Yesterday dawned with overcast skies but the forecast was good: sunny later in the morning, with temps in the mid-80s. Of course, I had a metal detecting trip on my mind.
Acres of park-like grounds beckoned at Gatton Rocks, the place where I’ve been detecting in the river, and I wanted to get started as early as possible; our grandson, Butch, would be coming to stay with us at 1430 hours, so my time would be limited. As soon as my bride left for work, I began readying my gear, transitioning from a water configuration to land.
I left the house at around 0930 after finishing a few small chores, eager to make the drive down SR 97 to Clear Fork High School, where I’d make a right on Dill Rd and arrive at Gatton Rocks a couple of minutes later. After reaching the spot, I parked and dropped the tail gate on my truck, withdrawing my needed items: trash pouch, hand trowel, pin pointer, my AT Pro and a small hand towel I use for piling dirt on if I dug a deep target. Makes it much easier…and neat appearing…when the time comes to refill the hole.
After liberally applying mosquito repellant, I donned my gear and turned my machine on, ground-balancing it once I was able to find a spot without metal in the ground. That’s a tough thing to find in most parks because, well, people are pigs. There can be a trash receptacle ten feet away and most folks will still throw their trash on the ground.
Soon I was scanning the ground…and not having much luck. Beer and pop bottle lids dominated the targets and pull tabs also made their presence known. I did manage to find a dime and quarter, both clad coins, and had just started scanning an area near a section of river bank when, through my head phones, I heard the sound of an approaching tractor. I turned and saw a scraggly-looking bearded guy headed my way across the expanse of grass; I’d seen him twice before as he worked while I’d been in the river and he’d always waved, a pretty nice guy. What he had to say wasn’t so nice.
As he shut off the tractor’s motor I took my headphones off. I greeted him.
“Howdy. I’m supposed to tell you they don’t want no prospecting here.”
I was a little taken aback; it was obvious I wasn’t panning for gold, wasn’t it?
“I’m not prospecting, I’m metal detecting, taking a LOT of trash out of the ground while doing so.”
He scratched his unkempt, thin beard. “Well, they don’t want that, either. You can go downriver past the bridge, where the gold prospectors have some land…”
I knew where he was talking about. I also knew you needed to be a member of the gold panner’s club to hunt there, which I wasn’t.
“No, that’s OK, I have plenty of other places to go.” I indicated my bulging trash bag on my waist. “All this sharp metal, glass, trash, bottle caps and such, you want me to put it all back on the ground, where I found and removed it.?” His eyebrows shot skyward above his steel-rimmed glasses.
“Oh, NO! You can dump that over there in the trash can. We appreciate you cleaning up, but they just don’t want no prospecting here.”
I looked around, indicating a couple of places where people had started fire pits, litter scattered about the areas. “So, folks can come down here, trash the place, drink and carry on while letting little kids run around barefoot across all this stuff that could hurt them, but I can’t dig it up and make it safer for kids while metal detecting? I know its public-use, but the property owners would be liable if, say, someone got cut bad on a shredded can laying in the grass.”
Now the bearded employee was getting a little mad; I couldn’t really blame him due to the way I was baiting him, either. “Look, they just don’t want no prospecting here!”
I shrugged. “No problem, I have other places I can go, pal. You’re just doing your job. I understand.” I had to get that one last shot in, though, me being me…
“I’ll give you the thirty-five cents I found, too, since it rightfully belongs to the property owners and all…”
After a quick look of puzzlement, bearded man said “No, they don’t mind if you keep that, I guess…”
I flashed him a smile. “Great! Look, I understand, I’m not upset or anything. You have a great tractor-riding day.” I hefted my AT Pro, Sampson shovel and headed for the truck, disappointed but satisfied that I’d made my point.
After gearing down and packing it all away in the back of my red GMC, I drove the twenty minutes to the house, thinking about that place and my exchange with the Wade and Gatton employee. Then the idea popped into my head.
I can still go there and swim. I can wear an underwater face mask while swimming in that rope-swing area I hadn’t explored yet….
….with my pin pointer tucked in the leg pouch of my trunks.