Tuesday, March 26, 2013


It’s not often – well, it’s never – that I post twice in one week but I got something to say. 

About a dog I never knew.

Thanks to some generous, tolerant and perhaps slightly curious neighbors, I now have permission to explore two more beautiful Brush Hill lawns. A couple of days ago, after work, I took advantage of the sweetly lengthening days to mosey on over and get the lay of the land.

Lawn number one is massive, dotted with the ubiquitous hackberry trees and an oak that the homeowner reckons to be about 135 years old. On the other side of the house is a bluff high over the Cumberland. The homeowner is as geeked as I am about finding the Lost Village of Haysborough. He’s way too busy to do the actual hunting, but I’m hoping he can help with contacts and access.

After wandering rather aimlessly around for an hour, I pulled out an old dog tag (for dog, not soldier). Couldn’t read it, but I’m always happy to dig dog tags. I kind of feel the dog nearby.

Then, not far from there, I pulled out a really large coin. Very excited. Large coins are usually OLD and since I was in an area where I’ve dug quite a few colonial-era items, I was pretty sure that was what I had.

Back home, though, it revealed itself to be a 1940 English penny. OK.

Here's the 1940  Leonardo DaVinci token
from last week with the 1940 King George
penny from yesterday, artfully arranged atop
a postcard of the Sago Motel in Ontario. I
have very much enjoyed my week of being
bracketed by the year 1940.

My attention turned to the dog tag. I cleaned it off and there, in my hand, was a man and his dog.

Bourbon. Hi Bourbon.

It didn’t take long to track down William E. Donlon, who, sadly, died in 2009. I found his obit online and soon learned he had a daughter, Mary Lee, in Brentwood. I tracked down her email and shot her a message. I had Bourbon’s dog tag. Would she like it?

Now, from my experience with “Babe,” (see Babe post from last year), I learned that not everyone shares my thrumming thrill of dog tag recovery but Mary Lee did. Within an hour, I received this:

"Whit: Thank you SO much for the email. Bourbon was our Boxer when we grew up on Brush Hill Road. We lived there from 1952-1979. Wm E Donlon was my dad. I would really love to have the dog tag as a memento. My husband does metal detecting all the time & also tries to return things that he can to their owners. I really appreciate your taking the time to contact me. My family will be thrilled! Thank you again!”

Well, that made me feel good. Mary Lee contacted her siblings who were equally excited. They started looking for photos of Bourbon. (As soon as they send them, I will post.)

“My parents owned a large utility construction company,” continued Mary Lee. “They installed all of the sewer/water lines for the Early Times Distillery in KY. The owners of Early Times raised boxers & gave our family a puppy; hence the name 'Bourbon' after Early Times!”

We made plans to meet on Brush Hill Road on Saturday afternoon.

After a fun mid-day gig at Antique Archaeology (the American Pickers store, here in Nashville), I scurried home and deglammed myself (because your Dirt Girl becomes glamorous when she performs, or at least wears eye liner.) Then I headed out.

Mary Lee and her husband, Milton, were just lovely, lovely, lovely. We had a good visit. They’d brought their Schnauzer, Buddy. Turns out, Milton has been an avid MDer since the mid-1970s and he brought his amazing button collection to show me. Wow.

I learned more about Bourbon. Everyone in the neighborhood had dogs back then, Mary Lee explained, and they all ran free.

“And there probably wasn’t any fighting, right?” I asked, assuming that back when dogs were allowed to be dogs and run around and sniff things and interact with other dogs, peace reigned throughout the land.

But it wasn’t quite like that. Once, Mary Lee told me, Bourbon got into a terrible fight with a neighbor’s German shepherd. No one could break it up. Then, Mary Lee’s big brother came up and punched the shepherd in the head. When it was all over, Bourbon was fine, the German shepherd was dead (“He must have hit him in just the right place and it killed him,” she said, still disbelieving after 50 years) – and her brother’s arm was broken.

But was he a good dog? I asked. Oh yes, Bourbon was a wonderful dog, she said. He lived a long life, from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s.

We stood on the side of the road for about 30 minutes, talking about dogs and kids and growing up. Mary Lee had never heard of the Lost Village of Haysborough, much less come across it during her childhood ramblings.

