Cold Water Hunting
By: Chuck Pourciau
Marilyn grasped the handle and made sure of her grip. It was the kind of handle one would find at the end of a water ski rope, but it had a different purpose. While a ski rope's purpose is to keep one from colliding with the water, this device was designed with the opposite purpose. It was connected to a cable that was anchored well out in the lake from the platform on which Marilyn stood, and the result of leaping from the platform was an imminent collision with the surface of the lake at the end of a thrilling ride along the "zip line." In the words of Marilyn: "I have great memories of climbing what seemed like a huge tower, grabbing onto a trolley, and then whooshing down into the lake. It was a real thrill!"
This ride would be less than thrilling, however. Marilyn continued to describe that fateful day: "As I rapidly plunged into the water, I felt my ring being pulled off my finger by the force of the water rushing past. What a terrible feeling. I knew right there that I had lost a prized sentimental possession, and that there was no way I would ever recover that ring out of that lake." Or was there?
It was last summer, and I was enjoying a vacation with my family in Hot Springs, Arkansas. As I stepped out of my truck and headed toward the townhouse, my cell phone rang. It was Justin, my detecting partner back home in Shreveport. He informed me that we had received permission to hunt an old public swimming hole that supposedly had not been hunted before. I quickly informed him that I would be home on Friday, and to call the owner and tell her that we would see her bright and early Saturday morning.
Well, it didn't turn out to be that easy. Justin's father-in-law had spoken with the owner that day. He had stopped on the side of the road and looked at the lake, reminiscing about the times he and his wife had dated there. When the owner approached him, he sought permission for Justin and me to hunt. She thought that would be okay and told him to have Justin call her.
When Justin called her, we discovered she had cooled somewhat to the idea of our detecting at the old swimming hole. She told him she had some work to do around the place, and that he should call back in a couple of weeks. When Justin called back, she told him she needed to speak with her brothers about our hunting there. After all, they were part owners of the place. While our optimism began to wane, we were not about to give up.
Justin wrote her a letter and told her all about us and our families. He wanted her to know what kind of people we are, so that she wouldn't worry about what we might do to her or her property. Although she did not relent and allow us to hunt, she didn't refuse either; so, we continued to try to figure out what we needed to do to gain access to this promising site. That's when I had an idea. I called Justin and reminded him that we had never met the lady face to face.
One Saturday morning in late October, we made a trip to one of those bakeries where you can purchase a basket filled with cookies and other baked goods. Then we made the drive to east Texas. Fortunately, the owner was at home, and she seemed very impressed by us and our gift. She promised to call her brother the next day and let us know for certain early the following week. She was true to her word, and we were given permission to search there the following Saturday.
Our aim for the first hunt was to scan the land next to the lake. We decided to turn up the discrimination on our Shadow X5's and "cherry pick" for coins. If the place had been hunted before, it wouldn't take us long to come to that conclusion. Soon after I began working down the hill toward the lake, I heard a solid, fairly shallow signal in my headphones, and it didn't take me long to pop out a 1952 Franklin half. With this find, I was feeling good about this being a honey hole, and later recoveries confirmed that conclusion.
The rest of the day produced a few more silver coins and various other items, the best of which was a heavy silver FFA award ring. All this was in spite of the fact that we could only hunt a fraction of the territory. With a few exceptions, the grass was too tall to allow our searchcoils to get close enough to the ground to do any good. We decided that, if necessary, we would eventually cut that grass ourselves.
We agreed to return the following Saturday, and I was determined to do a little water hunting. Yes, it was November. Yes, it was cold (30° when we arrived). But I couldn't wait until June. So, I donned thermal underwear, jeans, jacket, and waders for the frigid undertaking. The targets were indeed plentiful. I found some clad coins and a few pieces of junk jewelry, but I also found silver coins and a Buffalo nickel. This was the first time I had found silver coins while water hunting, and among them was another Franklin half, this one from 1961, the year of my birth. Also recovered that day was a gold ring. It's always a thrill to see gold in the scoop.
The first four water hunts yielded lots of coins and some decent jewelry. One of the things on my wish list was a wedding band- not a particularly rare find, but one which had somehow eluded me for almost a decade. Well, that changed on the first water hunt at this lake, when I found a man's heavy 14K band. That turned out to be the beginning of a streak of sorts. On each of the subsequent three water hunts, I found another one: four hunts, four wedding bands. So much for the wedding band drought.
During the afternoon of the second water hunt, I was working just off the end of a rotting pier when I got a faint hit from my Minelab Excalibur. Three scoops later, I was still getting the same deep signal. Finally, the sound disappeared... and I spotted a class ring in my scoop. It was a lady's ring from Henderson High School and was dated 1972, yet another first for me. How many other firsts might this lake provide? I plan to spend a few years finding out!
When a call was placed to the high school the following Monday, it didn't take long to identify the owner. The lady who answered the phone knew who she was because she had graduated with the owner of the ring 30 years before. After contacting Marilyn, I mailed the ring to her in Waco, Texas. She received it just before Christmas.
I'll let Marilyn describe what it was like to learn that her lost ring had been recovered.
"I got the strangest e-mail from my mother in December. She said that someone had found a Henderson High School ring with my initials on it. They had checked the rolls and found that it could only be my ring. Well, I didn't buy that at all. After all, I had lost my ring in a lake, and it had to be buried in a million layers of silt by now. There was no way anyone could retrieve that ring."
However, a phone call to my office convinced Marilyn that it wasn't so impossible after all. Here's her reaction to receiving the ring in the mail:
"Chuck really went the extra mile. He had the ring cleaned beautifully for me, and it looks like new now. To see it, nobody would ever believe it lay in the mud at the bottom of a lake for 30 years! It's very beautiful, and of course it's now even more special than ever to me. It almost seems like a little miracle to me that I got this ring back. It made me very happy, and it has been the subject of many interesting conversations. In my mind, the unlikely finding of this simple treasure is a little symbolic that sometimes good things in life happen despite great odds against them. I find that very uplifting every time I think of it. Thank you, Chuck!"
Experiences like those are some of the most rewarding of this hobby. They are almost as rewarding as finding a CS buckle. Not quite, but almost.
CHUCK POURCIAU serves as pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana. He is married and has two teenage daughters, and has been detecting since 1993.