slowly discovering what the water once took away

photos by Tina Ecker, words by Mike Paulus, design by Eric Christenson

slowly discovering what the water once took away

photos by Tina Ecker, words by Mike Paulus, design by Eric Christenson

Over centuries, the rivers quietly steal away pieces of our lives. The possessions we have lost. The objects we no longer need, tossed aside and forgotten. The river swallows it all up and hides it down below. These things belong to the water, now. Until enough time has passed. Until the river decides to give them back.

Look closer. Along the banks of the river, down there in the weeds and the mud, the long-lost objects of our ancestors reappear. They are transported through time, pulled to the surface by the motion of the water and the shifting of the soil. An old brooch. A whiskey bottle stopper. The ornate handle of a drawer. They are dirty, rusted, and tarnished, but the stories of the people who owned them have long since washed away. What’s left is a small treasure. A slender thread tied to the past.

Eau Claire photographer Tina Ecker is always looking, always hunting for unnatural objects down by the riverside. She found almost all the objects shown on the following pages along the banks of our own Chippewa River. For Tina, finding these orphaned fragments of the past – and caring for them – connects her to the city of Eau Claire in a way few of us experience.

Because she can literally hold Eau Claire’s history in the palm of her hand.


1. A brooch with hinged pin and catch.


2. A vintage trouser hanger.


3. An Ink bottle, a “cuff clip” (used for cheating at poker), and a radiator cap adorned with wings.


4. A prohibition era P&T whiskey bottle stopper.

5. A horseshoe used during Eau Claire’s logging mill era.


6. A jar made by the Lange Canning Co. of Eau Claire.


7. An old drawer pull/handle. This was the first historical item Tina discovered, and the only item shown here not found near the Chippewa River – she found it in Carson Park


8. An “EZ Speed” Schwinn bike label believed to be from the 1920s, an old buckle, and a metal basket tag used by swimmers at Half Moon Beach to identify swimmers’ belongings.

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