Digging Up Stones struck me as a rock-solid heading for a column on archeology. Today we’ll lightly excavate a little known but valuable resource in that field. I’m clueless in such matters, but the Ocmulgee Archeological Society has capable folks who will gladly assist the unlearned. That’s assuming, of course, the motivation for uncovering the past is honorable.
Harold Gray, a friend from Unadilla High School days, invited me to attend a meeting of the OAS. The two of us have had little contact since my 1970 graduation. He was a kid when I left town, a whole grade behind me. It was a shock to find out we’re now the same age.
Three things stand out in my memories of the lean, red-headed youngster of yesteryear. He was smart, well-mannered, and could run all day long.
“You still do any running?” I asked. My expectation was to hear about knee trouble or other reasons he couldn’t.
“Three miles a day,” he said, “plus I walk a fourth one.” He exercises other muscles at the same time by doing about 500 tensile contractions per mile. I decided not to disclose my favorite workout is pulling a rope to keep a hammock swinging. That is, however, in addition to a rigorous typing regimen and high-speed piano playing. Not to brag, but my fingers could pass for 65.
At the time of our April 4th visit, Harold lacked about 140 miles traveling around the world by foot, a distance of 24,900 miles. That’s based on estimates from 1981 through 1987 and records kept since 1988. If miles were added beginning with childhood, he’s well on his second lap.
His sense of humor has held up as well as his legs. “I’ve been running to or from something all my life,” he said, but I knew he was half kidding. At 13 he was the sole employee on the night shift at Odom’s Texaco station off I 75, working eleven to seven. When a young teenager walks in the shoes of a man, he isn’t prone to running away from anything.
After high school, Harold went to Mercer on a combination scholarship including academics, working with the basketball program, and pitching on the baseball team. Accepted into the Experimental Freshman Program, he’s been steadily running forward as long as I’ve known him.
Today’s article, per Harold’s request, was to feature the OAS, but I thought it might be helpful to first introduce him as one of their faithful members. Although he works at Warner Robins Air Force Base, his passion is archeology, a common thread of OAS members. They’re a friendly group who welcome others wanting to learn more or perhaps even join them.
Several professionals are involved in leadership, like Ashley Quinn, Collections Manager of the William P. Walls Museum of Natural History. Or Stephen Hammock, a respected archeologist with 25 years of experience, who founded OAS in 2003. And there’s Cortney Whitehouse, a delightful young lady who left a career in human resources to work on a degree in archaeology because that’s where her heart is.
John and David, two pleasant senior citizens who help with Artifact Identification Days, confirmed my suspicions that the Indiana Jones movie character is based on Harold. They didn’t specifically state that but smiled as they acknowledged having seen him wearing a similar hat.
If you want to learn more about the OAS, their website describes their mission, projects, resources, and opportunities for participation. Or you can email them at email@example.com. Make no bones about it, they stand ready to teach others the right way to dig into things.
Harold shared some details about a few of the intriguing items he’s discovered. Their origins far precede the arrowheads typically found in Georgia. As he searches for history and tries to preserve it, he feels a spiritual connection to those who walked here long before us. With decades of experience, he sees things which might be overlooked and permanently hidden or destroyed.
Like his fellow OAS members, Harold has a patient reverence toward archeology. His goal is more than finding artifacts. He wants to understand who left them here and why.
Some mysteries can’t be solved on this side of heaven, but a man who has already circled the globe and is still running will no doubt keep trying. A passion for the past is why he does what he does. That’s why my friend Harold Gray keeps digging up stones.