The End of a Great Spot

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.

“Good morning!”

“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.


Sometimes the River Laughs

After two forays at what should be an excellent site to metal detect in a river swimming hole, I can tell you this:

It’s either feast or famine

A guy who goes by the name of Hiluxyota on YouTube is feasting, and has been for roughly ten days or so. This detectorist found a section of river chock full of gold signet rings and old coins, among other things. He’s a very nice guy to boot, too, who does his research. His channel can be found here:  

His success, along with that of a few other detectorists I subscribe to, inspired me to give river metal detecting a try. I’ve done it three times so far, the third being a boulder-infested stream, with little success.

That’s the famine part.

That’s OK, though. I could stand to miss a few meals, and I’m far from finished with the location I’ve chosen. So far I’ve recovered probably three bucks in coinage, all newer stuff, a bunch of .22 caliber bullets, fishing lures, lead sinkers, the usual unidentifiable metals, a rail spike…but no jewelry worth saving.

I’ve been upstream and downstream. I’ll need to make a trip to a sporting goods store for a diving mask to check the bottom of the rope swing area, but I’m holding off on that till after Labor Day in order to give potential depositors one last chance at losing that ring or bracelet. Aside from that, there’s a pretty large picnic area waiting to be harvested.

Land metal detecting, which apparently is what I do best. I’ll scan that acreage by the river….

…as I listen to the river laugh at me.


Adventures in Self-Construction

I’ve been watching a ton of online videos of metal detectorists working in water. Have been for awhile, so much so that I’ve tried it myself…and loved it.

I’ve seen some guys working with a floating sifter, ones they’ve built themselves, which seems like a good idea. Most of the ones I’ve seen were constructed of PVC pipe bound with those foam pool worms. The sifting screen is usually something called ‘hardware screen’, a material that’s sturdy but not made of metal, which means your pinpointer will be a big help in that pile of gravel/sand/clay in the sifter.

So, I took the plunge.

Made a trip to my favorite big-box building supply store looking for the materials I’d need. Inch-and-a-half PVC pipe, 4 ninety-degree elbows, joint cement…all easy to find. I asked one of the clerks for hardware screen; he directed me to the area where repair materials for window screens were displayed.

The screens were all metal.

I told the man what I needed that particular screen for; he looked at me as if I were speaking  Japanese.

“It’s non-metallic screening material, and I need it in 1/8th-inch size.”

I got a look of bewilderment in return. He then directed me to the lawn and garden center to check out their landscape weed barrier material.

Now I was frustrated. I didn’t want to have to visit a half-dozen stores to find what I needed.

As I was shoving my cart in the direction of the registers I passed an aisle that displayed plastic tub containers…and a light bulb went on. I returned all my items back where I’d found them, then went back to those storage tub displays. I found a rectangular flat one, about six inches deep, and snatched it off the shelf. Since I already had some pre-cut pool worms, all I had to pick up was some sturdy zip ties. This should be easy.

After getting home and mowing the lawn at Ram Field Ranch, I set to work on making my sifter. First, I laid out a grid on the bottom side of the tub where I proceeded to drill 40 quarter-inch holes. The pre-cut sections of pool noodles were placed along the four sides of the lip  of the tub and secured with thick zip ties. I added attach points for a clip-on  lanyard and voila! It is ready to go.

My only concern will be cracking of the tub floor once the weight of a scoop of sand and gravel are added; hopefully, the thickness of the plastic will hold up. If it doesn’t, I’m only out five bucks and fifteen minutes of my time.

Then I’ll go the PVC route, IF I can find the hardware screen.

Stay tuned, sports fans…

floating sifter

The Wonders of Medicine

A couple of days ago I posted about trying to move a concrete slab in the water and injuring myself, in pursuit of a target that turned out to be a piece of tin.

That injury eventually was diagnosed as torn cartilage in my rib cage, which in turn caused extensive muscle spasms in my upper left abdomen. Those spasms were almost continual; pain meds didn’t help much. I wouldn’t be doing any detecting for quite a while…or so I thought.

Enter the physician for whom my wife works. This man called our home at 2200 hrs ( that’s 10 PM for you non-military types ) and told her to bring me in first thing yesterday morning. He’s a pain management doc and, after hearing from his office manager about my ailment, took the time to call us directly. When’s the last time a physician called YOU at 10 PM?

I was at his office at 0830, in extreme discomfort. Out of the previous 48 hrs I’d slept a total of three, unable to find a comfortable position, sitting, standing or laying. The good doctor examined me, poked, prodded and interrogated, and also reviewed my x-ray and CT scan films. Finally, he performed a nerve block in the affected area, injecting a long-lasting numbing elixir mixed with a mild analgesic.

Relief was almost instantaneous.

After returning home I caught up on much needed sleep, out for most of the day in my recliner. This morning, aside from some mild soreness in the site where the nerve block was performed, I feel almost normal again…to the point of telling my wife I was considering going detecting this day.

I think she took my AT Pro with her, locked in the trunk of her car, because its not where I left it.

My wife is a smart woman who knows me well.


Just My Luck…

Gatton Rocks (1)

Most of my time is spent metal detecting in parks or around old houses and buildings. However, recently I’d decided that I wanted to venture into water features with my Garrett AT Pro, especially after watching a few videos on YouTube of fellow detectorists making some pretty awesome recoveries from creeks, rivers and lakes.

I’d already worked some beaches over the past couple of years, the most recent being the beaches of Edisto Island in South Carolina in July, where I made my second beach ring find.

