One of the best things about digging or diving for bottles, is that there are times when you come back with an empty basket, but still have a great day.
It was a great day to dive today, and I found a spot that looked perfect in a river next to an old large farm. As I was about to slip into the dark water, I was startled by a voice above me on the crest of the riverbank, saying “hello”.
It was the man in this photo, a long bearded character, who seemed to have come back from a bygone day. I almost hoped he would tell me where all the bottles were buried. But instead, he just warned me about the fallen trees that were sunk in the river behind me, and about the poison ivy all along the banks. He said the farm I had seen had been in his family for generations. I asked his name, and asked if the farm had ever had it’s own milk bottles, and he said they did. I asked if the bottles were “painted with red letters” , or if they were embossed, and he said both.
The dive went as so many do, a tangle of branches, and water current moving too quickly, piles of beer bottles and snow tires, with an occasional older shard of pottery to keep me going. In this case, that meant going down stream further than I could swim back against the current, so I wound up walking back along side the river bank, through thick nasty briars.
While I was underwater I found some interesting pottery shards, which I kept, but only one whole bottle, a half pint embossed milk. It was embossed J.L. Hayward, Brookside Farm, Bridgewater, Ma.
When I finally made it back to the truck, the old man was not around. I changed out of my gear and munched a sandwich, and started to drive off, but something told me to turn around and go back up to the house, and see if I could find the man.
I knocked on the door of the little house next to the farm house, but no answer. So I figured I’d just leave the bottle on the front step for a surprise. As I backed out of the driveway, I saw him appear out of the front door, and he picked up the bottle and waved me to come back. We had a friendly conversation, and he began to tell me the history of the farm, and the town, and as he talked he noticed for the first time that there was embossing on the bottle.
He read it and said ” J. Hayward, hey that’s my Uncle John!”. He was quite happy to have the bottle, and said I could take his picture for my bottle digging blog, knowing full well that he could become an internet sensation. He told me that he was one of the last of 11 generations of Haywards, the first of which was granted a forty by forty mile tract of land back in the 1600s! I was going to tell him he reminded me of the scary neighbor character in the movie Home Alone, but I guessed he wouldn’t have seen it. But if you’ve seen the movie, especially the last scene when he is warm and friendly, you’d see the comparison. I felt privileged to shake his hand, he was truly salt of the earth.