They gave me a bottle of wine, which was totally unnecessary but much appreciated. 
Yes, I do notice that I'm wearing an AARP
fanny pack. No need to point that out. They
make excellent fanny packs, is all.

Soon after, my new friends drove away. I went back to work and quickly found three rabies tags from 1963, 1964 and 1971.

It was as if the long-gone pack had been called together for one last romp on the bluff.

Good boy, Bourbon.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Scary Detour, Followed by Frenzied Excavations

Back in January, a few days after I published the last post, my daughter, Maya, called me up from Ann Arbor. She thought she had a stomach virus plus a fever, on and off. She felt bad but not dreadful. I asked her if she had pain in her lower right side, but she said it was more all over pain – the way you feel after a day of throwing up. She didn’t seem too concerned.

After a couple of days with no real improvement and baffling on-and-off symptoms, she went to our longtime family doctor who sent her immediately to the ER where she was admitted to the hospital with a perforated appendix.

I flew up the next day.

Insert frightening, exhausting, all-consuming, TWO-MONTH-LONG (so far) medical adventure here.

Here's Maya stretching and breathing on one
of many "loops" around the 8th floor. Walking
and breathing were critical due to fluid in the lungs.
I started to write up a more detailed description of Maya’s ordeal (and my perspective) thus far but I find I need to get a little more distance. (Also, Dirt Girl Unleashed is my safe place and I need to feel only happy here, not remember my little girl being stuck with many needles and other, more graphic horrors.)

So, the short version: my firstborn, my sweet, smart, beautiful and kind daughter, was in the hospital for a total of 17 days, over one month, then home on IV antibiotics and home nursing care for two weeks. She was a real trooper.  Her boyfriend, Michael, was amazing throughout: upbeat, calm, loving. The support of friends and family was humbling. St. Joe’s was terrific. She is weak, but much better and working part time. She’ll have her appendix out sometime in the next month or two, now that the infection is under control.

Needless to say, it all put a serious dent in my metal detecting and since returning from my THIRD trip to Michigan in two months, I have been MDing like a crazed weasel every weekend and I have the vintage pull tabs and can slaw to prove it.

I do have a few choice morsels to show you.

First: marbles.

At the February MTMDC meeting, Bill Siesser gave an impressive talk on marbles. Here are some pics of his collection. 

These are made of clay.
In the next few days, I found two of my own, just sitting there on the top of the ground. You just have to keep your eyes open. Thanks, Bill!

Cheryl and I have a new digging buddy we’ll call Dr. Karen. We met her at the Club meeting and have been planning an all-girl hunt. A few weekends ago, she invited us over to her side of town to (plunder) her very historic home. We didn’t find much but had a great time. Then we went over to a construction site and chatted up a worker who said we could poke around, so we did.  I found a couple of bullets and the usual junk. Went down into an old stream bed. It was really pretty in there, but Oh, Lord the trash.

Cans, bottles, plastic bags... and crayons.
Then Karen took us to a friend’s huge yard for a late afternoon dig. By the end of the day, I was covered in mud. As in, my hair too. I sort of remembered that I was supposed to go to a very fancy gala party that night, but when you are MDing, your concept of time is altered and so by the time I left the last site, it was almost dark and I had about 20 minutes to drive home, remove my mud via shower, dress in appropriately glittery clothing and drive to the fancy gala. I was very late, but no one seemed to mind. As I often do, I brought one of my finds to the party.

69 bullet thinking, "Ah. Wine, music, pretty
girls, local celebrities."

Here’s my take from two weekends’ worth of digging around there. 

From top: two- and three-ringers, latch plate
hood of toy car, hinge, lipstick, thing, handle
oil lamp wick winder, 1913 penny,  marble.

From top: thimble that almost says "Whit"
but really says "White," awesome, very old
mystery brass thing (any ideas?), watch part,
beautifully folded hose end, lens from tele-
scope (?), same hinge from other pic, thing,
item, same oil lamp thing from above (sorry),
small thingie, pennies, part of something.

I particularly love the old pocket watch part. Here it is up close.

Right outta the ground.

After warm bath.

Also: the mystery item. I mean, it looks like something from a Celtic tomb! Or 1960s sculpture...

Seriously... any ideas?

I was positive that Cheryl had found part of a cannonball, but Doug said no. Here is Doug telling us no.

