"GIVING UP NIGHT DIGGING"
My first experience as a night digger came in the earliest days of my bottle-digging career. Robbie was a local digger, a displaced hillbilly, who with the help of his two sons had literally dug up the countryside. There was no use in redigging a dump that Robbie had dug, though he claimed to have found things in spots I had been. I should have been suspicious when he told me about this place that he'd take me. Robbie said we'd have to dig it at night. I was intrigued and unable to resist, so the date was set to go out on Friday at midnight.
He and his sons picked me up and we had to park a considerable distance from the spot. It seemed like we walked for miles-tripping and stumbling through the woods carrying our digging equipment. Robbie was the only one allowed to have a flashlight and he said that it was too dangerous to use it. Incredibly, in spite of the moonless night, we did find the place. Robbie had all of us worked up by his commando-type behavior. Nervously we started digging by flashing the flashlight on and off quickly. Almost immediately, Robbie stopped us and told us we were being too noisy and that he was going to have to go out a way to keep watch. I was nearly in shock when he suddenly produced two road flares and announced in a loud whisper that if anyone were to come he was going to set the woods on fire to create a diversion so we could get away. Even his sons seemed a little surprised at that and I protested such that we decided to call it an evening.
|My second experience with night digging came four or five years later. I found a small dump on the edge of a ravine. Unfortunately, it was just on the other side of a fence in the corner of a pasture. A farmhouse stood maybe fifty yards away. I could see broken pontiled medicines lying right there on top of the ground. Unable to resist, I climbed the fence and began picking up the shards. There was a pontiled Liver Invigorator and numerous other early bottles.|
No sooner had I stuck my digger into the ground when I heard a dog coming towards me. Not wanting to confront an angry landowner, I scrambled back over the fence and down into the ravine. The banks were quite steep and I received a number of minor injuries trying to get out of there. That night and for many nights after I was plagued by dreams of finding pontiled bottles by the bushel.
Again, unable to resist, I talked a follow digger into accompanying me on a night dig. We decided to go early in the morning before going to work. We met around 2:30 in the morning and carefully found our way into the ravine, up the bank and over the fence. We had only the minimum essentials to do the job, a small bag, a claw-type hand digger and a not too bright flashlight (not to mention a couple of not too bright diggers). I held the light and my partner began quietly digging. Within a few seconds he pulled out a crude Dr, D. Jayne's bottle, but with no pontil. A few seconds later out popped a B. Denton's Healing Balsam also crude and not pontiled, but close. Without warning there was this loud crashing sound in the bushes just in front of us and a huge silouhette looming menacingly close.
|It looked a lot like a bull and it was coming right at us.|
We dropped our gear and having no place to run, with the ravine on one side and this savage animal on the other, we climbed the nearest tree. I had managed to keep hold of the flashlight so we tried shining it in the rabid animal's eyes to scare it off. We sat imprisoned there for nearly an hour. As it began to get faintly light, we feared we better do something to avoid being caught. We agreed to make a run for it when it was just light enough to see our way out. We waited until the bull had wandered slightly away to a small calf.
|Apparently our bull was only a cow.|
Less afraid, we dropped to the ground and picked up our gear and made it over the fence to safety. Ironically, eight or ten months later I stopped at the farmhouse and asked the farmer if I could look for old bottles on his property. He said to go right ahead and even told me about another dump. Anxiously, I rushed to the corner of the field and dug but found no other bottles whole. Those cows had broken every one.
You would think that after two experiences like that I would have learned my lesson about night digging. Indeed, for nearly ten years I went straight. That was until recently when I was unable to resist probing a spot that had been the site of an 1850's hotel. While I wonít bother you with the details, this was a spot for which it is impossible to gain permission to dig. Unfortunately, I found the privy rather easily.
|Again, night after night my dreams tempted me with the promise of finding baskets of pontiled bottles. Realizing that the only solution to my problem was to see what was in that hole I talked my digging buddy into a night dig.|
After scouting out the place in the daylight the next day we gave in to the temptation. About 11:30 P.M., we drove to a spot where we thought it was safe to park the car. Seconds after we got out of the car and into the bushes along side the road, a pickup truck, probably belonging to a security guard for a nearby trailer park, pulled up next to our vehicle and sat there suspiciously examining our vacant vehicle. We ducked down to avoid detection. The fellow appeared to be waiting for us to come back and had probably seen us pull in. After about five minutes he pulled away up the road just long enough for us to leave the equipment and run to the car. As we pulled out, the pickup truck noticed us and started following us. After a short chase, we lost him. We knew we couldn't park there and the only other good parking spot was too close to the site.
|I should have listened to that little voice in my head. You know, the one that they show in cartoons as the angel and the devil talking in your ear, but I didnít.|
To avoid detection, we arranged to be dropped off near the site (by an unnamed co-conspirator- one who refused to pick us up however.). By this time it was 1:00 A.M. in the morning and we were way behind schedule. When we finally got to the site we laid down the plastic to cover the ground. We were determined to leave the place as clean as possible so that no one would be able to tell we had been there.
The digging was a nightmare come true. We could not use the light because the place is a popular spot for couples to park and neck. The shovel when thrust into the gravelly ground, made a noise that traveled far in the night air and we were afraid that the security guard might hear us and decide to investigate. Worse yet we hit water at about two and a half feet. We had not anticipated this. The digging slowed to a snail's pace. Without the light we couldn't even examine the few shards we were finding. It was getting later and later and we were still only four feet down.
Each bit of mud had to be extracted noiselessly. At 4:00 A.M. we had to make a decision. We were only four and a half feet deep at the most and it was going to be getting light. Already we could see the shadows fading. Since we could not afford to be seen filling in the hole we admitted defeat and began backfilling the hole. This too had to be done noiselessly as we feared discovery. It must have been close to 4:30 when we fitted the last pieces of sod back and finished cleaning the area. Wet, muddy, exhausted and two miles from home, we walked back arriving at daybreak.
I have sworn off night digging. I promise never to go again, unless, of course, I am unable to resist.
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