded back account.
The traffic was starting to move slowly. As I hurried back, I asked Dave what his location was this time. He said he was going to Iron Pond. "No Way!" I replied. That is where we are going! My friend Nibs lives there. I think we should meet up. ?Are you staying long?? he asked. "Yes, "I am staying for 2 weeks". My uncle Tone Loco lives there. He asked me to help him flip an old house for restoration that he owns."
Dave suggested we meet up at a place called ?Glasztown? since we were both closer to that location than Iron Pond. It was getting late and with all this traffic we might as well stop and recharge our batteries. Glasztown was a good 2100 miles from Nibs but at least we made it this far without stopping to dig.
I opened the glove compartment and pulled out my green iron pontiled soda I got from the ?Hillbilly Farm Dump.? I just started rubbing it like it was some sort of magic genie bottle. It was kind of relaxing. As we drove along making our way to Glaztown, I was daydreaming of all the crazy events that got us to this point. What a long strange trip it?s been.
We were cruising along and all of the sudden the truck pulled hard to the right and slide sideways. I hit my head on the roof and got a little blurry-eyed. I tried to focus on what just happened. I had no clue until I looked over at the driver. Paul dozed off for a split second and went into a dirt rut. The truck was stuck, so we got out to see what we could do. Since it was 3:00 in the morning, there was no one around to help us. We didn?t even know where we were at this point. I looked in the distance and saw an earth moving machine and a few big dump trucks. ?What is this place?" I asked. Well, it looked like a huge construction lot. There were a few old buildings that were 90% demolished. The whole place was dug up. There were ditches and holes every where. I had to remind him again that construction lot were one of our favorite places to score bottle,
?Please, let?s just think about getting the truck out,? Paul said in a pleading, demanding voice. I agreed, "but what should I do with this cobalt blue iron Pontiled soda with an eagle on it I just found half buried in this rut? Should I toss it back into the lot?" ?Doesn?t be a smart ass,? Paul chimed back. "OK, we will walk around for 10 minutes but that?s it! Then it?s back to the truck. I don?t want the cops to come and give us lectures on trespassing. Or worse, arrest us for being stupid."
As we slowly walked the lot in the pre-morning darkness I saw broken glass everywhere! It must have been the location of old homes in the 19th century. Now it was time for the 21st century bottle diggers to check out the situation. That, being us! We only had small pen lights, but that was cool, they would be hard to detect from the road. Not that it would matter, there wasn?t a car to be seen in any direction. There was only half a fence around the construction lot, so they must not be too worried about trespassers. But, we both knew we were trespassing- fence or no fence- and that was all there is to it. All I could think about was the rock salt at the hillbilly dump.
That thought went right out the window when Paul picked up a whole bottle right at his feet. "Holy crap!!? he yelled. It was a light forest green ?Westford Ambler? flask! We started to walk faster, scanning the brown and grey dirt floor for bottles. "How do we get ourselves into these predicaments, Paul?" I asked. "I don?t know but it sure is cool, isn?t it?" he answered.
We were in a strange town, in the middle of the night, roaming around a construction lot with pen lights. I thought out loud, ?What in Gods name is wrong with us?? Just then Paul yelled out, ?Look at all the busted blues!? The track dozer must have hit a whole pocket of iron pontiled sodas, and crushed every one of them! All were cobalt blue! We knew we were going to be here awhile. It wasn?t to easy seeing in front of us, but as soon at the pen lights hit glass on the ground, our eyes lit up like strobe lights as we started searching for whole bottles. The thing to look for on construction lots are privies that were dug into by the earth moving machines. A lot of times there are huge voids in them. In this state, the privies are easy pickins. There's a lot less fill to dig out to get to the bottom where the good stuff is.
It was still dark, but the sun would be coming up soon. We had to finish up and get on the road. Just as we were walking towards the truck I tripped over a metal rebar sticking out of the ground, I slid face first down a steep hole. I continued to slide on my stomach until something hard and crumbly stopped me. ?Shine the light down here will ya!? I yelled. Paul put a pen light beam in front of my head, hurry up!. ?Oh my GOD! It looks like a human Skeleton!? I got freaked out real bad. I started to run up the steep incline,but I didn?t get far. I rolled right back to the bottom of the ditch, digging and clawing, trying to get out. I was exhausted. I fell back and landed on my back. Surprisingly, it didn?t hurt. I heard a thud and a big crunch. I tried to push myself up and got a hand full of rib bones! There wasn?t just one human skeleton; there were at least seven bodies! I was down in that bone trap for a while. Paul went looking for a rope or a pole to pull me up. I was starting to get used to my seven friends. They had to be very old. It wasn?t like they were killed yesterday, if they were killed at all.
