Central States Archaeological Societies
Central States Archaeological Societies
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Our Impact on the Next Generation

by Paul Schanen

Central States Archaeological Societies 2014 January Journal


I have spent thousands upon thousands of hours walking local farm fields in pursuit of our favorite hobby. When friends of mine were experimenting with drugs and alcohol in high school I was more often knee deep in a corn field. So inspired and so curious was I that when others went all directions in life after high school I went on to school in pursuit of our favorite hobby. When the professional aspect of archaeology opened the door to me only if I would close the hobby door, I turned around and headed back out into the fields. Because of our great hobby, I have traveled all over and met hundreds, if not thousands of great people, both online and in person. In short, this love of ours has been nothing but good to me and a great many others. What has ended up being a life-long obsession and a game changer in my life started with the smallest act of kindness.

I think I was eight years old when I met Bill. He was a friend of my parents and we happened to run into him one evening at our friend’s bar/restaurant. I was a shy boy at that age, and so it was with some reluctance that I held out my small hand when he told me to. My fingers slowly uncurled and when my small hand was as wide and flat as it could be, he dropped a small cold stone into it. He asked me if I knew what it was and I didn’t. He told me it was an Indian arrowhead and that I could have it. I don’t know how or why, but that one small sidenotched arrowhead, though rough and poorly made, inspired far more questions in my young mind than I could process. Poor old Bill might have had second thoughts about giving me that point when I continued to pester him for the rest of the evening with a barrage of questions about how it got lost, if there might still be blood on it, how old it was, and so on and so forth.

Many things changed in the years that came after that. I spent my summers riding my bike, fishing, hunting, and being a country boy in general. Favorite toys, best friends, and many other things all came and went with the seasons, and in spite of not being the most organized sort of person, I never lost or forgot about that small arrowhead. I would see Bill from time to time but usually only in passing. When I got a little older and my interest in artifacts resurfaced, it was Bill who took me out hunting for my first time. I found three points that first day and it wasn’t until many years later that I found out that every kid or person who Bill took hunting for the first time always found at least a couple of points. Needless to say, Bill’s small act of kindness and parting with a few small dart points had one of the moprofound impacts on all of my life. In essence it’s what spurred me on to college, spurred me on to write a book and what has kept me walking through thousands of corn rows. That one small act of kindness is the reason I sit here and write this now all these years later.

This isn’t about how or why I got into the hobby however. It’s meant to be a reminder to us all what a tremendous impact we can have on young people’s lives sometimes and what parting with an artifact or two can do for spreading a love and understanding for our hobby to the next generation. Many people on the other side of the archaeological realm would like to see collecting outlawed in general. But by taking time with the little ones around all of us to share our hobby, and perhaps a point or two, we can be assured of a generation who will follow in our footsteps both figuratively and literally.