By Kristin van Ogtrop
Updated January 21, 2015
Kristin van Ogtrop

Yesterday my youngest son, who is 6, was having a double playdate with two of his dear friends. (A.K.A. practically the best day of life.) I was trying to be a Very Good Mom and was in the backyard with the boys, building a lean-to. Our backyard has this small wooded section that was once, if not an ancient Indian burial ground, at least some sort of private suburban dump where ordinary junk goes to die. When we moved into our house 9 years ago we found a metal shopping cart back there. Plus quite a few beer cans. And even a man’s signet ring. Seriously, I have no idea what went on at our house, but I can tell you for sure that it was a lot more interesting than what goes on there now. (Then: drunken parties; ferrying people in shopping carts; men losing jewelry in duels? Now: drinking in moderation; no shopping on premises.)

After nearly a decade we have mostly gotten the backyard cleaned up, helped quite a bit by Hurricane Sandy, when the weather gods provided some instant Norway maple (A.K.A. unappealing invasive species; the “weed of trees”) clearing. Now the wooded section of the yard is almost fit for playing, and so yesterday the three little boys and I were trying to make a cool structure, using just sticks and ingenuity. We saw one at the local dog park and decided that, for sure, we could whip it together in our own yard the next day.

Turns out that whoever made that wooden structure was either really talented, really patient, or actually a team of twenty. Because try as we might, those three boys and I could not come close to approximating it. However, just as we were all getting a little discouraged, I saw a round thing poking up out of the dirt. I challenged the boys to dig it up, thinking that it looked deeply embedded, possibly quite heavy, and definitely time-consuming to unearth. They set to digging furiously around the object and then produced this:

Even weirder and rustier than the shopping cart. Plus really heavy. We are all pretty sure, after weighing it (11.4 pounds) and employing some serious magical thinking, that it is a Civil War cannon ball. (Although the Revolutionary War was fought in our New York town, Revolutionary War cannon balls often topped out at about 6 pounds. See, Wikipedia really is good for some things.) Of course, it could be a ball that was used to break up rock, which my skeptical husband told me about. Or a shot put ball, which (thanks, Internet) weighs about 12 pounds. But the boys and I are choosing to believe it is a Civil War cannon ball. Which is the most fantastical explanation, and the one you have to go with when you are having a double playdate at the age of 6.