Folsom man

Folsom is a small town. A population of 72 to be exact. So arriving in town at the beginning of spring, the sign at the museum said “Call to see museum.” I walk next door to the post office – I guess it was about 8:30 am, and I asked the man behind the desk. He nodded solemnly, and turned around to pick up the phone. He rang someone, and after a few words, hung up, and turned to me, saying, she will be at the museum in 15 or 20 minutes. I thanked him – exchanging a few polite words about the weather (it was gusting 35 mph outside), and went over to the museum to wait.

I walked around to the back, picking up and tasting what appeared to be a dried squash. The seeds, although definitely “squashlike”, were VERY bitter. I put it down, unsure in the end if it really qualified as a cucurbita. When the museum caretaker arrived, I entered into the somewhat cluttered, unheated, structure. As I browsed the museum contents, I noted there was a little bit of everything. A section on rocks and fossils, a section on old frontier age fascinating artifacts:

What was probably one of the first X-ray machines used by both a doctor and later by a vet, complete with a leg brace and a set of old medical books.

But of course what I was there to see was the section on Folsom man – considered by many to be the most important archeological find of the 20th century.

I browsed the newspaper clippings leaning against the windows of the display case to read the story about how the find was discovered by a self-educated ex-slave – a man of science who recognized the unusual aspect of the bison skeleton. These were old bison – now extinct, 50% larger than today’s bison… They were killed with arrowheads – made with a highly sophisticated technique, and now called Folsom points.

This find meant that man was here during the ice age. Although the campsite and human skeletal remains have not yet been found, they didn’t have horses, so these sites must be within miles of the find. Other ice age man finds had been confined to Europe and Asia. My thoughts were briefly interrupted by the caretaker’s polite hint. “We have some display windows over here that need to be repaired…” I take the hint moving my weight off of the case…It’s a small town – everyone here HAS to get along. One learns to communicate with finesse.

This museum was started by the town switchboard operator, and accordingly had an old crank telephone in it with its switchboard.

I asked the caretaker how it worked, and she proceeded to show me, busily moving the connecting wires from one location to another. She remembered. A little while later, I depart to a tale of her first microwave. Three years ago, she had bought one, and tried to heat a hamburger in it. She couldn’t get the door open, and told her son to do whatever it takes, but that she was going to have her hamburger. The son got out the screwdriver. Well, later come to find out, the warranty had said that they needed to send $15 shipping and handling each way for a repair. I laughed, remarking, “Of course, they aren’t dumb, they know how to stimulate the economy.” She quite tersely replied, “Well, they didn’t get my money.” Small town. Neat. A different culture, a link to the old ways. A lesson.

A Ranch Near the Folsom Archaeological Site

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