Origin of errant 'rock' still a mystery

Jerry Apps
Plowing expedition turns up mystery 'rock' on the Apps family farm

It was back in the 1940s when I was cultivating potatoes with a one-horse, handheld cultivator. One of those jobs where you had to pay attention or you’d cultivate out a potato plant.

It was tricky guiding Dick with leather lines wrapped around your shoulders, as both hands were on the cultivator handles. It was a bright and glorious day in June, as I recall. I was enjoying the sights and sounds of an early morning in the potato field. And not to forget the smells, of horse sweat and leather harness, and the smell of freshly turned soil.

All of our fields were stony—little stones, big stones, black stones, red stones. I spotted a green looking, odd shaped stone. And because my hands were busy steering the cultivator, I kicked at the stone. It hardly moved.

“Whoa,” I said to Dick. I picked up the strange stone and noticed it was several times heavier than stones of a similar size. I showed the strange stone to Pa when I came home at dinner time. “What is it?” I asked. “Maybe it’s gold?” Pa said, smiling.

A professor of geology spent his summers at his home place near Wild Rose. We took the mystery stone to him. “Is it gold?” Pa asked. “No, it is pure copper,” the professor answered.

We wondered how it had gotten into our potato field. The professor offered two theories. It could have come with the glacier, or an Indian had lost it. I still have it. The hunk of copper is pictured above.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: You never know what you’ll find when cultivating potatoes.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to