Urban Archeologist: Hiding Behind the Picture Frame

Persistence pays off... as does dragging your feet.


A couple of weeks ago I was down to my last day of digging — Sunday. I hadn’t found anything all weekend. In a minor state of desperation I decided to visit an old standby: the Elephant’s Trunk in New Milford.

Readers of my blog or my will recognize my infrequent visits there. Not exactly a Mecca for my kind of search, but a faithful and karmic standby that has been around for a long time.

When I go out on the weekends, I am not just searching for something old, antique, nostalgic. Those things are pretty easy to find. I am looking for something much more elusive — a story. 

Writing, like painting, is often performed in the abstract; only faith, inspiration, a little direction, and time will tell me if I have accomplished something worth keeping.

So, there I am walking through the “Trunk” in New Milford on a Sunday afternoon. There are rain clouds threatening and most of the dealers have either packed up or are in the process of packing up. Many who will stay to the end (they must be off the field by 2:30 p.m.) offer only cut-rate retail items, or “knock-offs” and hang around hoping to leave one item lighter and one wallet … heavier.

I forgot to mention that I am not alone, with me is my daughter, Ava (her pen-name). Though she is anxious to leave, I find a way to take the most circuitous route to the exit. She is my equalizer, and it is more often her curiosity and her exuberance that steers my ship to success.

I am still empty-handed and we are in the last row of booths that has more gaps than an old picket fence. The last booth has a few sparse items on the ground and then my eye catches the acidified remains of old newsprint — kryptonite!

The friendly booth-owner explains that these scraps came out of an old picture frame. He laments that he never kept the picture, just the papers. As if he can read my mind, he says, “ You can have ‘em if you want ‘em.” I explain that I will give them a good home, and “Thank you.”

To be able to pour over several scraps of papers from 1877, one a San Francisco Chronicle, and the other a Cincinnati Gazette, I am elated. The crime reports, announcement of visitors arriving by railway and stagecoach (telegraphed ahead), and the report of President Hayes’ visit to Vermont are enough to ease my sense of desperation and call the weekend’s hunt a success. Whew!

Greg Van Antwerp is a Brookfield resident and blogger, who can be found on the weekends in search of a good “dig” or a good story. You can read more about his adventures by visiting his blog.


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