Digging

The Button Conundrum

  • September 10, 2015

20150904_130719We all have that property that we gawk at but can never muster the courage to approach. For the longest time, my unapproachable permission was a brick farmhouse on a hill. I drove by this house every day for years, but something held me back. Instead of asking for permission and facing the possibility of rejection, I’d settled for thinking that I could get permission. I’m almost positive that I’m not the only hobbyist who thinks this way. We all have that unapproachable permission that we silently salivate over…

A few weeks ago, I had been poking around the remains of the Fickel House when I was approached by a shirtless man and his dog. This shirtless man–Tim–gave me the rundown on local history and pointed me in the direction of a neighboring sheep farm. That is where I met Amanda and her brother-in-law. The pair happened to be standing by the road as I drove past, so I pulled off and rolled down my window. (Is that even a thing anymore?) I introduced myself and struck up conversation. I told them all about my mission for tangible history and launched into an interrogation of sorts–Are there any old dumps on the property? Who is the original owner? How old is the house?

Amanda informed me that the house was built in 1830. I just about jumped out of the car to hug her–but quickly realized that may be too soon. I’m sure she sensed my excitement, because she went on to share that her brother-in-law’s house was much older than that. As a matter of fact, his house was part of an original land grant from William Penn in the 1780s. Well, Hot Dog! As you can imagine, I could barely contain myself–my voice jumped an octave or two and goosebumps prickled my skin. We exchanged numbers and I promised to return for some much anticipated digging.

As I hugged the winding roads back to my house, I slowed to gawk at my unapproachable permission. And… that’s about when the realization struck me. I had just obtained permission for my unapproachable property. This was her brother-in-law’s house. This was the property that dated back to seventeen-eighty-something. I just knew it. I probably could have pulled over and done cartwheels on the lawn, but I refrained. I was already late to pick my son up from daycare. The cartwheels could wait.

Last weekend, I set out for some much needed dirt-therapy. I had planned to hike up Fickel Hill with the company of my nine-millimeter, machete, pepper spray, and serrated shovel. (None of the guys I usually hunt with were available… so a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.) As I was driving to Fickel Hill, I noticed that Amanda’s sister–Jacqueline–was in her yard. I was faced with a decision, I could either 1) strap on my holster and lug the darned handgun all over the mountain with bugs swarming my perfectly sculpted hair, or 2) stop and ask to dig around my unapproachable permission. I chose to stop and ask Jacqueline. She told me to have at it–so I did. I putzed around and found a few treasures. (I made a video about the adventure instead of a blog.)

11140127_1061506723862485_8054305603015007023_nI returned to the house a few days later and brought the crew with me–Mike, Duane, and Roman. Summer–however–had not yet surrendered the seasonal torch. As a matter of fact, Summer may have actually been attempting to sear us with said torch. We were the ants and she was a twelve-year-old with a magnifying glass. All metaphors aside, I just about passed out from heat exhaustion that day. Luckily, the guys were able to pull it together for a few awesome relics.

Duane won–as per usual–with his civil war button. After a little research, we found that the button once belonged to a union officer from New York. We are still a little unclear on how this button found its way into the yard of the unapproachable permission. I did contact Scott Mingus Sr–a local civil war researcher and historian. According to him, New York helped pursue Lee’s retreating army from Harrisburg to Chambersburg via Gettysburg following the battle. (Cooper Wingert discusses this in his book on the confederate advance on Harrisburg.)

11997459_10205163576589719_2128878566_nThis may be the most plausible explanation, but the unapproachable permission is a little off the beaten path to have been visited by any soldiers following the battle of Gettysburg. This button may just be one of those unexplainable mysteries that lives on in the adventures of the Relic Recoverist. Though, I do kind of picture a scene from Billy Madison playing out in my head…

We plan to visit the house again this evening after a line of storms pass through. We hope that the rain moistens the earth enough to get those relics singing.

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