Photo Story Friday

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

When I was a little girl, my mother and grandmother would take me out, deep into the Black Hills of South Dakota to pick blackberries, chock cherries, boysenberries, and wild raspberries. Then they would spend hours making jams and jellies to can and freeze. Yum. Seeing the blueberry picking pictures scattered across blogs in the last month bring back those fond memories. But I live in the city, so the closest we get to picking is the Farmer's Market. Sigh.

Then there is this collection of old bottles that sit in my kitchen window and conjures up another fond memory.
A memory of accompanying my mother and grandmother to pioneer homesteads speckling the hills to dig up vintage bottles, tins, and other treasures that were buried in make-shift trash holes or the remains of fire pits left behind by Pioneers.

I loved those excursions as much as my parents did; as they searched the surrounding area of a log cabin or shanty, I ventured into long abandoned building, often consisting of one open room with a door and a window. It was usually cool and dark, even in the summer heat, and smelled of earth and roots; as I disturbed the quiet, dust would float into beams of light streaming in through the cracks of lumbered walls. I imagined what it was like to be a pioneer and live in these primitive structures without running water, heat, electricity, sometimes even floors. As I pretended to live there I would listen for the sounds of another age.

Many of these cabins were built by those flocking to the Black Hills during the Great Gold Rush, only to quickly abandon them once funds ran out, winter became too difficult and no gold was discovered. Other settlers planted roots and started families during the Homestead Act around the 1860-80. [My history lessons escape me now days] They would create a garbage pits a few yards from their houses to dispose of their consumables. [because face it, there wasn't really trash service in the Pioneer days.] These hidden "pits" is what attracted modern-day "garbage hunters".

From the 1950s through the 1970s it became very popular to locate these venerable homesteads and find "buried treasures". Unfortunately, in the late 70s the Forest Service began to systematically burn down the remaining abandoned sites as they were beginning to attract too many tourists and, more so, became fire hazards in drought-like conditions.

I will always look at this collection of bottles and recall those adventures with my family. I can still feel air of one shanty, the dark shadows of a one-window shack with the earth as a floor, rotted boards scattered on the ground and the discovery of a nest of baby chipmunks. I can still see my mother digging into the soil with her shovel and later pulling out dirt encrusted glass medicine bottles and white milk-glass elixir jars.

Only a couple bottles on my window ledge have survived the years of change and remain from those long ago days of childhood. The rest have found their way to me through other means. but they still induce images that I will embrace forever.

14 comments:

Jennifer said...

That is really neat! I've never heard about "The Pits" before!

Kathryn said...

I love bottles like those! They look great in the window. :)
Thanks for sharing this great memory with us.

Cerulean Bill said...

Whereabouts in the Black Hills?

Brittany said...

Beautiful memories! Thanks for sharing.

I wish I were cool enough to come up with cool decor in my house. Alas, I am not. lol

MomOf3 said...

These are so pretty! I love the way they look in the window. Very neat story too. :)

Carrie and Troy Keiser said...

My Grampa was also one who dug up old bottles and things from areas like this, mostly in WA and ID. Thanks for sharing your memories. My PSF is about my grandparents and have a picture of some of his bottles posted.

MamaGeek said...

These were such beautiful sentiments, and that photo is so classic, simple and vintage to match.

LOVELY.

Killlashandra said...

That's a wonderful story. :) I too remember walking in the woods and although we did not have such historical significance where I grew up. One hike through the woods we came across a burned down house and my brother and I fell in love with melted glass and I learned that glass is actually a liquid. It's amazing what we can find so close to home.

imbeingheldhostage said...

Those bottle are so lovely, and the memories match. This was such a nice, peaceful PSF-- maybe it's the music (Les Moulins), it reminds me of MY childhood.

Stacy said...

Wonderfully written - I can smell the musty cabin and see the dark interior along with you. That sounds like a fun thing to do, and I can imagine there were plenty of abandoned buildings there from the Gold Rush. I love to visit the Black Hills. I haven't been there in a few years, but the colors there are so beautiful.

Casey's trio said...

Beautiful picture and memories for your PSF!

Mandaroo said...

they're so pretty. i have some in my kitchen window sill as well, but i collect the bright colored ones (i guess they're modern ones?)
lovely words to accompany it...

Tiaras and Tantrums said...

they are gorgeous - such a nice story - thanks for visiting me!

tommie said...

Those flowers look so sweet and simple in those glass bottles. Thanks for sharing the memories behind them.

Also thanks so much for visiting my story.

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