ARTICLES WITH INFORMATION FOR WISCONSIN ANTIQUE BOTTLE COLLECTORS:::.
Bob finds YELLOW MINT Eaton quart 10/6/2005
|mrbottles might have a slight memory problem. Oh, he remembers a lot of things just fine. He remembers every detail on a dive trip when he recovers a unique find. He recalls when someone brings back a cement anchor on a slow day when they couldn't find anything else. In fact, he remembers that they outlined an entire house with them. But does he recollect losing the title of mrbottles for even one minute? Of course not. But that's okay. I remember well enough for the both of us, and I plan to share it with you. Plus, I have the proof... |
In early March, we were diving in one of the few lakes open enough to jump into. By open, I mean that the ice had sufficiently thawed to allow us to swim and search around. The water in Wisconsin, it may be obvious to comment, is very cold in early March. The lakes are slow to thaw and remain cool well after the days start to warm up. There is an advantage to diving this early in the year, though. There is almost no surface traffic whatsoever. There are no water-skiers, no jet skis, no monster twin prop 400 horsepower race boats. Occasionally, you'll see a fishing boat or two. Can you imagine fishing in that cold weather? Fanatical!
There is another appeal to stepping into icy water for artifacts. Sometimes, when first putting your face into it, its a little hard to remember. It remains, nonetheless. Its a kind of toughness both physical and mental. If you find something good, its like you conquered the world against impressive natural obstacles. On these days, you hardly notice the cold. If you find nothing, on the other hand, you get to swim in 33 degree water, get huge chunks of ice on your first stage (part of the breathing apparatus), have a free flow of air from your regulator, freeze to the very marrow of your bones, and live to tell the tale. Then again, there is nothing quite so supportive as fellow divers calling you nuts.
Once while searching for open water in a river almost completely frozen over, we found some small clear patches caused by heavy current. We suited up in our protective gear and jumped up and down on the ice surrounding the open area. Of course, when huge chunks broke off, we'd fall into the river. Then we'd send the icebergs floating downstream under the ice. This was pretty fun in and of itself. However, when concerned citizens saw two fellows falling into the icy water, they immediately dialed 9-1-1. The police had no serious problems with our cold water adventures with two exceptions. Firstly, they asked for notification next time. Secondly, they requested that we use enough care for our own safety to avoid making them rescue us. When the officer asked who had authorized our actions, Mrbottles suggested that legendary author Wayne Kroll, who had come to spectate on shore, was clearly to blame.
Back to mrbottles for a day....
On this March day, I was living an oxymoron. I was diving 'dry'. The principle behind a dry suit is simple enough for Johnny Cochran. "If your body stays dry, the cold won't make you cry." In theory, it is a great idea. However, my dry suit, manufactured of sealed canvas, provides little insulation. The longer I stay under, the more the squeezing cold sucks the heat from my body. In contrast, mrbottles has a thick neoprene dry suit. Ostensibly, this gives him better protection against the cold. But not always. mrbottles is notorious for complaining while unsuiting after a dive how hot and sweaty he gets. Mind you, everyone else is trying to get sensation back in their fingertips. One day, mrbottles had a leaky zipper. He got extremely cold. When he tried to unsuit, his faulty zipper stuck. It simply wouldn't budge. So, mrbottles tried to force it with a knife. He cut his hand. Giving up on the zipper, he squirmed out of his suit like a snake struggling mightily against its shedding skin. Finally, he scratched his nose in an attempt to remove his hood. We've all had days like that.
For two and one half tanks on that March day, things didn't look great. We were diving in a relatively small area where we'd found some nice glass. After swimming round and round for several hours trying here and there, I finally decided that I was too tired and cold to continue meandering around. I planned to settle into one spot and stay there. Though we'd searched the area well, I began to heavily dig in. As I dug into the sandy gravel, it collapsed into the hole I was making. The more I dug, the more the sides refilled the hole. With numb hands, I worked on and on chucking out sediment for 5 - 10 - 15 - 20 minutes with no results.
Then, without realizing it, I was under the layer. I had something solid and smooth in my hand. With my dulled sense of touch, I thought it was a rock. I imagined a gray oval chunk of limestone. Nonetheless, I looked at it before tossing it away. I saw that it was glass, a quart bottle, that looked yellow in color. My mind raced. I scanned upward for embossing (or raised lettering) on the bottle and saw none. "Well, it'll make a beautiful window bottle," I consoled myself. As I checked up the length of the bottle, I saw a putnam stopper. This type of outside-the-neck stopper, was primarily used in the 1860s and 1870s. Plus, the bottle had a big crude heavy blob top. Holy cow! This was old. If only it was embossed. As if in reply, I spun the bottle around. Directly under where my hand was holding it, a slug plate with embossing emerged. Immediately I realized, this was probably the best bottle I'd ever found. Unusual color in glass can be everything! As I read the front, it said, "S. M. Eaton & Co. Watertown, Wis." On the bottom, "Wis. G. Co. Milw." In my excitement, I dumped the mud and sediment from the bottle and went to find mrbottles. From his bubbles, I could tell that he was only about fifteen feet away. I swam over to the bubbles. Because it wasn't deep, I reached underwater and tried to tap him to get his attention. I must have been excited because mrbottles later said that I had been shaking him up and down in what surely must have been an attempt to assassinate him. Before he surfaced, I submerged my find. mrbottles came up, took his mask off and asked what was up. I told him he wasn't going to believe what I found. "What?" He nonchalantly inquired. I slowly lifted the bottle from the murkey water. In succession, he saw the blob, the stopper, the yellow glass and the embossing. I handed it over. Mr.Bottles, for the first time in a long time, was speechless.
Eventually, I took mrbottles over to my spot. I was way into what we call 'the bonus round'. I really hadn't searched the area because I had found the bottle before I realized that I was under the silt layer. mrbottles has many times shared top-notch spots with me. This has led to some of my best finds. So, mrbottles went over to where I was digging and found an early soda. It was a pre-hutch bottle from Oconomowoc embossed "H. Michels" in a tombstone slug plate. Normally, this would be the best find on just about any day. But not on this particular day.
Then, the fish almost escaped. Getting out of the water, I slipped on slick slime-covered rocks and fell. I shielded the bottle into my body and took the fall. The fish did not get away. The fish, it turns out, was manufactured in the 1880s. Wisconsin Glass operated between 1882 and 1886. Sephreness M. Eaton bottled until about 1885. This bottle is considered very rare in Roger Peter's comprehensive bottle collector guide, Wisconsin Soda Water Bottles (1996). The color is not listed making it even more unusual.
Mr.Bottles would never admit that he lost his title. He wouldn't share the name mrbottles for even one day. The proof, however, is in the pudding. Or rather, the proof is in the dive log. You see, I keep a log of my underwater adventures. I often ask dive buddies to sign it. mrbottles wrote, in his own handwriting, without any coercion, death threats or bribes, "Okay. So you get to be mrbottles. . .Only until the next time we dive though!!! Nice job, Steve."
So, there you have it from mrbottles himself. I held the title. I was mrbottles for a day. With the story now posted, he'll be less likely to forget.
EDITORS NOTE... Please notice the box I checked in Bob's dive log.