1975 – Early July It is the end of a long, hot day on the farm. Wearily dragging my feet, I cross the farmyard, heading for the car. Feeling something hard under my foot, I stop and pick the object up.
“What are you looking at?” calls Sheldon.
“Don’t really know, but it’s beautiful. Look at this, Sheldon.”
Late August – This summer is flying by. We have spent very weekend on the family farm that we inherited, and my wonderful find has ridden around in the pocket of my work jacket. Sheldon was so surprised to find an ancient relic out here. I was not. It is common in this area to find relics that look very old. My parents found a stone head for a primitive axe and used it for a door stop! It wasn’t given much thought.
Today we went to the Calgary Museum to see the resident anthropologist. Sheldon suggested that we have an expert examine whatever it is that I stumbled on. She knew immediately what it was – a head for a small spear, the kind used for killing small game. It was made of chert, she said, a much prized rock not found in the area of the farm, where so many other relics turned up. Rabbits, partridges, rodents and such could be caught at close range with such a weapon. It was a “Duncan” spear head and these were dated from about 3,500 BC!
We could hardly believe what we were hearing. That meant that over 5,000 years ago, people lived here who could produce such well crafted things. Who were they?
3500 BC “Maybe the Gods are with us this year, Aga. This is a good place to settle for the summer.”
“I think so too, husband. Room for all the rock-chippers group to set up their work places. Open enough so the light is good, and a stream nearby.”
“Where is Akycha? That son of ours can wander off in two breaths!”
“Koda, please – don’t be so impatient. He is only a boy.”
“He is ten years old, wife – almost a man! I have finished a head for a small spear just his size. I am going to send him out to get us supper.”
“Are you sure? That head has taken you many hours to make, and you used some of our precious Spirit Rock, not ordinary stone.”
“He must grow up some time, and today is the start. Find him and send him to me.”
So it was that an excited Akycha left on his first solo hunting trip, carrying his small spear with the precious head.
The day wore on, and the dusk was falling when he returned empty handed – no supper and no spear. He stood before his parents, trying not to cry and recounted his story. Anxious to prove he was a good hunter he had acted quickly. Seeing a land bird he rushed towards it, and threw his spear. It found its mark but did not kill the bird. It squawked loudly and scurried off, trailing the embedded spear as it fled. Akycha was in hot pursuit, but lost sight of his quarry. Frantically he spent the rest of the day searching, but to no avail. With night approaching he had no choice but to return and face his parents.
There was silence. Aga made a move towards the boy, but Koda waved her off, and spoke.
“My son, today two things have happened. We lost something precious, and gained something more precious.”
Akycha stares at his father in amazement. Koda continues, “The valuable spear head is gone. Lost are the hours spent in forming it. Gained is the knowledge that we have a son who tells the truth, and accepts his responsibility. That is beyond price. In time I will make another spearhead. You will learn from the mistakes you made today, and be closer to being a man.”
Koda added, “I wonder if anyone will ever find that spearhead again?”
2011 – August The day is warm and sunny. A soft breeze is blowing. The home quarter has been harvested, and is now an empty stubble field. A small group of family and friends have gathered for a private ritual. This was not possible in the cold winter weather of December, when Sheldon died. Today we scatter his ashes on this land he dearly loved. It is strangely comforting, somehow the right thing to do. Looking up from my loving task I see, a stone’s throw away, the farmyard where so long ago, I stepped on something hard! Memories . . . will they enrich what life I have left, or break my heart? Eight months have passed since he died. My grief is still sharp, and confusion clings to me. Who am I? This strange woman is alone. After sixty-five years of marriage, I do not recognize the person I see in my mirror.
2014 Time rolls on, day by day, week by week, year by year. I learn that the loss is always there, but I also gradually learn acceptance. Memories move from being an aching weight to a comforting connection to the missing, and something to be cherished. And the present? I would not miss a day of it!
Life is good. As always, frustrating and fulfilling, interesting and challenging. I wake every morning wondering what the day will bring!
I wear my spearhead on a gold chain . . . I still marvel at the chance connection with a people who lived over 5,000 years ago. It is so hard for me to believe that people who lived where the farm still is, could lose a spearhead and I would find it! How I would love to tell Koda that it is safe and sound, and on a gold chain around my neck.
It does raise the question, though: What about 5,000 years from now? What will the world be like then? As Koda would not be able to grasp our world or civilization if he saw it, so we are in the same situation. We cannot glimpse the far away future. Will the spearhead survive another 5,000 years?
20?? One of these days, my turn will come. Quite likely there will be (on some nice warm day), another gathering on the home quarter. Someone else will be wearing the spearhead on the gold chain.
Enjoy the gathering. Enjoy blue sky and white clouds. Enjoy the ritual as you scatter my ashes near Sheldon’s. Minimize grieving, honour acceptance, and say, “She had a good run.”
My appreciation for the interest and support of those who encouraged me to write this story: Annette Evers, who suggested a fictional account of the ancient people who made the spearhead; the Writing Class, which sat through several revisions and made suggestions; and Isabel Gibson, my editor, who helped bring the essay to its final state. Marjorie Gibson