Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Woodland Park Part I

Back in 1991, as a Jacksonville State University student, I helped excavate a Woodland Indian site near Anniston.  The area was doomed for modern recreation, to be turned into a sports complex.  It was only my second excavation, my first being the excavation of the old Davis Farm (now almost completely obscured by the boom of the Oxford area near I-20).  I was still learning what debitage and debris meant when it came to lithics, what naturally occurring tempers would have been used in ceramics of that area (sand, grit), and how to tell a mound from a regular old hill (I still struggle with that some times). 

For two full weeks that May, I spent Monday through Friday from eight in the morning till four in the late afternoon digging, sorting, and processing at that site which was located back through the woods in a field by a pond (the pond by which I camped for the first time in my life, waking up to the sound of my crew chief Chris Hill frying up his breakfast). There was an old two-story house with a barn close by, and a hauntingly beautiful blue hole within walking distance.  Two mischievous ponies with the names Timmy and Al (aka Evil) lived on the property and they made a point to behave sometimes in ways that would result in their being run off.

It was my first experience of digging a site that I knew was marked to fall under the bulldozer of progress.  Our field school represented the last chance to preserve the cultural artifacts that were left there upwards of three thousand years ago by prehistoric Native Americans.  In the end, the process of backfilling our meticulously excavated units was a painful closure.  We had removed as much as we could.  When we left at the end of June, I thought I’d never see the place again.  And I maybe wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been for Bamacross.

Last weekend, Mellow Mushroom Racing hosted a two-day cyclocross race in Anniston.  It was part of the Bamacross series…and it was held at Woodland Park Softball Complex.  So, after going to my nephew’s skating party at Merry Go Round Skate (which is another story entirely, and involves me roller skating again for the first time in about thirty years), I headed over to Anniston.

Taking the old way that I used to drive back when I was a fledgling shovel bum, I was struck by how little had changed on those curvy county roads.  I could almost swear that the same skinny country boys were still driving the same late-model muscle cars just as fast as they did in the 90s, and the same old trailer park was still filled with the same washed out old trailers.  But the park…when I got to the entrance of Woodland Park, it was entirely different than it was when I last laid eyes on it.  Gone was the farm gate that I had to open, drive through, and then close to get onto the farm.  Gone was the chert drive that I had to drive real slow on lest I stirred up so much dust I couldn’t see where I was going nor from where I came.  In their place were beautifully landscaped grounds with a nicely paved road.   But, as Eric pointed out to me while I pouted, if I looked back behind the far left field, I could still see an old road bed that cut back into the trees…

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