by Ellie Braun-Haley
Not all archaeology is as exciting as Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it does have its moments. In one of his books, my husband Shawn spoke of surveying in Peru and being attacked by wild dogs. And on one of our trips to the Canadian north country, we crossed the path of a brown bear and almost became history when we became mired in the muskeg (This is the equivalent of sub-arctic quick sand). When we were hired to survey some property, for a new golf course in the badlands of Alberta, I thought it would be a safe place, no worries, no attacks. I was wrong.
I was shovel testing and focused on the task, otherwise I might have noticed I was about to be attacked. Shovel testing is a simple procedure where you dig to a specific level, take out the soil and check it for artifacts, things like arrow heads, spear tips or other tools. I was so intent upon looking carefully through the soil as I did a shovel test I did not realize my location was next to the home of hundreds of underground bugs. Not until I felt something nipping at me did I look down and see my clothing was covered in ants. They were in my sleeves, on my stomach, even inside my socks and they were biting me! How can anything so tiny even have teeth?
I was so startled, I screamed and began jumping up and down. That caught Shawn's attention and as it turns out, the attention of a few others too.
I was startled to have these invaders covering me and I was a fixated on getting them off, too absorbed to answer, too horrified at being covered in those yucky things! How long had they been traveling on me? Were they headed for my ears, or maybe even my nostrils? I felt crawly and knew I needed to peel off my clothes to get at them, I began tearing at buttons to get my top off. I was stamping on ants, and shouting at them to get off, (hey if they have teeth, maybe ears too!) I was jumping and whirling around so that the invaders would drop off still trying to get my blouse off.
It was somewhere during all of this that something registered. "Oh no, there are workers on the rooftops." Of course I'd forgotten the new housing development that bordered the golf course. Earlier in the day I could hear bits of conversation as they worked back and forth on a variety of roof tops.
Now in midstream, with my blouse half off, I looked up at those homes. No one was hammering. I was the centre of attention. They were all staring at me. My own screaming was choked off by an embarrassing gulp!
Mortified I whirled, turning my back on the workers, pulling on my blouse. I needed to regain my composure but those ants were still busy and they were not all gone. I still had to hunt down each and every ant. Just how does one search, dislodge and evict a colony of ants with composure and modesty and how does one regain one's dignity after such a display as an archaeological war dance, complete with screams?
I am sure it was a little late to appear poised! Not only had I begun to strip, but my yelling had drawn attention to my actions!
Brushing and searching, I called out to my husband. "I'm fine, I just should not sit on ant mounds to do archaeology!!"
A bit red from the hot sun, and even more red from embarrassment, I laughed at myself as I realized that I had probably provided a great interruption in a rather hum drum day.
We may not have found anything outstanding to record for archaeology that day, but if ants write at all, I think they will be writing up their own exploration reports as they sure covered a lot of foreign territory (for ants!) And when the golfers hit the course they had better watch out for the bunker on that boundary!
Ellie, says she started off writing a story about her final golf shot in a GOLF match and found herself recalling instead the match with the ants on the golf course.
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