Michael Rustad's Memories

Arrowhead Hunting in the Upper Red River Valley

Submitted to website: 19 Sep 1999

Last summer when I returned to the Red River Valley, mysister took me on the back road from Humboldt to St. Vincent. We droveto our former farm and continued on to the back road past the farms of oldfriends. Many of the farms which belonged to the leading families are stillin the family. On this visit, I requested that we drive past the fieldswhere we did most of our arrowhead hunting.

My father was one of the leading collectors of Indian artifactsin the Upper Red River Valley. As a young child, he would walk the fieldsin the hopes of uncovering an arrowhead. I think that my Dad found ridinga tractor to be deadly dull. To keep his mind active, he would search theimmediate grounds for arrowhead points.

In the 1960s, Dad became Postmaster in Humboldt. Thiswas a perfect job for him because he enjoyed visiting with customers andfinally had the free time to do arrowhead hunting. Sunday afternoon wasa time dedicated to arrow head hunting. My sister Jamie was the most enthusiasticarrowhead hunter. I must confess that I found many excuses to get out ofgoing with my Dad arrowhead hunter. I generally had a genuine excuse oflots of homework.

In the Fall of 1966, I was a junior in high school andhad not gone arrowhead hunting with my Dad for some time. Dad was determinedto get me arrowhead hunting. The one argument that he used was that I wouldsoon be going away to college and there would not be many opportunitiesfor us to arrowhead hunt on a Sunday afternoon. Since I had no rebuttalto this argument that tugged at my heart, I begrudgingly agreed to arrowheadhunt.

Arrowhead hunting is a rather solitary activity. Generally,my Dad and I would walk hours without ever talking to one another becausegood arrowhead hunters, like deer hunters, spread out. I remember walkingand walking that day and not even finding a scrap of flint. I was neververy good at arrowhead hunting because it took patience and determinationto spot those points. My Dad would typically find 3 - 4 perfect pointsfor every point that I found.

On this Sunday, frustration set in. I could only thinkabout an upcoming chemistry test and a paper due for Mrs. Roberts in Englishwhich was in a very rough first draft. As I walked each mile in a fruitlesssearch for arrowheads, my frustration level was at a fevered pitch. Bythe time Dad and I hooked up to go home late that afternoon, I was in afoul mood. I told him that I did not know why I agreed to wasting my timearrowhead hunting. I gave a clod of dirt a good kick as we walked to thecar. I accidentally uncovered a perfect flint axe with my kick of frustration! The axe was a perfect specimen. As I write this essay 35 years later,I often wonder whether my Dad salted the axe to make his point that arrowheadhunting could be a profitable activity. I had witnessed Dad salting arrowheadsin the path of children, but as I reflect on this moment I think that Ifound the axe myself without his intervnetion.

As I drove past our hunting grounds, my mind's eye wentback to a time when there seemed to be an infinite supply of Sunday afternoons. My brother Tony made me two handsome display cases of arrowhead pointswhich I always keep close to my word processor and my heart. keep close to my word processor and my heart.