The first summer Old Folks was in the
field he stayed in a fish camp on the Aucilla River in a schoolbus up on cinder blocks.
The crew had an outboard motorboat they rode across the river and up a tidal creek to the site they were digging, an Archaic midden on the Jefferson County side of the river. The fish camp was on the Taylor County side.
They took the midden down in .2' levels, with trowels, plotting and photographing and shooting elevations of the profiles and the bottom of each square at the bottom of each level.
There was one crew chief and two crew members, Old Folks and a business major named Tree, who was on a summer outing, to see if he liked archeology.
He didn't. But he worked as hard as Old Folks.
They left the shovel box at the site, chained to a sabal palm, but they took the transit, tripod, and stadia rod, the camera and camera tripod, the footlocker full of hand tools, their own field packs, and bags of artifacts, coming back, to and from the site each day.
They sifted the material from the squares and saved the artifacts.
This was a full load for three men to carry, and, when the tide was low, they had to get out of the boat and pull it through the stream, walking on mossy limestone rocks, on the bottom.
Old Folks was afraid of stepping on a water moccasin or an alligator snapping turtle, walking in the stream bed, but with the water low, the snakes, and turtles, were gone.
He'd seen one snapping turtle, though, with green moss on its back, and a head the size of a queer's fist, that could bite a hoe handle in half.
The Florida Geological Survey took the bones of Pleistocene megafauna out of the Aucilla River. Tapir, giant sloth, there was a mastodon skeleton in the Museum of Florida History, in the basement of the R. A. Gray Building, in Tallahassee. There might be a saber-tooth tiger in that creek bed, for all Old Folks knew.
And he'd seen moccasins on the bank as big around as his arm.
Usually, they heard the crew coming, and got out of harm's way.
* * *
The crew bathed in the river after work, and drove to Newport, to eat.
On the weekends, Tree would take off for Tallahassee, in his car, and Old Folks and the crew chief would drive to Tallahassee in the company pickup truck and do their laundry, eat supper at a Morrison's cafeteria, and shop for groceries for the week-coffee, milk, baloney and cheese, white bread. Sometimes mustard and mayonnaise. A bag of Oreo cookies.
The crew ate one baloney and cheese sandwich on white bread and two Oreo cookies apiece for lunch.
Old Folks and the crew chief drank three 24-cup coffee-pot pots of coffee a day. One before leaving for the site, and at the site, in a Thermos, one after getting back from the site, while washing sherds, bathing, and dressing for dinner, and one after getting back from supper, before bed. The crew chief drank coffee at supper, although Old Folks had iced tea.
* * *
After doing their errands in Tallahassee on Friday, Old Folks and the crew chief would drive to Panacea, and spend the weekend with the crew there. They were digging a Santa Rosa-Swift Creek burial mound out on Mashes Island, and staying in a house on Ocholckonee Bay.
Brenda was on that dig.
Old Folks and Brenda fell in love that summer, on the dig.
* * *
Sunday evening Old Folks and the crew chief would drive back to the Aucilla. Tree would meet them there.
Tree got drunk and got laid, on the weekends, but Old Folks and the crew chief didn't.
It was in loco parentis, back then. If the principal investigator (PI) said no drinking, even when off duty, and no fraternization, between the sexes, under any circumstances, his word went.
* * *
Sometimes PI novel stood for principal investigator. The loneliness of being a shit.
In Old Folks's second novel, THE SOLD GOLD PECKERWOOD, the principal investigator was such a shit he got murdered.
* * *
Oprah Winfrey just picked three William Faulkner novels for her summer Book Club choice.
The summer pick sells more than other titles.
Last summer's selection, Anna Karenina, sold 900,000 copies.
Vintage has rushed a boxed set of three paperbacks plus a reading group guide into print for $29.95. The books selected were As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury, and Light in August.
I'd have selected The Hamlet, The Town, and The Mansion, but I'm not Oprah--what do I know about books?
* * *
I was reading Wallace Stevens, Marshall McLuhan, and Claude Lévi-Strauss that summer. Worlds on the Wane, or Tristes Tropiques.
The production company that made the movie of Charles Willeford's Miami Blues called itself Tristes Tropiques.
This was years before Miami Blues was published, and Willeford, according to one reviewer, was, "...destined for oblivion, lacking even cult status."
That's the way I feel right now, today.
Destined for oblivion, lacking even cult status. Although I suppose I have a cult, the Buzzard Cult, and publication of Bukowski Never Did This may expand the size of the cult.
If it increased it by 100-fold I wouldn't have a thousand readers.
That is, my cult is fewer than ten people.
I am in the mid-to-high one figure.
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