Sunday, October 15, 2017
The Dig Goes On
The following morning Colonel Walker was at the Elderidge house bright and early waiting on his crew to show up. Mike arrived a little later just in case they stumbled upon something a bit more "interesting" than the Colonel expected. As the men worked to carefully take down the fence on the right side of the yard, board by board, to open it up large enough for the equipment to get through, the Colonel approached Mike.
"You realize this could really put our museum on the map. The idea of all the relics that should be in this grave with General Kirby is incredible. So many of these graves are either never found or are robbed and vandalized before any historian can make note of the site. Since I have gone through the proper authorities, have the proper legal permissions, and am a certified historian for the state of Alabama, whatever we find, I will be able to preserve it properly, identify it, catalog it, and then display it in the Museum of Confederate Uniforms, Hats, Swords, and Paraphernalia."
Mike noticed that instead of his standard dress uniform, the Colonel was dressed in more of what appeared to be a "working man's" attire of the period. He was wearing white gloves (Which he had explained to Mike were to make sure the relics were preserved. After being in the dirt for 150 years or so, they definitely deserved the white glove treatment now.) He had a clip board and pen to note what was found and a camera around his neck to record it all for posterity.
The fence was opened and the equipment carefully moved into the back yard. The back hoe starting digging a shallow area the Colonel had shown them. At a certain point it stopped and several men with shovels took over carefully digging deeper in the area, an inch or so at the time. When one of the shovels hit something, the "clink" brought everything to a halt.
The Colonel was beside himself. "Careful now," he ordered his men in the same authoritative voice one would imagine him ordering his troops. "Slowly dig around that area. It could be something buried alongside him, or bones. Let's see."
The men kept digging. The one who had originally hit the mystery item was carefully working his shovel around 'It'. Next he was on his knees, carefully digging with his hands. As he pulled something out of the ground, he yelled,"Colonel, I've got something here."
Everyone turned and looked as the Colonel scurried over to where the man was. Before he got there, the worker was wiping dirt from the sides of a glass jar. He handed it to the Colonel, who held it up and had a puzzled look on his face. Mike asked,"Well sir, what do we have?"
"Well, I do believe it is a jar of money."
"Confederate money from the mid 1800's maybe?"
"Don't think so? It's in a Dukes Mayonnaise jar. If I remember correctly Dukes Mayonnaise was introduced in 1917 in South Carolina."
"Hum," said Mike, as the Colonel handed him the jar. "It's not a crime to bury money in your backyard." He paused as he looked at the jar," as long as the money was not obtained through illegal means."
Wade walked up, and laughed, "Like bootlegging?"
By this time the men had uncovered a dozen or so jars of money. The first jar had $10,000 in mixed bills. No one bothered opening the jars after that. Mike just put them on the picnic table for safe keeping.
The back hoe had moved to a different part of the yard, further back. It only dug so far down and then the men started digging again with shovels. Once again they found a jar of money. The Colonel was sorely disappointed. General Kirby had to be back here somewhere.
Then one of the men shouted,"Colonel, I think I've found a bone." Everything stopped. The Colonel moved over to the worker's location, bent down and examined the bone.
"This looks like part of an arm. If it was lying in this direction," he held the bone in the air. "My guess is that the body is buried in this direction." He motioned his arms in a direction. "Careful men."
A few of the men started slowly digging with their fingers, less they disturb something. Little by little, the remains came into view. At this point, the men pulled out brushes and carefully brushed the dirt off the bones. The Colonel was taking pictures of all of this while the tedious work continued.
"Even though the site is old, and there was no coffin, there should be small patches of his uniform. Certainly we should find buttons, a belt buckle, maybe cording from his sleeves if it were silk. His hat most likely had leather in it. We find that often times, pieces of leather hold up under ground."
However as they carefully unearthed the bones, there were no buttons, no buckles, no silk, or leather, or wool. The Colonel then measured the skeleton and announced that it was the correct height and size to match the size of General Kirby. When the skeleton was completely unearthed, everything was photographed, and noted. Then the bones were carefully cataloged and placed in boxes to be moved to the museum.
After the skeleton was removed, the Colonel started digging himself. He knew that the relics should be in the grave. Maybe the grave was so old all that the pieces had dropped through the bones. He continued carefully going through the dirt with a strainer. After an hour or so he gave up. "This makes no sense. Where did everything go? The grave was not disturbed?" the Colonial said.
Mike laughed,"Unless he didn't have anything with him when he was buried?"
"What are you saying?"
"What if he died naked? And was buried just like that?"
"But he wasn't."
"How do you know?"
The Colonel was quiet. It never dawned on him that could have been the case. In fact he found the thought of that happening very disturbing. How could finding a military hero in such a delicate situation be explained? Especially after he had such high hopes for a fabulous display of the relics found with General Kirby.
Mike said,"Colonel, it's history. It is what really happened. Everything is not like a fairy tale. Hell, life's not a fairy tale. General Kirby lived a great life and suffered an unusual death. Why not embrace it? I think every one would appreciate the true story of a hero, warts and all."
The Colonel did not say anything for a while. "Well, if you put it that way, maybe this will make an interesting exhibit afterall."
He laughed and looked at Mike, "What about the jars of money?"
"I don't think they have anything to do with General Kirby."
The Colonel chuckled, walked away and found his crew. They needed to know that the 'dig' was over. However the Colonel wanted to discuss with them the details of filling in the holes and getting both the front and back yards back in the shape they were originally were.
Mike called the Sheriff to let him know about the jars of money. "Well," said the Sheriff ,"we need to talk with the Eldridge twins again and I probably need to get Sam in on this. Looks like we have some federal issues here."
Mike rang off thinking how a search for the grave of General Kirby had revealed a pair of bootleggers and a back yard of cash. And then General Kirby, bless his heart, had died and been buried in a humiliating way that in no way reflected his valor and his dedication to the cause.
Mike turned to leave the yard, well aware of the many pairs of eyes watching him walk by. If only the gnomes could talk.