Mr. Good Apple
Previously I had written an article for this publication entitled “Mr. Bad
Appleâ€� (IAM Vol. 24-3).  In case you missed it, it was about a careless
trespassing “collector� that was a major cause for me losing permission to
a few of my favorite sites.  Despite my lost faith in new collectors, this spring I
met Mr. Good Apple on another of my favorite sites.

This site is situated along a major tributary in south central New York State.  
What makes this site unique is that it is found on the other side of a large hill
approximately 75 yards from the river.  The area where most of the artifacts are
found is on the slanted section at the base of the large hill.  This area, I’ll
call area one, has four or possibly five fire pit or cooking pit features in almost a
straight row running North to Southeast.  Points found in this area consist of
Vestal Notched, Lamoka, Susquehanna, and Levanna projectiles (fig. 1).  The
other area, I’ll call area two, that has produced artifacts is approximately 35-
40 feet north of the previously described area and is on a flat section that is
situated a the bottom of a bowl shaped section of the field.  This bowl section has
produced the oldest projectile point that I’ve found there, a Brewerton side
notched point, as well as a nice biface and ovate knife type tool (fig. 2).  Both
areas are what I would describe as moderate producing areas that also yield
pitted stones and net sinkers on occasion.

My son Nick and I were on this site in May 2005 and were having a pretty good
start.  During our first pass down the row in area one I found a whole pestle that
did not have a single plow scar (fig. 3 insitu).  The use wear on this artifact was
very evident.  This pass through the middle of area 1 was only to get to area 2
for a look.  Nick answered my find of the pestle with his discovery of a 2 ½
inch broken knife blade made of our native Onondaga Chert.  I knew at this
point that we would at least both go home with something in our pockets.  As we
turned around to start another row in area two, I saw a guy come up over the
left side of the hill with his head down and his eyes glued to the tilled soil.

I waved to the man and we approached him to say hello.  He said his name was
Gary and that the farmer had given him permission to look for arrowheads.  
After some small talk Gary, or should I say Mr. Good Apple, revealed to me that
this was his first time ever looking for arrowheads.  I was thrilled and showed
him what we had found so far.  He then in turn showed me some Onondaga
chert flakes he had picked up and asked me if they were flint.  I confirmed that
they indeed were flint and invited him to walk the rows with us.  I encouraged
Gary to train himself to find the chert flakes and that by looking for them he
also would spot the points.  I told him that I’ve recovered many points that I
thought were just flakes.  We walked several rows before I spotted a broken
Vestal Notched point about three feet ahead of me in my row.  I called Gary over
and showed it to him insitu (fig. 4).  Then I took a picture of the point in situ
and explained the importance of doing this and how it adds to the provenance of
the artifact as well as provides you with a picture that you can share with
others.  I then gave Gary the honors of being the first hand to touch that point
since the aboriginal who last touched it.  Gary was enthusiastic and thrilled to
hold the point.  His zeal was increased even more when I invited him to see my
collection of artifacts & books after one of our artifact hunts.

Why was my new found friend a good apple?  Many reasons come to mind:  One,
he asked permission before coming onto the site.  Two, he showed interest in
learning how to find artifacts by listening to many of the tips and skills I shared
with him as we walked the rows.  Three, after my encouragement, he started a
log to keep track of where and when he found artifacts.  Four, (techno meets
stone age!) he began to photograph his finds with his picture phone.  Gary and I
have been out several times since that day and his knowledge and his skills have
grown tremendously.  Heck, he even got me back into good graces with the
angry farmer who revoked my permission on some of my old sites on the
account of Mr. Bad Apple’s conduct. It turns out that he has known that
farmer for years and smoothed things over for me.

Gary was hooked and I mean hooked deep on this hobby.  I knew he would need
something related to do in between summer and fall so I let him in on my
secret: flintknapping.  I told him with time he would learn to make points much
better than what he had found this year.  Now Gary and I knap a couple of times
a month in my garage and he’s learning the skills that I am teaching him
very well.  When we were walking the rows, I would show him a chert flake and
explain how I could see the prepared platform and that this flake was likely
struck off with an antler billet or a hammer stone dependent of the shape and
size of the chip.  After a short time knapping Gary commented on how
complimentary knapping is to avocational archaeology.  He commented on how
much he now appreciated the chips of chert he found and how he studied them.  
He also was able to better evaluate some of the points he found that contained
hinge fractures or stacks.  If you collect Indian artifacts and have never given
knapping a try I recommend it, as it will really supplement your knowledge and
appreciation of genuine artifacts.

To sum it all up, I would have to say that Gary renewed my faith in those
entering this great hobby.  He is responsible, ethical and teachable.  He even
found nearly 40 broken and whole points in his first year! The more Mr. Good
Apples like Gary that we can shepherd into this hobby of ours, the more
outnumbered the Mr. Bad Apples will be.  Be alert though, a Mr. Good Apple
may be headed to your favorite site.  If he or she shows up, swallow your
selfishness, smile, and show him or her the mystery and significance of what we
do.  Show him or her that we preserve the past for ALL to see and touch and
appreciate.  Share your knowledge (but keep a few sites secret so you can still
wow them with some great finds) and if they seem trustworthy and it is
appropriate, invite them to your home to see your collection.  Sure, now you will
have “competition� on your sites, but remember that there are plenty of
good artifacts to go around and you may just have to use your experience to find
the artifacts your new apprentice missed.  Besides, it is much more enjoyable
when you can walk the rows with someone. We even made a rule that we will
both hunt our mutual sites together whenever possible. It may also be good to
remember that at one time you were the new avocational on someone else’s
sites too. We all have to start somewhere I am glad that I got to see Gary enter
and grow in this great hobby as well as in flintknapping.
Copyright 2006 by INDIAN ARTIFACT MAGAZINE Vol. 25-4
Ovid Bell Press Inc. (Unauthrorized Reproduction Prohibited)
By Michael E. McGrath
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