Last Tuesday I traveled to a little country swimming hole in a river, one that’s been active since the early 1920s, to try my hand; I had a little luck finding a few coins, but no silver or gold. I hadn’t really expected to, being the novice water detectorist that I am. I enjoyed it so much, though, that I went back Thursday morning, spending three hours early in the day in mostly mid-thigh deep water.

Not having much success, I decided to wade into an area right next to a couple of huge trees that have rope swings attached and started working from the edges inward. Eventually I hit a low-80s signal on my machine’s VDI display and decided to recover it. Feeling my way with my hands in eighteen inches of river close to the bank, I discovered that the target was beneath a huge slab of concrete that was probably a good two inches thick. I set my machine and long-handled scoop aside and hooked my fingers beneath an edge…and moved it slightly. Getting a better grip, I redoubled my effort and got it moved aside enough to work the target signal, which turned out to be a piece of tin. Just my luck.

As people were starting to show up, I scanned a few more times in the area and decided to call it a day, having collected a few modern coins and not much else. I trudged back to my truck, geared down, stowed my machine and headed north towards home. I called my wife, as is customary, and let her know I was done for the day.

It wasn’t until a little later that I began feeling an intense, dull ache in the area just beneath my left rib cage, the ache getting worse by the minute; by the time I was stepping out of the shower it was becoming hard to stand erect. My wife got home from work, noticing that I was having trouble, so I told her about the pain in my abdomen.

Before the night was through, I ended up in the ER.

Diagnosis? A partially torn muscle just below the rib cage.

So now here I sit, in extreme discomfort, waiting on the pain med and muscle relaxer to do their jobs. That’s all I can do for a week…sit. And heal.

And no metal detecting for at least a week.

Just my luck.

Here we go…

 I love metal detecting.


I started in the early spring of 2014, about six months after I hung up my badge and gun belt for good. My wife’s brother, Steve, was at our home visiting one afternoon and excitedly started telling me about his new hobby of metal detecting. He hadn’t found much, he’d said, but he was having fun.

“You ought to try it. We can go detecting together.”

My lovely redhead of a wife chimed in. “Yes, you need a hobby or something now that you’re retired. I don’t want you in the recliner watching TV all day.”

She was right, of course; I’d started to fall into that trap. Once I’d gotten a few projects finished, all I had to do was yard work and such. The rest of the time I spent watching history programs and cop shows. I figured, Why not? As much as history fascinates me, maybe I’ll like it, plus I’ll be getting some exercise.

Steve and I talked a bit more about the types of detecting I might be interested in and my search for a machine was on. I found a couple of metal detectors that interested me, lower-priced models in the $300 range. I figured I wouldn’t jump in whole hog because I wasn’t sure how much I would like metal detecting.

I settled on a Treasure Commander TCX2, the Si Robertson model. It came packaged with a pin pointer and finds bag; I figured I’d use my garden trowel to dig with. I was set.

I started out in our yard finding, of course, every piece of metallic debris it held. I also found a few coins and one of my son’s toy cars that hadn’t seen the light of day for the last ten years. Pretty cool! I still wasn’t committed, however.

I started watching YouTube videos…hundreds of them. These folks were finding jewelry, old coins, artifacts and relics from times gone by. That’s what I wanted, to find something amazing. I was a part-time school bus driver at the time, often driving athletic trips to other schools and parks, so I started taking my TCX2 along.

It proved to be an excellent idea.

I’d driven the track team to a meet at a small village school, one that had an old railroad bed across the highway from it, and figured I’d try my luck there. The rails and ties had long been removed, leaving only the gravel bed and berm area which ran for hundreds of yards. After unloading the kids and parking my bus, I crossed the highway and slid down an embankment to the abandoned rail line.

I’d dug a few beer bottle caps, a rail spike, some old nails and a few other odds and ends when I got a rather loud signal on my machine. It indicated that the item was only a couple inches deep, in an area along the bed and I started digging. And digging. I was being schooled in the fact that large items can be deep and small items shallow, no matter what your detector tells you.

At six inches I felt and heard a metallic ‘clunk’, telling me I’d found the target. As I reached into the hole my fingers felt a rounded object; a couple more scoops of the dark earth revealed the find that set the metal detecting hook in me.

A railroad switch lock.

It was gorgeous and in fantastic shape. On its face were the letters ‘WB’, raised from the surface of the lock itself. I brushed off all the dirt I could, staring at my find and wondering how long the padlock had been in the ground.

I couldn’t wait to get it home so I could research its origin on the internet, the track meet seeming to last forever. Finally, the kids loaded up and I got them back to the school, parking my bus and making the trip home in my truck in record time. I excitedly showed Stacy my find and told her the story, she being unimpressed but happy for me.

Once on the ‘net I discovered that the ‘WB’ stood for Wilson Bohannon, a lock manufacturer that had been in business since the 1880s in Brooklyn, New York. I called the company the next morning, finding that they’d relocated to a city forty miles southwest of me here in Ohio. I spoke with a man in the sales office who told be their catalogs, dating back to 1899, were all online on their website and, if the top loop of the lock was stamped ‘Brooklyn, New York’, it was 1930 or older. It was. Before hanging up, the man asked if I’d like to donate the lock to their lobby display.

No way.

I found my treasure in their 1930 catalog. As with many other detectorists who find older items, my mind wandered…who was the last person to touch this lock? What was their life like? How was it lost? All questions I’ll never know the answers to.

That’s OK with me, though.

I know who has it now.WB railroad lock