“That belongs in a museum!”
Wasn’t that the line that Indiana Jones used to say as some archeological treasure was taken from his grasp?
Part of my family’s folklore is the story of one REALLY old treasure that my Dad stored in the basement of our house.
Down in the Cypress Hills area on the Saskatchewan side of the border, was where my Grandmother (my Dad’s mom) spent her early years. They lived in a hole in the ground. They weren’t especially short, so I don’t think I’m descended from a line of Hobbits, but they did make their home in the side of a hill. To be precise, it was a mud house, essentially a hole dug into the side of a hill with a dirt roof and floor and a wooden door fashioned across the opening. They cooked in there, ate in there, slept in there, and probably made babies in there. In fact it was where my Grandma and her twin sister grew up.
Can you imagine what it was like on the prairies back then? No one around anywhere; you’re all alone. If something happens to you and you need a doctor, you’re out of luck. Life was hard, death came easily, and the stories of survival blow away anything you’ve ever seen on TV. It was into this environment that my grandmother’s twin sister began her journey through life.
When you’re five years old it’s easy to get lost. Wandering five minutes from your home could put you behind a hill, or in a small forest, and before you know it, you’ve lost your way and possibly your life. Finding your way back to the hole in the ground where your family lives might be impossible.
A long time ago I heard my Dad telling the story of how a book was written that described the story of a little white girl who was raised by Indians after being found wandering in the Cypress Hills area. It was right around the time my Grandma’s twin sister disappeared. Seems that region held lots of interesting stories, including the one of my great aunt who wandered away from home never to return.
Years ago my Dad and a couple of his siblings traveled to the place where my Grandmother grew up. As they explored the area they came across some interesting and unexplainable “formations.” My Grandma had described seeing them as a child and told an unusual story of a stone wall structure that was there before her parent’s arrived. It looked like the remains of a brick and mortar building rather than a simple pile of neatly arranged stones. It looked very old to her when she was young and it had made quite an impression. There was no other evidence of human habitation in the area but there was this wall embedded into the side of a hill. Of course my Dad wanted to see this thing he had heard about when he was a child and sure enough they found it. It still looked unusual but it had deteriorated over the years and there wasn’t a lot left. But near the area he found something else – a fish.
This was no ordinary fish, it turns out some expert at the Alberta Provincial Museum pegged it at 30 million years old. It was petrified, essentially a stone now, but the scales were clear and shiny like they had been when it was alive. It was in three round sections, about eight inches in total length, without a head, and it looked just like a fish that had been cut into three parts. You could clearly see the inside of the fish and its skeletal cross section with the vertebra now turned to stone. Its spine was still clearly visible, but now it looked like rock. It was amazing.
My Dad held on to that artifact for a long time. It was in a bag in a box in his cold room when we cleaned out his house when they moved out after 40 years. I made sure that didn’t end up at the dump. Last year I donated it to the biology department at The King’s University College. I’m sure my Dad would have been happy to know that it was now being used for teaching at a Christian university. And I’m glad it’s not sitting in my basement waiting for my kids to discover it in another 40 years.