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Ghost Dancers in the Wild

We’re all borrowing time, and the ground we stand on too. How many people passed through the spot you’re occupying now? And what was their story? That’s history, and you either dance with the ghosts or ignore them. I like to dance with the ghosts – bring them back to life for awhile. Perhaps they’ll welcome me warmly when I reach the other side.

Yesterday I had a business lunch with a couple of consultants in Boston. After the usual talk of feature enhancements and product roadmap one of the consultants mentioned his drive from Lake George to Quebec City, and suddenly we’re all pulling out our phones comparing pictures of various forts we’ve visited. Were we the hippest table at Row 34 that day? No doubt. But it’s nice to run into people who know the lay of the land as well, or better, than you do.

I stopped by the Bourne Historical Center recently as a follow-up to a visit I made to the Aptucxet Trading Post Museum a few weeks back. Both are places to meet other history geeks, and places where you can talk openly about King Philip’s War without the listener backing away slowly. Ghost dancers aren’t always easy to spot in the wild, but corral us in a museum and we open right up.

Aptucxet was missing one artifact that brought me eventually to the Bourne Historical Center. Specifically, a rock. History is all sticks and stones and the occasional cannon, isn’t it? No, it’s the stories behind those things. It’s always the stories, the rest of this stuff just helps you see it better.

Anyway, that rock. The Bourne Stone. A piece of granite engraved with markings (pictographs) sometime before the 1650’s. Was it some kid with time on their hands scratching pictures on a rock or some ancient wisdom being passed down to us in a language lost to history? Who knows? But there’s a story in that rock, from the person who marked it to the threshold it once occupied at a Native American meetinghouse and the many people who have stepped on it, touched it and speculated on its meaning ever since.

I’m no archeologist, but I found it interesting enough to stop by for a look. Maybe the sailboat engraved on the stone captured my attention, or maybe I have a thing for questions with no answer. Whatever it is, I’ve checked a box that’s been nagging me a bit. The mystery of the Bourne Stone for me was solved. What is it? What does it look like? The stories behind it I leave for other ghost dancers.

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