It always boggles my mind that new rocks mysteriously appear in farmers’ fields each season! Though it seems as if they must simply drop from the sky, I’m told that it’s actually frost action that brings them to the surface. Today, while I was harvesting in one of the most recently cleared parts of Louis’ land, the combine picked up one of these rocks that lay hidden in a swath of canola. In addition to plugging up the machine, it broke three teeth on the pick-up auger as well as the chain that turns it.
Climbing down from the machine, I proceeded to unplug the pick-up by hand all the while wishing that I’d thought to bring a pair of work gloves with me. As the scratches on my arms will attest, canola straw is brittle and sharp. Eventually I cleared enough of it away to expose the rock wedged in underneath. As I pulled it out, what could have been nothing more than an annoying delay became something much more intriguing. Could that possibly be a ribstone in my hands?
Ribstones , carved by the natives who wandered this windswept prairie more than 1000 years ago, are thought to depict the ribs of buffalo, the animal that provided for so many of their needs. We first saw this type of rock carving at a native ceremonial site on a high point of land located about 24 km north of here. Here’s one of the rocks found there
and here’s the rock I found in the combine today.
Is it only my imagination or do you see a similarity?
While Louis went to town to buy a new chain, I picked up other rocks strewn around the area and piled them up so that they can be easily found and removed from the field before one them causes another mishap. I looked closely at each one before adding it to the pile but they were just ordinary rocks void of interesting markings of any kind. A little stone, too small to be a threat, caught my attention only because its light colour stood out against the darker field. Picking it up, I noticed immediately that it fit snugly into my palm. Examining it more closely, I realized that it appeared to have been carved into its present shape and that one edge formed a sharp blade.
It was easy to imagine a young brave chipping away at this rock turning it into a tool that his iskwew (is-KWAY-oh, Cree word for woman and the word that our term squaw is likely derived from) would use to scrape the hides after his next hunt. Perhaps it was an elderly man, one too old to join the hunt, who spent his time making tools like this one.
As you can see, hours on the combine leave plenty of time for my imagination to run wild! Are these simply unusual rocks or are they artifacts; remnants of times long past and people who roamed these parts long before the fields were cleared and cultivated? When harvest is over, I hope to do some research and try to find out and I’ll probably be back in that field picking rocks again in hopes of finding more of interest!