By Erica Thomas, managing editor
TRUSSVILLE — If you have a hankering to take a walk through the past, the home of Gary Michael Roper, of Trussville, is where you’ll want to find yourself. Whether you’re a history buff or just appreciate old things, there is something to see and learn about at his Pop Stone Circle home.
Roper has been collecting artifacts from Trussville and other parts of Alabama for most of his 77 years. Now, at least one room in his home is dedicated to his hobby. From the floor to the ceiling, display boxes full of items cover all four walls. He has display cases and shelves, neatly organized to resemble a museum.
“I’ve been interested in collecting all my life,” Roper said. “I just love history.”
Roper has a large collection of artifacts including arrowheads, pottery, jewelry and tools. He has dozens of amulets, which Native Americans wore around their necks. The jewelry was thought to give protection against evil, danger, or disease.
“Some of them were made out of slate,” Roper explained. “Some of them were made out of steel tight that they made their pots out of. The pot would break and then they would use them.”
The intricate details of their crafts are appreciated through Roper’s eyes. All arrowheads, for example, don’t look exactly alike. But Roper said there is a rhyme and reason behind every unique marking on an arrowhead.
“If you look at some, they go off to the side,” Roper said. “Some have tips on the end. Some people might look at one and think, ‘oh he made that crooked,’ but he didn’t make it like that on accident. He made it just like he needed it to be used.”
Roper said the feeling he gets when he finds something from the past, brings to life a way of living that has been long forgotten for many.
“If you find an arrowhead, you realize that some man, in order to make a living, was using that,” said Roper. “He had to be good at it or he’d starve to death. He knew how to make a bow, he knew how to make an arrowhead, he knew how to make them fly straight. A lot of things that have just been lost because we don’t have to do that. I wonder a lot of times how many people could survive if they didn’t have nothing. I’m talking about nothing. And these people were good at it and there’s an awful lot you can learn from it.”
Roper has read books, spoken to experts, and researched items he has found. Although he doesn’t know the exact age of all of his thousands of artifacts, he knows each item was once an important part of someone’s life.
“You learn about a lot of mysteries that you can’t explain,” he said. “I’ve got a world of stuff.”
“I have gone back and read the Bible over and over again,” Roper said. “It said that everything in the dry land died. But nowhere in there does it say anything in the ocean died. That’s what cleaned up the mess…the sharks. These particular sharks came up. Now you tell me how come sharks are 175 miles from the ocean!”
Among finds in Trussville, other than Native American artifacts, Roper has collected old pocket knives, jewelry, Civil War relics and an old John Deere emblem.
“That’s John Deere when they made nothing but plows,” said Roper. “I just found that the other day.”
Roper once found evidence that a Confederate soldier lived in the area behind McPherson Oil. He found things including locks and bullets. He has also collected other Confederacy items including a C.S.A. belt buckle and a comb, from around the state.
Roper uses a metal detector to find some items. He has gone as far as the Gulf of Mexico to unearth treasures of yesteryear. Around bodies of water, Roper likes to search inside banks that have eroded.
“One time in Montgomery, in around the Alabama River, a burial had fallen out of the bank and tumbled down the bank,” Roper remembered. “They had buried the Indian with a water bottle. Walking along and saw it. It has a swirl pattern on the top with four s’s in a square. Out of that came two lines and turned to one side and there was a hand there. There are four hands, and they only have three fingers and a thumb. An Indian artifact expert told me that’s not a man’s hand. The swirls are for north, south, east and west and that’s the hand of God.”
Since finding the artifact, Roper has found many more items with the same design. It never ceases to amaze Roper at how creative and inventive people were hundreds of years ago.
“They were brilliant at a lot of these things,” Roper said. “The whole area was a supermarket for them. They used everything for something.”
“It gets in your blood,” he said. “It’s something that you have to do or that you love doing. There’s a lot to know about the past and things like that and a lot of people walk over it for a lifetime and never know.”