I picked up a skull and admired it. I always liked skulls when I was a kid. I think all kids do at some point. As I put the head bone back down, I saw a top of a bottle where the skull first sat. "Boom Baby!" It looked like a sheared top bottle, and it was a dark amethyst color. I was holding a? Washington, Father of our Country? in my hands. It was a very strange color. One side was amethyst and the other half was a light puce! We have never seen anything like it. I usually don?t talk money but this one could be worth thousands because of the weird color alone.
It was a nice bottle, but I wanted one thing more than anything else and that was to get out of this hole. I was starting to get really creeped out with the skeletons. The novelty was wearing off. I wrapped the bottle up in an old dirty towel I had in my backpack and tossed it up ?very carefully? to Paul. He lowered down an old rope he found under a tool trailer. I held on and started to pull myself up. I was up halfway when the rope just snapped! I landed on my back with a thud and a loud crunch. It wasn?t my bones, but the bones of the 7 privy skeletons. I crushed most of them this time. It felt like I was in the movie poltergeist where all the skeletons started to pop out of the ground. I couldn?t believe this was happening to me.
I finally made my way out of the pit with a board that Paul put down into the hole. Thank God that was over. We did get a great bottle out of it, so I guess it was worth it. Now we had another problem. Do we go to the police, or do we just move on and forget we even saw these skeletons? We decided to just keep looking for bottles on the lot. After all, these people were from the 1800's. They had no loved ones alive to even care! I think we made the right choice. Besides, we were trespassing. Just think how the headlines in the newspaper would look. ?Two Trespassing Privy Diggers Find Seven Bodies on Construction Lot.? Again, I think we made the right choice.
We gathered up our bottles and tools and headed towards the truck. As we walked in the predawn darkness, five shots rang in rapid succession! ?pop pop pop pop pop? We didn?t know what to do, the shots were very close. Just as I got down behind a huge truck tire, more shots rang out. At this point, we were scared for our lives. The bad luck was upon us again because we were trespassing! At least that's what my superstitious mind told me!
We sat in that spot for what seemed like hours. The sun was rising and starting to lighten things up. We could make things out now; no flash light needed. Both of us made a decision to run like hell for the truck and get out of there as fast as we could. "On the count of three" We took off like rockets! Running and jumping over slabs of concrete and rebar spears sticking out of the ground. Paul?s truck was in sight! We kept moving at steady pace. We were almost there! Just as I was ready to grab for the truck handle, I tripped over something big and soft. Oh my God! It was a dead body. The guy was shot full of holes! Now, we know where the shooting was about. We jumped in the truck laid, rubber we were gone!
This construction lot caper turned out to be more than we'd bargained for. We did get a couple of very nice bottles, but we also discovered eight dead bodies; seven from the past and one from the present. This kind of thing just doesn?t happen to bottle diggers every day. Hell, it doesn?t happen in a lifetime!
We decided it would be best if we didn?t go to the police. If we did, we would never get to Nibs. Besides, that guy looked like Swiss cheese. In my opinion, he was a drug dealer. The evidence was all around him. The crack rocks scattered all over the place was a ?dead? give away. It was a bad section of the city and no one would second guess what happened. ?A drug deal gone wrong?. As for the seven 19th century skeletons, I am sure some archeologists will be called in and the big construction job will be shut down. No harm, No foul. We were on our way once again. We were history!
I was starting to think this was all a setup. How could this many strange things happen to two privy diggers on a road trip? Maybe we were being followed by a TV crew and they were going to spring it on us when we got to Nibs'. "Silly thinking," Paul said. ?It?s just our luck.? I think he was right. We are still alive, we have dug some great bottles on this trip so far, and did I say we are still alive? So I guess it was our luck.
Once again we were on our way to Nibs' house, but we had to meet up with The Badger first. We were on our way to Glazsztown! With a mere 150 miles to the Badger's uncle's house, we decided to relieve ourselves into a large empty Gatorade bottle while we were on the road. It was crude, but it would prevent us from stopping ?anywhere? that might entice us to look for a digging opportunity. Out of sight, out of mind is what we were going for.
