Finders Keepers

Both families had taken advantage of the cool morning to do some exploring and try to find some coveys of quail.  Back in the mid 70’s, we, the Schroder’s and my family, were looking for quail in the higher, desert elevations, along a creek, southeast of Phoenix when one of the girls spotted what looked like a cave nestled under a rock overhang.

Closer inspection showed it to be a cave, at least 7 feet tall, extending back into the bank 20 feet, or more.  As the girls walked into it, they noticed a rock ledge running along the back, the ledge was around five and a half foot tall and they couldn’t see what was stored on it.  They called to Jake and I to come runnin’ and see what was up there.  He and I were astonished with their find, because up on the shelf was the remnant of a straw basket and in the basket were what looked like, at one time, fletched arrows, but over time the fletching had deteriorated.

As we removed the basket it fell apart, but definitely, once, the basket had been an arrow container.  There were no arrow points, or arrowheads, to be found anywhere, just long, uniform, arrow shafts, but the hard work of fletching the arrows had already been done.  Looking over the shelf and standing on my tiptoes, back in the shadows, was a turned over rock.

The last smooth rock that I had seen turned out to be, when I turned it over, a matate, or Indian corn grinder.  When an Indian village was attacked, many times the women would just turn over their matates and high tail it out of there.  Attackers wouldn’t notice the “rocks”, but if a matate was found, it was summarily destroyed.  At the time, the thinking was that if you couldn’t grind corn, you’d starve!

Jake gave me a boost as I wedged myself into the rock shelf and, expecting to see a rattler, I carefully turned over the rock.  No rattler, but a partially worn matate along with its mano (the grinding tool).  Finders keepers, as I tugged both to the edge of the shelf and hefted the 60 pound rock, the matate, to my shoulder.  It would be long carry back to our trucks, over 2 miles and one of the girls gave me a hand towel to put as a cushion on my shoulder, saving the day for toting the rock out of there.

Long and heavy carry it was, three cross country moves, a divorce and 40 year later, Bradley, my grandson and I photographed the mano and matate at his place.  Now it belongs to Bradley’s Mom, Brad’s widow, and he and I thought that this story should be saved for posterity!