At a distance, the young farm boy sees a glint of white protruding from a clump of freshly turned sod. And in an instant his mind already has processed the information. He’s racing down the furrow, his bare toes gripping the black topsoil and his heart pounding in his chest. He picks up the clump of earth and brushes it away to reveal an arrowhead, its finely chiseled edges laying sharp against his palm.

In that one moment, as he holds it up against a spring sky, he is immersed in the thought that he’s probably the first person in maybe 6,000 years to have touched this artifact. He wonders about who last touched it.

That night, he washes away the remainder of soil from the curves and bevel on this ancient tool. And in his dreams, he romances a story that might have surrounded its creation and its use.

Was it used in battle? Did it bring down a white tail deer? What stories were told as a native child watched his father craft this device by a firelight in the village that perhaps sat along the creek that bordered the very field in which it was found?

The next day he will take it to school to show his classmates and his teachers. He will not let it out of his sight, though. And the next evening it will be placed in a cigar box along with other arrowheads, spear points and pottery shards that the same field has given up prior to spring planting year after year.

This story doesn’t belong to anyone in particular. And yet it likely belongs to hundreds with some poetic license applied in each episode. Anyone of these treasure hunters could speak of the excitement of being connected so instantly and intimately to those who have walked this land before us.

And so is the story of Colquitt County’s Johnny Dickerson who has a passion for hunting arrowheads — so much a passion that he has collected more than 5,000 of these artifacts, most of them coming from right here in the county.

Dickerson doesn’t say that it’s in his blood, even though he began this hobby at age 15. But since his grandmother was full-blood Creek, it’s just a safe assumption that he feels more than just a special link to this area’s native people — the Lower Creeks.

Dickerson produces several framed displays of his most-prized finds. Some are as small as a nickel, and some spear points will cover the palm of his hand. Typically, most finds are called “arrowheads” though many of them are actually spear points. And there are scrapers and knives. Some are complete, and some are missing chips or edges, perhaps from hitting their targets or maybe being the victim of a plow many hundreds or even thousands of years later. From flint stone and clay pots to International Harvester! What a time span!

“Dale Friedlander really got me into this way back when I helped him in the irrigation business,” said Dickerson.

And the magic is still there as he pushes 60, and he’s still plodding the fields and creek banks with his eyes acutely focused on the ground.

Along the way, Dickerson has shared this magic with youngsters. Once he took a couple of kids to look for arrowheads at the request of their father, and he wanted to be sure they found some so they could experience the treasure hunt to its fullest. So he took a pocketful of his own arrowheads and sprinkled them about.

An eight-year-old shouted out, “Hey I found one! I found one! And Mr. Johnny, this Indian wrote his name on it.”

Dickerson said he winced, realizing that someone had given him a few along the way, and he always penciled the giver’s name on them so as not to confuse them with his own finds. And he hoped the youngster got so lost in the magic of the moment not to realize that there weren’t any Indians back then named Fred.

Dickerson is one of many collectors in Çolquitt County. Whether he has the largest collection, he doesn’t know. But he has to be among the top.

And he said while he has read a lot about the natives of this area, he takes his hat off to Moultrie attorney John Carlton, who is not so much an artifact collector but more a student of the area’s history.

Carlton said he has found arrowheads, but he doesn’t have the passion for collection like Dickerson does. Rather, he’s more of a homemade paleontologist and a naturalist.

On his office walls are actual land deeds that parallel the removal of the Lower Creeks from this area to Oklahoma, along with the Choctaw and Cherokee. Some of those deeds involve land along the Ochlocknee River to include some of what is now the Carlton farm.

As a history buff, Carlton is most fascinated by research done in a sink hole on the Aucilla River area just across the Florida line. The Aucilla begins as a creek in Thomas County and works it’s way to the Gulf of Mexico. Area fishermen know it well.

“That research was done by the University of Florida and financed by National Geographic over a period of 20 years,” said Carlton.

