Residents of the east coast of the US are preparing for another blast of winter – the fourth blizzard in March. Snow, ice, flooding, power outages are causing misery of millions. The weather has however bestowed a subtle gift, providing an unexpected glimpse into our past.
On Orleans Beach, Massachusetts, last week’s 35-foot waves and high winds uncovered carriage tracks dating to the late 1800’s or early 1900s. Lieutenant Kevin Higgins discovered the tracks on Nauset Beach. The intricate pattern of wheel markings and hoof prints were preserved in the beach’s peat base revealing themselves only after 85 feet of sand was blown away.
At the turn of the last century, horses and carriages were used to supply beach cabins with supplies. Fisherman also used horses to haul nets and to harvest sea grass to use as mulch for vegetable gardens.
This is not the first instance when weather has surprised us with reminders of our horse-centric past.
In 2015, a centuries old wagon reemerged from under Detroit Lake in Oregon. That summer, the lake’s water level was down a record breaking 143 feet. Sheriff’s Deputy, Dave Zahn, stumbled upon the wagon while exploring the lake’s perimeter.
Preserved by the water’s low-oxygen environment, the wood wagon was in remarkable condition. A remnant of the town of Old Detroit established in 1880 then abandoned in the 1950’s for construction of the dam. Each winter when the spillways are open to make room for spring melts off, it is common to see elements of the old town but there are no previous records of the old wagon.
These unexpected artifacts serve up nostalgic considerations. We can only imagine a family driving their carriage along the sandy beach, children squealing with delight as the surf breaks upon the passing wheels. Or thinking about the satisfaction a hard-working family might have felt driving their harvest to town in a homemade wooden wagon.
Thank you Mother Nature for these reminders of bygone days.
Photo Credit: Orleans Police Department and Dave Zahn.