Nature has provided us with a great supply of composted oak leaves! It is several inches deep under the trees and just ready to be scooped up with the shovel. I spent 3 days with my shovel and wheelbarrow taking it to the garden to mulch the rows. Purple asters, known as Michaelmas Daisies to you readers of English novels, and native Maximillian Sunflowers, are blooming in the garden, along with some red and orange zinnias. The sweet peas are just starting to bloom with pretty pink flowers. Leeks are coming up slowly and the Russian Kale is recovering from the grasshopper attacks!
On the second day of my compost shoveling, as I flipped the compost into the wheelbarrow, a small length of rope fell from the shovel. I said to myself, I’ll keep that. I am like a raccoon, gathering odds and ends of stuff I find to save. But when I picked the rope up and looked at it, I was surprised to see that it was what appeared to be horsehair braided into a length about 2 1/2 feet long. Each end was knotted and there was a piece of broken ceramic pottery on one end. On that end the braid was finished with loose hair. Well, curiosity had me wondering what I had found. Hair does last for years in our area because of the low humidity. The pottery piece was glazed, not a piece of Native American pottery. It had half of a finished hole in it where the braid had originally been attached to the whole piece of pottery.
I consulted with my knowledgeable neighbors. They recommended that I talk to Gary in town as he knew a lot about local artifacts. So off I was, on my hunt for information! Gary said he believed it to be human hair, not horsehair. He told me that he used to scout around in some local caves for old items and that one time a friend of his found a leather pouch containing a fish net made from human hair. He said he had also found remains of straw mats used for sleeping. The braid has a thin copper wire braided into it. Gary speculated, as my neighbor had done, that it looked like it could have been connected on both ends to some type of pottery bowl or container with the braid forming a handle. Since one end looked like it had been worn or torn off, this could be true. The hair is black and coarse, so I am doing a little speculating of my own that it might be either Native American or Mexican or Hispanic hair. There is no gray or brown in the hair. It appears to probably be some type of decorative piece. I don’t think it is ancient, since the pottery is a glazed piece, but I don’t know how old it might be. We have had the place for 21 years, so all I know for certain is that it is older than that!
The next day as I worked in the same area I kept an eye out for more of the broken pottery but, of course, didn’t find any. I believe these things find us when they want to be found, as the braid found me, and so I didn’t jump in and start an archeological dig! But I am curious about it and who might have braided it so carefully and well that it survived relatively intact outdoors for years. Was it hair from a loved one that was gone or did someone cut part of their own hair to braid it? Was it intended to be utilitarian or was it just created to be beautiful? Did it remind the owner of someone each time she looked at it and did her heart hurt or did she smile at a memory?