We admire Doug and seek his approval in all things.
 Cheryl did find this, tho.

It calls to me with its siren song.

In the midst of all this MD frenzy, I did play the Bluebird CafĂ© in early March with my buddies, Kathy Hussey, Dan Schaefer and W.T. Davidson. We call ourselves the Variety Pack. Because of the variety.  Here is visual proof that Dirt Girl does things besides dig in dirt.

We are the days going byyyyy....

OK, enough of that.

Last Sunday, I met a new friend over on the other side of town to check out her lawn. She was immediately hooked and we found this wonderful old dog tag. 

Oh, Skipper. Where are you now?

Here she is, helpless in the thrall of MD.

K.L.! We must do it again soon!

 After a couple of hours there, on the way to meet Cheryl, I drove past a very busy corner (right smack dab in the center of prime Battle of Nashville real estate) where a bulldozer had just torn down an old house. It was a pretty sweet looking lot so I grabbed Cheryl and we headed back there, praying for access.

(Sometimes, I read back over what I’ve just written – like the previous paragraph –  and think, “Hmm. What has happened to me? What has happened to the Whitley I used to be?”)

Dirt Girl, vaguely concerned.

Anyway, we pulled into the driveway. We needed permission. (See Po-Po post from last year).

There was a man with a pickup truck, choosing huge pieces of fieldstone that he was going to make into a wall. Yes, he worked for the builder and it was totally fine for us to look around. SCORE.

We got busy. This was a huge double lot, pretty decimated by the bulldozer that now sat idle near the road. In the middle of the rubble-filled yard, was what was left of the basement: a big, stony hole. The owner of the torn down house had been a woman who died recently, at the age of 102. Two huge houses were going to be built on the site. I need to find out her name.

We dug there all day and it couldn’t have been more fun. 

Here are some high points:

1903 Barber quarter. Signal jumped all over
and I almost gave up on it. 

At left is a regular three-ringer. At right is
a three-ringer someone (bored soldier?) has
hammered flat. There is also some speculation
that soldiers actually chewed the bullets for fun.
Anyway, this is one of my favorite finds of
all time. 

Here’s more of my take. I was very happy about it.

'50s ish kitchen cabinet handles on ends.
Top row: yankee minie balls.
Middle row: musket ball, Enfield (Confederate)
bullet (my first!) and wheat penny. (Smashed
Enfield under penny).
Bottom row: Barber quarter, pistol bullet and
awesome fossil I just happened to find, there to
remind us that life is a huge sea of time we
are all swimming around in.

Taylor Swift with old items.

Which brings us to today, which was beautiful and toasty warm. Cheryl and I met over on the other side of town at a particular middle school, and started driving around looking for a place to go, but struck out. So we went back to last week’s (102-year-old lady) site and were just getting started when a guy pulled into the driveway.

Now, I, personally, never really like it when someone pulls in, even when you sort of have permission, which we sort of did. But this guy was not gesticulating angrily; in fact, he was smiling.

“Do you really… do this?” he asked?

“Metal detecting? Yes!” I said.

We exchanged pleasantries.

His name was Jay. He lived a couple of miles away in a hilly neighborhood that was in the thick of a whole bunch CW action. He’d always wanted to have his yard checked out. Would we like to come by? Why yes. Yes, we would. 

Ten minutes later, we pulled into his property, which was undergoing a huge renovation. Stayed about an hour and covered it pretty well but surprisingly didn’t find anything of interest which was really unexpected. Then, just as we were thinking about packing it in for the day…

In situ...

Leonardo da Vinci

Apparently, this exhibition took place at the
Museum of Science and Industry in NYC's
Rockefeller Center in 1940. My dentist's
office was in Rockefeller Center, as are the
studios of Saturday Night Live today. So:
cool find, on several levels.

I like to bring these posts full circle somehow but I can't figure a way to tie Leonardo da Vinci to my daughter’s illness, (though da Vinci was one of the first to accurately sketch the appendix, and other organs).

Sigh. It doesn't matter.

I’m just so grateful she’s OK. 

Oh... one other thing: when I got home last night, I ran across the street and took a swing on an empty lot I've explored dozens of times. (Some bushes had been removed and I had to see what was under there.)

And there we go: fork you, appendix.