Prehistoric Thoughts…

by forrest fenn

Many of the objects in my collection are significant in a very small depiction of world history. Most are more interesting than they are important. Nevertheless, it is necessary for me to remember that each piece represents who we once were in a time that used to be, and that I will never be anything more than its temporary custodian. 


WW2_Iwo_Jima_flag_raisingTucker Wyche was a veteran of the ground fighting on Iwo Jima during WW-II, and was left with some noticeable physical and mental scars, especially physical. His wife said that his medical needs were abandoned by his country, and I guessed it was true.


“When war is rife, and danger’s nigh,
‘God and the soldier’ ‘s all the cry.
When the war is o’er, and the danger righted,
God is forgotten, and the soldier slighted.” *

 The small Wyche ranch in Northern Arizona was sparse of grass, which interpolated into few cows. So Tucker found comfort in the saddle wandering through the tangled cedar brakes trying to find new-born calves ahead of the mountain lions that were constantly on the hunt.

Once, when I was riding with him, we happened by a small rock shelter that was hidden behind a knot of cottonwoods in a tight canyon. The cave-like dwelling had been inhabited in prehistoric times as was indicated by a few pot sherds and lithics that scattered around the floor.


There also was an old, Copenhagen snuff can from the 20s or 30s, I guessed. It made me wonder if Paleo Man, 10,000 years earlier, also had taken refuge in that little space.

IMG_0708Against the back wall was a stone-outlined hearth. I scraped in the ashes with a stick hoping to find a few recognizable animal bones that would tell me what the ancient dwellers ate. To my delight I uncovered a 5 ½ inch chert knife that was tightly wrapped with a stretch of sinew. It was enough to make several bow strings. The blade had heavy use-damage on both edges. I guessed that it had been stored in the dead ashes to prevent small gnawing animals from chewing on the sinew, which still looked fresh and usable.

A few short months later Tucker passed away, ostensibly from his war-related wounds, and his wife moved far away to be near her children.

A number of widely varied cultures had occupied that small shelter through some hard times, and then disappeared. Makes me wonder if the residents 100 years from now will again need sinew to make bow strings.

*New Colorado and the Santa Fe Trail by Augustus Allen Hayes 1880