Time was going by quickly. It was still dark out, so I didn?t have a hard time falling asleep. The sound of Paul?s monster truck tires on the road made a low pitched humming sound. It was sort of tranquil. I was thinking to myself, ?We are going to make it without stopping this time." Just then, the thought bubble popped, I woke up and we came to a screeching halt! The traffic was stopped and a lot of road flares were laid out in front of us. There must be a bad accident down the road a ways. I couldn?t believe it! We were a mere 90 miles away from Tone Locos house. We couldn?t catch a break.
I decided to try and go back to sleep since we would probably be stuck here for a while. Paul said he was tired of peeing in the Gatorade bottle, so he got out and walked away from the truck and headed for the nearest bush. I was getting comfortable with my pillow laying against the door when I looked in the side mirror and saw Paul disappear into the darkness. What trouble could he get into here? We were on route 740 in the middle of nowhere. I couldn?t keep my eyes open. I went out like a light. Soon I was dreaming we made it to Nibs' and were eating a nice dinner with his family. The dog jumped up and started licking my face and I gave him a piece of roast beef. What is that loud banging? Is someone at the door Nibs?" All of the sudden I woke up and saw Paul?s face at the truck window as he banged on the side. ?Open the door will ya! You won?t believe what I found!? I didn?t like the sound of that. I sprung up and started to follow Paul down the side of the road. He hopped the guardrail and disappeared into a thick patch of woods. I had a bad thought. The rock salt fiasco was running through my head but I had to see what he was so excited about.
When I caught up, I saw Paul doing a dance on this old stone looking cave type thing. Paul never dances, he hates dancing. That means he must have found something good! ?What?s the deal? Are you going nuts?? I said. Paul chimed out, ?Go ahead and open that old rusted steel door." I still had no idea what this stone mound was. I walked over and pried open the squeaky rusted door and saw a few old dusty wood boxes inside. I was getting a little nervous. I thought maybe he was trying to play a trick on me or something. He was known to do that.
I noticed the word "cabin" on one of the boxes. The rest was UNreadable. I pulled one of the five boxes out into the light, I was dying to open the crate but I was a little hesitant. ?Hurry the hell up! The traffic may start to move soon!" "Ok, ok hold your pants on," he said. I popped the top and lifted it slowly expecting one of those spring joke snakes to hit me in the face. But what I saw put me in a state of shock. It was a full box of ?Kelly?s old log cabin bitters? these were bottles shaped like log cabin?s, a very sought after bottle. And the topper was the bottles were corked tight and full with what looked like the original contents! Was this a crazy dream? To make this find even more unreal was the bottles were in all sorts of colors: green, yellow, amber and a light blue. I had to sit back against a tree and gather my thoughts. There were four more boxes to open. We were starting to get really paranoid now. Whose stuff was this? Does anybody know it is here? By the way it looked; I would have to say it was a forgotten stash. It ?seemed? to be an old root cellar that was grown over with weeds and brush. It had trees growing all over the top of it.
We had to shut down the rush of excitement for a while to try and think rationally about what we were going to do if the road was cleared and the traffic started to move. I had an idea. ?Let?s move the truck off of the road and put a white cloth out of the window. People will think the truck is broken down and no one will have a clue where we are." Soon we were down at the spot getting ready to open another box. This was like the show ?Let?s Make a Deal?! Will it be box number two three four or five? They weren?t really in order, but we pretended they were. ?I will go with box number five,? Paul blurted out. As I began to pull some of the nails out the lid, I heard the sound of cars moving on the road above. Paul ran up to the guard rail to see what was going on. The traffic was starting to slowly move. I am glad we hung the white rag on the truck. It would be a while before the cops or anyone checked it out since the traffic was just creeping along.
The box was nailed tight, but I almost had it open. One more pull and "Pop!" The lid flew off. As I looked in the box I thought, ?This really is Let?s Make a Deal? and I just got the dud box. Inside number five was a dead, dried up mummified looking snake and nothing else! This wasn?t a joke snake. Maybe someone hated snakes back then and closed him up in the box. I guess number five was unlucky for him also.
