Readers, meet Neal. Neal’s a good friend who lives a few blocks away in an early-mid 1920s high water bungalow. Last Saturday (May 21, 2011) Neal uncovered a subterranean structure’s opening while digging a hole to plant his avocado tree.
We live in an older neighborhood with houses dating mostly between 1900 and 1940. While digging in my yard, I’ve found a few old bottles, a lot of broken china, and some child’s old marbles. Nothing “significant,” just parts of Wildlands’ history showing itself—but I treasure everything I pull out of the ground. Having said that, I’ve always hoped I’d uncover the American hominid (nod back to KSU dig days) or at least something really cool. I did find a dog skeleton during the backyard renovation, but that was more bittersweet than “cool.”
We talked about it Saturday night and then again last night before deciding I’d head over there after dog park to begin the excavation. The more I thought about heading over to Neal’s tonight, the more excited I got.
Half-serious, half-comedy routine, I packed up the bike this afternoon with the essentials— small lights, head lamp, lantern, gloves, trowels, flat shovel, and provisions (beer and last night’s birthday dinner left overs) and off I pedaled to Neal’s. I got more than a few odd looks biking the four blocks. Ha!
Neal’s backyard is a mess of shallow roots which made the digging slow-going. Using trowels, a small pick axe, chain saw, and shovels, we were able to excavate a 4 1/2 foot circle around the structure to a depth of 9 inches. The opening is approximately 8 1/2 inches in diameter.
After a few hours of digging, we can see (by looking inside) the structure is honey-hive shaped, topped with concrete and brick-lined for at least a foot or two below the surface. The items we found were deposited into a bucket for further inspection during daylight.
Eva, Mark, and Carp joined us for a while. Eva helped document items as we found them (thanks Eva!). As it got darker, we lowered a lantern down into the hole to have another look around.
As early evening became late evening, Cesar and Lucy kept us company while Neal and I hacked away at the root mat. We still don’t know exactly what it is. I suspect it’s simply the house’s old septic tank and there’s an older clay sewer line (empty) coming into the structure. There’s some “trash” on the bottom including a second old amber-coloured Clorox bottle.
Neal thinks it’s going to take a few weeks of after work digging to excavate it all out. We’ve discussed a recovery plan— dig out the perimeter, then disassemble the structure from the outside. We’ll see.
There are a lot of ways to spend one’s time—few more enjoyable than hanging out, digging in the dirt, and discovering a bit of humdrum history in Neal’s backyard. As you can see, I was having a blast.
Good stuff. More to come….who knows? We could find Hoffa, some old gold bars, or maybe, just some old crap—literally. Stay tuned.