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09 October, 2009

Beyond Tahuya

Were I alive a hundred years ago, I coulda gotten there quicker. Hop on a canoe and zip across the elbow of Hood Canal, instead of driving forever to the finger tip and doubling back on North Shore Road. Hell, in a canoe I wouldn't have had to do it at extra low tide, couldn't have even had to walk, gliding over the delta with a waterbird's-eye view.

But now is when I live in this body on this earth, so the bus took me to work, where the motor pool chief gave me his finest SUV.  NPR and nectarines for the mind and body, a jug o java for the soul, and the drive didn't seem so bad. Other than where a lane had slid into the water and traffic had to take turns, nothing stood athwart the path, and before too long I found myself at the mouth of Rendsland Creek.

I made it to the edge of the exposed delta right at slack water, looping around before the flood flowed. Bars of oyster, streams of mussels, and me. The wavy sound of traffic across the water, but nobody moving on the Kitsap side, no boats even. A few cracked rocks whispered of crackling fires long ago, but none in herd formation on a distinct archaeological site, and I had no luck finding artifacts. Then again, I was on big shellfish beds a short paddle from the mouth of the Skokomish River, and if that doesn't mean anything to you, it's closer still to Potlatch Park. Once again, I'd run up against the paradox and idiocy of archaeology: no artifacts, no site.

Fortunately, my card says Cultural Resource Specialist, and big shellfish beds with a good freshwater stream are sure as hell of interest to people with culture.

As I alluded to earlier, I do live now, and here in Washington that means that walking the tide flats is only possible in certain places. So when I got close to a couple of pilings I saw that they marked the edge of a commercial shellfish area. And that means that the same card that had freed me from my archaeocratic trap a hundred paces back just as surely put up a fence here, because it just won't do for a gummint man to be trespassing. So my body stood there dumbly subdued while my mind took a brief vacation to Hawaii, where the waters and shores are free to all. Malama pono.

So then it became a game of zigging and looping, zagging and meandering, trying not to stomp the shells that looked inhabited, dogging every high spot and weird rock and channel cut et the picture. Still no artifacts. A couple of stubby pilings that may or may not be 50 years old, but no artifacts.

No artifacts, that is, until I found the Giant Stone Money From Yap. Evidence of trans-Pacific trade, probably with Tahitians as the middle men, if my hunch was right. Not that I'm saying it is necessarily ancient. Nah, probably in the early days of the sandalwood and fur trade. I mean, if you're the chief who gives away Giant Stone Money From Yap a your potlatch, you're on top, nobody can ante up to that.

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