Saturday, January 9, 2016


I had a dream that I knocked on a door, seeking permission to metal detect. Inside, the homeowners were about to sit down to dinner. Clearly I was bothering them. It was awkward and I left. Then, I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror. Not only was my hair in large pigtails, there was a third pigtail sprouting out of the top of my head. And I remember thinking to myself, “Well. No wonder.”

It’s been nearly a year since I last posted. I’m not going to delve into the reasons why, as I’m not even sure what they are. Instead, I’m going to do a quick recap of 2015 which included some fun finds, a minor crisis of faith, and one major personal accomplishment.

Since the last blogpost was last February (!), we begin with March.

Perhaps you’ve forgotten how miserable last winter was. Snow, then an interminable ice storm. My cousin, Susan, came up for a visit and – weather be damned – wanted to go digging. I took her to “the Farm” where Cuzi enjoyed digging a ice/mud hole clear through to Papua New Guinea in order to liberate part of an old plow blade.

Isn't she just the cutest thing on legs?

I managed a few sweet finds that day, and a few weeks later.

The University of Nashville existed from 1826-1909. During
its history, it operated at various times a medical school,
a four-year military college, a literary arts college
and a boys' preparatory school.

Odds and ends. Love the keyhole.

Token from Earthman's Mercantile -- a
combination saloon and grocery in White's
Creek. It was there, in 1881, that the local
constable arrested Bill Ryan, alias Tom Hill
(no relation) -- a member of the infamous
Jesse James gang. And yes, that is a dog hair
in the upper left corner.
Happy to be out of the ground.
Also another dog hair.

Really just my favorite kind of find.

That hook thing was under a root and about made me cry.

They don't make suspender clips like they usta.

Sometime in early April, Cheryl and I made plans to dig but her car finked out on the Clarksville Pike. Waiting for the wrecker to come, we decided to explore a nearby creek. Sure was fun.

A new friend, songwriter Jerry Vandiver, invited me to check out a vacant lot he owns in East Nashville. Found way more than I expected over several trips.

Silver cross with sweet plastic "berries." I'm
thinking shop class project?

Very shiny but deceptively so. 

As the weather warmed, I intensified my efforts to get the word out about my new cd, “I Dug it Up” which features 13 songs inspired by metal detecting. Rehearsals commenced for a mid-May cd release at Douglas Corner. I was so excited. And then,  a virus decided to go metal detecting into every cell in my body, inserting snot and inflammation every which-where.

Never in all my years of performing as a songwriter have I canceled show. But I did. My husband, Al, took the slot and rocked the place, which was great. But it took me a long time to get past my disappointment.

Here’s a pic from the DancEast showcase at the end of May. Yup. When I’m not digging in the dirt, I teach li’l chilluns to dance.

Our circle is SO BIG!

Dirt Girl, as a wee ballerina.

June was spent in Ann Arbor, Michigan, readying our old family house for sale. On my way back home, I stopped just outside of Cincinnati to visit some sweet friends. I’ve known Grace since she was four teeny years old. She and I once went detecting around my house and she dug the fabulous penny shown below. Now she’s in serious, full-time training to be an Olympic gymnast, but, as they say, once a detectorist, always a detectorist.

Look at that form.

Just found pennies, but had fun.

"V" is for victory. And when you see Grace
compete, the word "victory" does come to mind.

On June 26, the Supreme Court of this country ruled that same-sex marriage is a right, nationwide. It was a joyful day, a triumph for love and common sense. Maybe I will finally dig a wedding ring,  now that there are going to be so many more of them flying off of fingers during backyard volleyball games, or at the beach, or whilst digging in gardens.

Over the summer, my dad again rented a big, old rambling house on Cape Cod. I tried my absolute best to unearth something fabulous, but all I managed to find is arranged, artfully, here.

I spent 10 hours as "the weird lady on the beach"
for this?
Back home, Cheryl and I got permission to detect a modest lawn in a neighborhood on the outskirts of CW activity, “outskirts” being the operative word. Cheryl was attacked by bees, but survived.

Here are two small digressions. The first: Hazel.

Sometimes, I get a powerful nudge about a random dog that needs a home. When a post about a little muttly cur appeared on Facebook in July, that nudge nearly knocked me down. Soon, Al and I were driving to a Franklin shelter to pick her up.


I'll have what you're having.

While she recuperated from her spay, I got busy playing matchmaker.

Hazel with her new family.

Digression #2: 

In June, an angry, not-very-bright young man with a bad haircut and access to a lot of firearms, killed a bunch of lovely, peaceful, praying human beings in an historic Charleston, S.C. church.  Amid the national grieving and disbelief, the Confederate flag was removed from the city’s state house. (I always wondered what that was doing there – or anywhere.)

At the next meeting of our local metal detecting club, the usual discussion of the Finds of the Month, dues, and other club business suddenly devolved into a heated discussion of the "true" history and meaning of the Confederate flag, how wrongheaded it was to remove it, where would this PC nonsense end, etc. The discussion ended with some heartfelt language about President Obama.

