The Canteen

By Jim

When I was in my 20s some friends and I used to hunt ghost towns and old artifacts. We were walking along a wash, close to Old Vail. I saw a bottle cap and I kicked it. It rolled around and went back to the same place. I looked at it and saw it had a chain attached. I pulled on it, nothing moved. The only thing I had to dig with was a small jackknife. The ground was like concrete. I chipped away for a while – maybe 15 minutes. My friend came over and asked, “What are you doing?”

By this time I was sitting down digging a small hole. I showed him the cap and the chain. He pulled on the chain. “Don’t break it,” I said. He dug a little bit with the knife. “I’ll go find something better than this.”

He was gone a long time, when he got back, he said, “I can’t find anything, and I left my shovel at home.” I laughed at that. I had dug about half of it out and was convinced by then it was a canteen. With two of us we could rock it back and forth. After about two hours we pulled it out of the ground. I covered the hole the best I could, so some guy wouldn’t step in it and break his leg.

The canteen was heavy and full of dirt. The knife was too small to dig the dirt out. So I took it home and put water in it and poured out the mud. After a while it was clean.

On the back it says


On the front someone etched the date 1936, his name, town and state.

About 10 years later, I went to that town. No one seemed interested. So it sits on the shelf and I wonder – ?

July 2014

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