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The Infamous PIT Wedding at Devil’s Ford Creek

Sabine National Forest, Texas, March 18, 1999
by Roger Bergstrom, PIT Volunteer and Groom

I took early retirement in March 1993. Shortly thereafter, I read an article about the PIT program in the Chicago Tribune. I had been reading about archaeology for a number of years and realized through this article that I could participate in fieldwork and get hands-on experience. In 1994, I participated in two projects in Michigan, where I have a summer cottage, before signing up for the Texas project. This project was scheduled for March of 1995, at a time when I knew that I would be stir crazy from the Chicago winter.

The Texas project was on the Angelina NF at the Aldridge Sawmill and townsite. It was there that I met my future wife, Assistant Forest Heritage Manager Velicia Hubbard, who directed us avocationals. Velicia and I camped in adjacent spaces. One evening after the usual full and hard day of excavating, she invited me to a veggie-burger dinner. I found myself thinking about Texas and her until I returned in March of 1996. Our new tradition of a dinner together continued.

In April 1997, I returned for a third Texas project at Hargrove Lake, held on the Davy Crockett NF. This turned out to be quite a challenge! To access this site we really did have to traverse a lake. We were warned to bring high boots, because this time of year in east Texas can be wet! We looked for water moccasins and found them, along with one coral snake and a copperhead. Ain’t PIT projects fun? With more spring rains, we eventually had to use canoes and flat-bottomed boats to reach the site, as water was above our boots. At the end of this project, I gave a “roast” of the leaders, David Jurney, John Ippolito, and my future wife, Velicia Hubbard. During this roast, I asked them to please let us know soon if we should become certified in scuba diving or mountain climbing for the following year’s project. It was at the end of this project that I finally made my intentions to Velicia clear by telling her I was interested in her.

When I left for Texas for my cottage in Michigan (which is near Lake Superior and a 1,300-mile drive), it was a very difficult parting for me. I ended up writing every day—okay, sometimes twice a day—from Michigan to Texas. Finally, I asked Velicia what motel she would recommend if I were to come for a visit.

In May 1997, I arrived in Texas, and this time I had a plan in mind for the rest of my life. Our courtship began, and by August, I had bought a house in Nacogdoches, Texas. Before the next PIT project in Texas at the Conner Farmstead in March 1998, we were formally engaged. We were “roasted” at the close of the project by Art Kreitzer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin (a good personal friend from previous digs). When were we going to get married, he asked.

Well, we did it! We really got married on March 18, 1999, at the Devil’s Ford Creek dig on the Sabine NF. I know this isn’t the first PIT romance, and it won’t be the last, but it may very well be the first PIT wedding. I now spend much of my time working with Velicia in the office and in the field, digging to document our cultural heritage. It has been a dream come true. May all PIT projects be as happy as ours have been.

Editor’s note: The bride wore a hard hat disguised as a veil. The groom had a trowel in his back pocket.
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