It really was unfortunate. There were some new faces at the club that night, folks who haven’t been back. My heart raced a little, but I didn't leave. It’s my club too.

For a few weeks after that, I thought a lot about the words “tradition” and “heritage” and “pride” and what it means to “honor our ancestors.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but I honor my ancestors by being the best person I can be.

Now. In this life.

(And, in truth, I don’t think my distant ancestors are floating around demanding my attention. I think they are long gone to wherever we will go. But you know, I could be wrong about this.)

End of digressions.

In September, Cheryl and I got an interesting permission: an old farm south of town. Didn’t hit any kind of motherlode, but managed a few good finds. We’ll definitely go back.

Nice bridle rosette!

Not sure what this is. I would like someone
to tell me how rare and valuable it is.

One October afternoon, I scored a nice permission in my neighborhood: a beat-up little cabin with a huge front yard, right across the street from the Cumberland bluff. Cheryl came and brought her grandson, Trey. We dug for hours, pulling out a thousand bottle caps and pulltabs. Just... nothing. And then, this. It's a 1792 Spanish 8-real piece.

To be honest, I thought it was a stainless-steel
washer at first.  Then the profile of King Charles IV
(or "Big Nose Charlie," as Doug Drake used
to call him) became visible and I made
some muffled high-pitched noises, and all
was good and right with the world.

I've been told that people used to drill holes
in coins so they could run a string through
them to prevent loss. Obviously, not foolproof.

On October 31, my daughter, Maya, was married in Ann Arbor, Michigan to her Michael. What a party it was: a Halloween costume ball in an old, cobblestone barn. It was a joyous weekend and I only thought about sneaking out to detect the farm grounds maybe three times.

The lovely bride.

In early November, a reporter from WPLN, the local NPR station, contacted me about my detecting and my new record. He interviewed me at home, then asked me to go digging. Hmm.

I certainly didn’t want to take him somewhere and then not find anything. (“Oh! Everyone loves a vintage pulltab – it’s just part of the fun!”) So I did some serious reconnaissance. Got permission for a Really Good Yard belonging to some musicians who are famous enough that I will not mention their names, as much as I would like to do that.

Scoped it out by myself and found and Enfield bullet just lying on top of the ground.

Well, that's not something you see every day.

Dug several more then backed off, leaving some really delicious signals undug. (For the record, this is hard to do.)

Came back the next day with the NPR guy, handed him my Tesoro Cibola and let him have a go. He immediately found two more Enfields and a bunch of camp lead. Then he held the microphone as I dug through tough roots, self-conscious about the amount of unladylike grunting that was being recorded For All Time.

Couple of Enfields and a pulled 69 minie ball.

The next day, the NPR guy came to our monthly club meeting where he got to see some interesting finds and talk to some interesting people. There was no political commentary that night, for which I was grateful.

The cd release show for I Dug it Up took place Wednesday, November 18 at Douglas Corner in Nashville. Backed by an ace band and a slew of my dearest friends singing backup, I sang through the entire album. There were lots of people. There was cake. There was an NPR guy. It was one of the best nights of my life.

Here we are singing "Can Slaw" -- my ode to chopped up
Mountain Dew cans everywhere.

I am thinking about becoming a professional cake decorator.

(I will post a link to a youtube video of the whole show at the end of this blogpost. It was recorded on a phone so the sound is not pristine, but it's pretty cool. Thanks,  Dave P.!)

Here are a few odds and ends from random yards near my house.

Just grand.
Someone was fascinated by transportation.

Which brings us to January. Only nine days in and I’ve already dug this

Confederate Gardner bullet -- precursor to the
more accurate Enfield. 

And this, just yesterday.

Huge yard full of nothing, then this.

My hopes/plans for the new year?

1.     Finish a new writing project
2.     Get permission for a certain vacant lot on the Cumberland bluff. I’ve been trying for a year.
3.     That the NPR guy will finish and air the story of I Dug it Up so that all the world can hear my grunty root digging.

And one other thing: I hope to travel to Fayette, Alabama where both my grandfather’s grandfathers had farms. One, Willis Harvey Whitley, was a captain in an undistinguished Confederate regiment. The other, Buck Farquhar, owned a prosperous farm, including two enslaved human beings. I’d like to locate those properties, perhaps run my detector over the land and find something that belonged to my ancestors.

Will it make me feel closer to them? Maybe, though that closeness would be a fiction.

Will I feel pride? Shame? I don't know.

Will it make me want to better understand the times they lived in, their particular spot in the river, the rot and the grit and the glory of history? Absolutely.

And if through some miracle of dimensions, Willis and Elizabeth Whitley are there in some form, floating beside me as I swing my machine over the scattered bricks of their long-demolished farmhouse, here are two things they may say to each other:

1. "Elizabeth Jane, why does our young descendent not have a Confederate flag bumper sticker on her Toyota Sienna minivan? The omission of it is so disrespectful." 

I believe this is unlikely.


2. "Willis, what on earth is growing out of the top of our young descendent's head? Lawd, Lawd, but it looks like a third pigtail. The poor girl should wear a bonnet, for decency's sake... " 

This is more likely. I shall report back.