April 8, 2008
Many kids watched cowboy and Indian movies, and most boys wanted to play cowboys, but not one kid. He wanted to live and to learn from the Indians. Brent Gregory is like most people with a daily routine.
"I try to lift everyday," says Brent as he pushes weights upward at J&J Weight Room on East 3rd St. in Tifton.
He doesn't do it alone. "You ready," asks Jimmy Phillips who acts as Brent's spotter to safely remove the weight bar if Brent has trouble.
Between lifts, Brent enjoys telling fellow weightlifters about his hobby of flint knapping, a term many people have never heard of. "I don't have the slightest idea," says Jimmy when asked if he knew what it was, much less how weightlifting helps.
"It keeps my fingers, wrists, arms, and legs where I can work with rocks," says Brent. He hits rocks. Not with his bare hands, but with a cylindrical piece of solid copper. "I started about two years ago," says Brent as he sits in a garage with the door open that houses a four-wheeler and a piece of cloth with hundreds of rock chips on top.
"I'm a rock knapper, a modern rock knapper," says Brent as he puts a small piece of leather cloth over his left thigh for protection.
He reaches over and picks up a rock and looks at it intensely. Every part gets a critical look where he sees something inside. "There's a nice blade waiting inside this stone right here," says Brent.
Brent can use the ultra-sharp stone to make arrow heads or spears or knives. He enjoys making anthropologically correct American Indian artifacts, and his collection dazzles visitors. Brent makes sure everything he makes, from bows and arrows to knife blades were constructed just like Native Americans made them more than 1,500 years BC ago.
"I find it rather addicting to say the least," says Brent as the strikes the edge of the rock with the copper cylinder. It looks like nothing happened until he turns the rock over and reveals as a dislodged piece. "Each strike sends a shockwave through the rock and some breaks away," says Brent.
Another layer gets revealed each time he strikes the rock. Suddenly, a delicate wavy pattern emerges, a pattern hidden for probably hundreds of years.
Not doubt he fills addicted. He wants to hit the rock one more time before he takes a break, and one more time becomes two more and so on. It seems Brent can't put down the rock, but he finally does.
Several white buckets hold rocks that he'll hit. A pink-looking rock, Brent says, is a piece of coral he bought. The other rocks from different locations hold mysteries of what's inside.
Brent particularly likes scouting for rocks on dirt roads after a grader smoothes their surfaces, especially if near a river or stream. Most people would never look at twice some rocks, but they catch his eye and he loads it into his truck to take home where he'll reveal one of Nature's art shows that few people get to see.
"I wished I lived back in the Indian days," says Brent. "I'd like to know how they made their tools that made it possible for their survival," says Brent.
He uses most of the tools they used so long ago. A thick part of a moose antler can knock rock off. The jaw bone of a white-tailed deer becomes the handle for one of his knives. River cane, a plant relative of bamboo, becomes spear shafts. Pine rosin becomes natural glue that holds the rock head to the shaft. Turkey feathers guide arrows in flight.
Everything Brent uses to make his re-creations is natural. Sometimes he feels as if someone watches him at work. "I feel it sometimes, I think," says Brent.
What would the Indians say if they came and looked at his work? "I hope they would be proud that someone is carrying on the lost art, one of the first arts ever known to mankind," says Brent.
Probably so, and they might think he's a chip off an old rock.