Needle In A Haystack
By: John Vaughn
We all have a story about how we got into metal detecting. Some people have fathers, grandfathers, or other mentors who got them interested in the hobby. Mine came out of the blue in 2008. One day at work, my boss asked if I had ever thought about getting into metal detecting. “Nah, not really,” I replied. I had been given a metal detector that someone bought for $50 at a local electronics store, and the 10 minutes that I used it made me decide I did not want to pick up one again. My boss said that a friend of his was into detecting and had given him a free video to check out. I took the video home, watched it a couple of times, and became more and more interested as I saw what a good machine was capable of doing.
A few weeks later, while looking at the magazine rack at a bookstore, I noticed Western & Eastern Treasures. I bought it, and reading my first issue just fed the metal detecting monster in me that I did not know existed. I bought the next month’s issue and the months’ after, until my wife gave me a subscription for my birthday. Little did I know that I would soon be hooked on detecting and writing about my own great finds.
Searching online for more information, I discovered a metal detecting forum that I found very useful and began visiting the website on a regular basis. Before long I began looking around for my own machine, and while searching I found another website where other detector owners take the time to rate the various brands and models that they have used or purchased. I also kept reading W&ET, and after much thought and research I bought a Garrett Ace 250.
Immediately after purchasing my machine, I started detecting at the local park every morning before work. I was there for only a few minutes and felt as if the whole world was watching me. That was one hard thing for me to overcome. However, I hit another park and just kept at it, gaining experience and confidence. Before long, I did not notice anyone else and really did not care if they were looking at me. It is amazing how headphones can tune out everything but the sounds you are listening for.
Soon I was searching several parks around town and even one in another town where a farmers’ market is held weekly. On each trip I was learning more and more about my machine and the various recovery techniques. I quickly found out that I needed a pinpointer, and now consider it indispensable. Since there is not a detecting club in my area, I relied on this magazine to be my guide.
I found myself leaving the detector in my truck and never taking it out. I would leave for work 30 minutes early and detect at the parks, empty lots, and other sites along the way. I did that five days a week. Also, now every time I visit my daughter in Louisiana, I take my detector with me and check out her little town.
Here in Arizona, we have great weather for detecting all year round, and believe me, I make the most of it. Some mornings do get down around 30°, but that is only one month out of the year and does not slow me down. Over the past few years, I have found tons of coins (though no silver), rings, WWI Army buttons, tax tokens, dog tags... and lots of pulltabs. I wish I had a quarter for every bottle cap that sounded like quarter!
One day last June, my wife showed me an ad in the classified section of our local newspaper. That ad was a cry for help. A lady had lost her diamond engagement ring at a park and left her phone number in case anyone found it. I immediately called and told her that I was willing to help her find it. She explained that she and her husband had been relaxing under some trees, sitting on a blanket, just enjoying the day. When she got home, she realized that her ring was gone. She gave me the general vicinity where they had been sitting, but there was one problem: the park covers five acres!
The park just seemed to get bigger, and the ring to get smaller as I searched for it. As I surveyed the area, I imagined all the possibilities that could have occurred when she lost her ring. Had she and her husband left the park by walking north? Maybe they walked south. Maybe they lived on the east side and walked across the whole five acres. Maybe the ring got folded up in the blanket and she lost it somewhere else- in her car, perhaps, or somewhere in her yard as she was carrying the blanket from the car to the house. The odds seemed so remote that I could ever find it for her.
I choose an area at random and started my search under the trees. I normally hunt only in coin mode, but I knew for this search I needed to switch over to all-metal mode. I dug every target I heard, but all I got was miscellaneous bits of metal: lead weights for balancing car tires, lead terminals for car batteries, coins cut in half by mowers, and lots of pulltabs. The park employees asked if I had found anything interesting, and when I told them about the mission I was on, they wished me luck and went on their way.
I looked day after day, usually spending 20-30 minutes each morning before work. On day five of my search, five minutes before I had to stop and head to work I got another strong signal. My first thought was, “Another pulltab.” When I rubbed my pinpointer through the grass, I caught a flash of gold. There it was- the ring I had been searching for! My first thought was to find one of the park workers and showed him my find. He was amazed that the ring was still in perfect condition, since they had just mowed the area the day before.
The minute I got back to work I tried to give the lady a call. Unfortunately, I was unable to get in touch with her until the next morning. I told her that I had found a ring and I hoped it was hers, and we agreed to meet at my workplace later that day. She and her husband brought along a wedding picture of their hands which showed the ring. When I handed her my find, she started jumping up and down, crying with excitement that her ring had been found. Her husband offered to pay me for my effort, but of course I politely refused. Seeing the joy on her and her husband’s face was all the reward that I needed.
Every morning I still set out on another search, hoping that I will find something as exciting as the ring again. Recently, I have been going to the county fairgrounds, where I have been given permission to hunt since the fair is now over. The manager told me that other treasure hunters like to look where the carnival sets up. So, I decided to think outside the box and detect where the 4-H and FFA kids show their animals. So far, I have found numerous quarters and every type of key, from padlocks to RV doors and ATV’s, in and around the show ring.
People often ask why I find this hobby so much fun. For me, it is like fishing. I like the solitude and quiet of fishing- the only problem is that I live in the desert and it is a two-hour drive to the closest fishing hole. My favorite part of metal detecting is that I do not have to do it for hours. Even five minutes is enough time to make a few good finds. I also like that I can stop anywhere that I want, because I always have my detector with me. My wish is for everyone to make a great find and bring happiness to someone just as I did when I found the engagement ring.