There were three more boxes to go. We decided to open all three at once. The nails were all out and we were ready, "One, two, three! The lids were airborne! ?Un freaking believable!? I yelled. Paul fell back against the grassy bank holding his chest. I couldn?t believe what I was looking at. The three boxes were packed with what looked like colored flasks and assorted liquor type bottles! All of the vessels had corks in them and they appeared to be full! We just sat there in a daze, looking at each other. We knew this find could be worth thousands maybe tens of thousands of dollars. As I slid one of the flasks from the dusty box, the excitement began to build, ?Wow!? It was a dark green Washington Eagle flask full of whiskey! I started to run around and do the happy dance. I was out of my mind with adrenaline. The next bottle out was a quart citron clasped hands, full and corked like the rest.
We had to stop for a minute and think about why these full bottles of liquor were here. The area was void of houses and it was miles from any town. The structure where we found the boxes in was almost like an underground vault, built of stone with a thick metal door. It was obviously constructed sometime in the 19th century. The bottles were of different time periods between the 1830?s to the 1870?s. My guess is that someone saved these bottles for the liquor alone. Maybe he/she was an alcoholic and hid in the woods to drink. Maybe someone was selling booze and that stone structure was the place they stored it... The guesses kept coming. The stone cave may have been used as a root cellar at one time. A house was likely built nearby, if so, the remnants are long gone, covered over by years of under and overgrowth.
We were running out of guesses, but at least we had a vision in our
minds what it might have been. We felt at ease ?assuming? the boxes
were left in the root cellar, forgotten by someone from the past. At least I didn?t have to worry about getting blasted with rock salt this time. The other boxes had a combination of St. Drake's bitters in assorted colors, Hartwig Kanto Rowicz German bitters, which are white milk glass and a full crate of Original Budweiser Conrad and company. All of the bottles were full with what looked like beer! It was unbelievable.
Now it was time to try and pack up this unbelievable find and get back to the truck. We removed the boxes one at a time and made our way up the steep embankment. It was pretty amazing! We packed them up and drove off without a hitch. No rock salt, no gun toting hoods' just wide open road! The traffic was cleared and we were once again on our way to Nibs'. But first we had to meet up with Badger in Glasztown. We had about 90 miles to go. I was fairly certain we could make it 90 miles without getting ourselves into another strange situation.
I was wrong! Just as we got settled in and relaxed, flashing lights lit up the whole area behind us. The cops! We told ourselves to stay calm. We didn?t do anything wrong. Who were we kidding? Maybe it was the episode at the construction site? Or the cases of full bottles we just took from the stone root cellar?
Paul pulled over as the red lights lit up the inside of the truck. The officer slowly walked to the driver side window. ?Good evening gentleman. License and registration? I had a sinking feeling in my gut that our trip to Nibs' was coming to an abrupt end. Just when I was ready to admit defeat, the cop says, ?Nice truck. Can I take it for a ride?? We were looking at each other with that OMG look on our faces. Was this guy a real cop? He looked legit. We forgot we were in a backwoods hillbilly town and they do things a little differently than we do at home. What could Paul do? This guy was a man of the law and he wanted to take Paul's truck for a spin. ?Sure, go ahead,? Paul said reluctantly. The cop replied, ?Not here, back on the trail ramps.? What was this guy?s story? He was starting to freak us out. ?Follow me,? he said. We drove behind the officer for about a mile. Then he cut off of the main road, onto a huge dirt track with high dirt ramps and crossovers. It looked like it was professionally built. ?Ok, I'm ready!? the cop yelled as he got behind the wheel yelled ?yehhaaaa!?and took off like a bat out of hell! He headed down the dirt strip heading for a high ramp! ?Oh my God!? Paul shrieked! I hope my truck makes it, how will we get home?"
We turned our heads and looked at the black monster truck flying through mid air and then do a perfect landing! The guy was good I must admit. I think he might have been a professional truck racer. He did a few laps around the track and when he got back to us he said ?That was beautiful? We still thought the guy was loony tunes, but what could we do? He was a cop. He went on to explain that he has been a police officer for twenty years, but his real passion in life is modified racing trucks. That explained it, I think. We didn?t ask any questions. We just said, "No problem" and got ready to vacate. As we were about to drive off, the cop said ?What can I do for you boys?? We were blank. What could we possibly get from a cop?
I knew I shouldn?t have asked this but I did. ?Do you know where any old bottle dumps are?? The cop asked, ?You guys dig old bottles?? I answered, "We sure do. It?s our life and passion just like truck racing is to you". He knew where we were coming from with that statement. The cop said ?I know where the oldest dump in the town is located. The only problem is, it is surrounded by an electric fence. If you don?t mind that, I can get you in. I have the key. I am also a code enforcement officer for the city." There was no way we were going to pass up an opportunity like this. So we agreed to go with the whacky cop. How on earth do we get into these weird predicaments? I think I asked that question a few times on this trip and I am fairly certain I will continue.
