Outdoor Life - - HUNTING - Dirk Mon­son

Sev­eral years ago, while bowhunt­ing elk in east­ern Mon­tana, I was sit­ting on a sand­stone point glass­ing the val­ley below when I looked down in the sand and saw what I thought was a sar­dine can buried in the grit. Since I al­ways pick up trash I en­counter when I am hunt­ing, I be­gan to dig the can out of the sand so I could pack it back to my camp and dis­pose of it prop­erly.

Af­ter ex­pos­ing enough of the can to pull it out of the ground, I re­al­ized it was not a can at all, but rather a har­mon­ica. It was clearly very old and had been buried out there for a long time. The outer shell was in near-per­fect con­di­tion, but the brass and wooden “guts” were a lit­tle worse for wear. I could see rem­nants of the thin strips of wood that formed the chan­nels the air flowed through to guide it over the brass reeds to cre­ate the sound. I put the har­mon­ica in my pack and took it back to camp to clean it up.

Upon see­ing its vin­tage, and how long it must have been buried, I de­vel­oped a the­ory about how it got there and who might have lost it.

The har­mon­ica is a

Clover No. 130. It has patent dates stamped in its metal: Sept. 27, 1892, and June 7, 1898. I’m guess­ing it was made around the turn of the 20th cen­tury. The area I was hunt­ing was home­steaded by a lo­cal fam­ily who raised sheep and later cat­tle on the land. My hunch is that the har­mon­ica be­longed to one of the men hired to herd the sheep. The val­ley below the point still holds the re­mains of a sand­stone cor­ral. I can imag­ine a sheep herder sit­ting on the sand­stone point one evening just as I had done. But in­stead of look­ing for elk, he was us­ing the van­tage to keep an eye on the sheep he was tasked with tend­ing. What did he do to pass the time? I’m guess­ing he played the har­mon­ica— un­til he lost it.

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