Carlton said the sink could be researched effectively because the strata was protected in the water. The researchers documented plant and animal materials back 35,000 years. Mastodon bones were found there. And as the strata was examined layer by layer, man’s influence was found via stone tools.

“In an era about 13,500 years ago, they found spear points had been lashed into ivory shafts from the mastodons,” Carlton said.

Carlton said paleo points are the oldest and rarest of the stone tools found in this area. Those go back 10,000 years.

There are many names given to arrowheads, spear points and knives.

“There are clovis points (also known as Simpson points) and some are known as bowl and bevel points,” he explained. “Johnny probably knows more about the names than I do. I’m more interested in the patterns and the transitions.”

The Indians who lived in the South Georgia area were given the name Lower Creeks by the white man.

Meanwhile, Dickerson doesn’t limit his fascination of native Americans to just arrowhead hunting. He also collects wooden Indians — the cigar store type — as well as busts. If you visit Allegood’s Grocery on South Main Street in Moultrie, you will notice a wooden Indian sitting behind the front counter. It looks so real, some people have done double takes and a few have said “good morning” to it.

“And I must have a 55-gallon drum filled with pottery pieces,” he said.

But he noted that it is very difficult to find two pieces of pottery that actually fit together.

Dickerson said there is a system to being an effective arrowhead hunter. First, he said the prime areas are fields that border creeks and rivers. And you want to look to the high side of the stream where the camp likely would have been. He said it’s best to hunt a freshly plowed field right after a rain. The plowing turns them up, and the rain exposes them.

“You want to take a four-foot strip and methodically walk that strip from one end of the field to the other, keeping you eyes on the ground. Sometimes you might look up and see a point sticking out of the dirt twenty feet ahead. And you’ve got to rush to it.

“So you make a mark with your foot or throw your cap down where you left off so that you can go back and pick up at the same place,” he said.

Dickerson said the law of average for the avid arrowhead hunter is that one arrowhead or spear point accounts for about four miles of walking. That doesn’t mean that you won’t find two or three within a few feet of each other sometimes. But you might hunt all day and not find anything, he said.

He said some arrowheads may be 10,000 years old. And some may be 1,000 years old and both groupings may be found in roughly the same spot.

“That happens because the Indians camped in the same areas for the same reasons. Those thousands of years may be represented by six to 12 inches difference in dirt. A plow turns them up at the same time and rain washes them to the same level,” he explained.

Carlton agreed, noting that turning plows, also known as bottom plows, help the hunter by turning them up, but heavy disc harrows tend to break the points.

Arrowheads and spear points come in many shapes and colors. Dickerson said many points found in streams will be darker. They’ve been stained by tanic acid,

“I know some people who snorkel in Flint River and find arrowheads. I’m too old for that,” Dickerson laughs.

He says while there are some flint deposits in the Colquitt County area, there are much larger deposits near Albany and along Flint River. There also are some around Little River.

“There is indication that there was much trading of flint and arrowheads among the tribes and some came from a long way,” he said.

Carlton said this seems to be true from his study of the patterns used compared to others around the country.

Dickerson said he has an obsidian arrowhead — a black one made from volcanic rock — which is typical of the northwestern United States. He said there must be one heck of a story surrounding that artifact, one that can only be told with lots of suppositions and assumptions.

Dickerson bought some spear points by mail once and was immediately disappointed when he opened the package and realized they were fake.

“I don’t like nappers,” he said. Napping is the art of modern man making an arrowhead. Some college archaeology classes even teach napping so students can appreciate the skills that early man had to acquire to defend and feed himself.

Dickerson won’t give exact locations of where he hunts. He and a hunting partner even once put a sack over a young man’s head so he couldn’t retrace his steps to the field where they hunted.

He will say, however, that the Poplar Arbor area has been very productive. He said he’s probably found 500 arrowheads and spear points in that area alone.

And yes, arrowheads can be valuable commodities. Dickerson said during one tough period of his life, he sold a box full of arrowheads to pay for his family’s vacation.

“You’ve got to wonder how many are still out there and how many thousands of years they represent,” he said. “And you have to respect and admire those people who were here before us.”

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