We waited in the truck until ?the man? pulled up behind us. He was grumbling something about the key. Then he blurted it out, ?I can?t find the damn key!? We humbly told him, "No problem. We don?t need to go in. We should be getting on the road again anyway. Our friend is waiting for us." ?Nonsense!" he said. "You did me a favor and now I am going to do one for you." He slowly walked up to the locked gate and what he did next made our jaws drop. He pulled out his sidearm and shot the lock off! We could not believe what we just witnessed. And all this for bottles! This cop was alright; a little nuts but alright.
The gate was open. As we walked in, we noticed some strange looking grayish patches all over the grass. It looked like ash. He said there was a dump behind the fence but I didn?t think it would be covering the whole area! The main building and the out buildings were set off to the side of the fenced in dump so we had a lot of places to do test holes. It would almost be like digging a privy. The only difference is the whole area probed easy. It was very soft fill.
The rules were stated by Mr. Crazy Cop, as follows:
1. Do not touch the fence. You won?t die, but you will get knocked on your asses.
2. Do not dig under the buildings. I won?t be able to explain a cave in to the chief.
3. Leave the place as you found it.
4. Lock the gate when you leave.(wrap the chain)
5. Last but not least; you never saw me.
The rules were pretty simple, but the last one kind of made me nervous. ?Should we even do this?? I wondered. Robocop got us in, but it was still like we were trespassing if we had no one to back us up. We decided to flip a coin. Heads, we dig, tails, we get back on the road and hightail it outta there. ?Call it!? "Tails!" "Oh man, I guess I will go dig the tools out of the truck."
We didn?t waste any time. The shovels were in the ground before I could say, ?Trespassing is illegal.? We knew what the consequences might be if we got caught inside that fence, but we kind of blocked it out of our minds. The bottle addiction will make you do strange things and take crazy chances. Not many people understand that. Only the true bottle lovers can attest.
We were getting down to business on the city property. First thing we needed to do was dig a test hole. We often dig test holes in privies to check the age of the pit before we dig. It saves us a lot of unnecessary digging if the privy is junk. The term junk means the privy is too new, not worth the effort. But this is a dump so why do a test hole? Because we didn?t want to make the place look like Swiss cheese, ?holes all over? and then all of the sudden a cop appears and takes us to the slammer, even though a cop let us in to dig. It was all so damn confusing. I didn?t want to think about it too much because I was getting a blasting headache. I just had to accept that the weird, odd and strange happenings were all apart of this journey.
The mood went from paranoid, always looking over my shoulder, to excitement and not caring about the law. Paul hit something in the test hole and it sounded like glass! This would tell us the age of bottles we might hit in this caged in dump. It is a circus act of sorts to get a bottle out of a five foot deep, by two foot wide test hole. But it has been done. You have to lie on your stomach and reach way in the narrow hole with a long handled shovel and feel around.
It was my turn to try and get this bottle loose. I was starting to think it was a jar by the way it felt. Soon I took the shovel out and looked in the hole. I was correct. It was a jar and I hate jars. They are boring and I don?t collect them. The only time I keep a jar is if the thing is colored. But we had to get it out regardless. I tried to be as careful as I could, but if it broke, so what. We want the bottles!
At last it was ready to come up. "Hurry up and get that junk out so we can dig!? Paul grunted. I agreed with him, but there was some sort of wire wrapped around my shovel head and I couldn?t move it up or down. It was probably just metal trash, as we call it. I managed to get the whole twisted mess to move, and finally it was on its way up. I grabbed the wire and then I saw the jar that caused all of this bull crap. As I suspected, it was an 1856 Mason. There was mud and wet ash covering the whole thing. But I knew it had to be aqua, and aqua was common. ?What?s with the wire?? Paul asked. "I have no clue, I said, but let?s get it out of here and make this hole wider."
We finally got the jar out of the wire bird?s nest and started to rub off the gunk. As I rubbed and rubbed, the color stayed dark. "Oh my God, this is a amber 1858 mason! Unbelievable!" I said. The first one we ever dug and I said I hated jars. When I went to lift the jar up, it felt really heavy. Was it filled with mud? The lid was still on it, so we had to try and get it off without breaking the Mason. It was somewhat rusted, but we managed to rip it off with the end of a dig tool.
Paul came over and stuck his fingers in the top of the jar and all of the sudden he flipped out. ?I can?t believe it I can?t believe it!? he said. He wasn't kidding. I was beside myself when he dumped the contents of that jar on the ground. It was filled with gold coins! 1860?s gold coins! We both just looked at each other for awhile and then then began to run the coins through our fingers. Was this a crazy dream? We had been asking ourselves that a lot on this trip to Nibs'. We slapped each other and got back to reality. I decided to dig a few more minutes and then get ready to leave. After all, we had a nice brown Mason full of old gold coins. We didn't want to get greedy.
I went over to the very narrow hole and proceeded to make it wider. I wasn?t planning on digging too much more. I had visions of dirty gold coins dancing around in my head and I wanted to clean them up. Then the shovel hit something hard. It felt like a brick or a stone. I dug more out towards the side and found what looked like a wall. My instincts were telling me there was a privy here. With a little more work we had revealed a round brick liner. It was definitely a privy. It was all becoming clear to me now. The wire must have been wrapped around the jar and lowered into the privy for safe keeping. In the 19th century this was common practice. It was safer than a bank, but a lot more messy. Someone must have forgotten to fetch it out of the outhouse, or the person who put it there may have died before he/she could retrieve their savings from the crapper. Whatever took place, we are sure glad it did! The other odd thing was that we hit a privy in the middle of a dump. I guess we just got lucky. There must have been houses built at this location before this city building was ever thought of.
We started to get back to that paranoid state. What if kookie cop came back and asked if we found anything? Or maybe someone saw us when we were in our Gold Coin glory? It was time to pack up the loot and head out of town. The hole was filled in and the gate was locked. It was like we had never been there. We were on the road once again. Everything was going smoothly. The jar full of coins was tucked away and I was just getting settled in my seat for the long ride ahead.
All of the sudden, I saw flashing red and blue lights behind us gaining fast! ?Oh my God. Not again,? I thought. Paul hit the turn signal and pulled off to the shoulder. We could not believe this was happening to us ?again?. My guess was, someone saw us in the fenced-in city property and called Five O. That means the cops for you less street smart folks. Paul rolled down the window and got ready for the death sentence. We could hear the footsteps getting closer and closer. When the cop got to the truck, he bent down to look in the window and said, "You fellows have a safe trip, Ya hear now!? I almost crapped my pants! I looked over at Paul and his face was white as a milk glass bottle. It was our buddy, the crazy monster truck loving policeman. His comment to us with a creepy crazy laugh was, ?Did I scare ya? ?I just wanted to thank you guys for all you did. Have a nice life. Oh and one more thing. You never saw me!? With that he drove off, burning rubber with the lights flashing.
This trip was like a crazy dream, a cool awesome dream, sometimes a freaking nightmare. I keep asking myself, ?Are we ever going to make it Nibs' house alive?? I should stop saying, "We will never get off of the highway again until we arrive at Nibs' place", because we know that will never happen. I guess we just have to play it mile by mile and go where the bottle Gods lead us. After all, everything happens for a reason and obviously we are meant to dig bottles!
We left that town with a feeling of relief. It almost seemed like we were untouchable. I don?t want to get to cock sure of our fate, but I am going to have to say once again, ?We made it!? There were no bottles found on this run, but who can complain, with a jar full of gold coins and a little excitement! "I never did get the name of that town, did you Paul?" I asked. "Yeah Crazy Cop Town. C.C.T. is how we will refer to it from now on." I needed a good laugh after that episode. Now, it was time for me to get some sleep. We still had a very long way to drive. Paul just drank a Monster energy drink, so he was the designated driver this time.
I was floating in and out of consciousness being overly tired from all the stress and excitement of the past few days. The ideal scenario would be for me to stay asleep the rest of the trip. That way, there would be no talk of digging, or bottles or anything remotely related. This means we might just make it to Nibs' and not get sidetracked. I felt the truck make a sudden jerk and come to a slow stop. ?Are we there yet?? I looked around with blurry vision. My eyes were pasted shut. I must have really been out cold. Before I could focus on where we were, I got startled by a loud ?tap tap tap? on the side window. It sounded like a gong in my head. All of the sudden I saw this scary face in the window! It was the Badger! Boy did that throw me for a loop. I thought I was having a nightmare. We were in Glasztown! At least we made it to one of our destinations.
To be continued