As seen in the March 2005 edition of W&ET Magazine
A Relic Hunting Odyssey
By: Ed Fedory
In only a few short weeks my boots had gone from the grassy knoll at Dealy Plaza to the countryside of rural Connecticut. I had gone from the coldness of an assassin's timeless shadow on the sixth floor of a school book depository, to a blue and nearly cloudless October sky above a farmer's cornfield. During those short weeks I would be involved in two totally different types of relic hunts. In one of the hunts the relics were seeded: every one of the competitors knew the type of relics there was a chance of finding. In the other hunt, on those broad Connecticut fields, we didn't have a clue as to what might surface. We weren't sure if anything would be found. I guess you could say we went from shooting fish in a barrel to looking for a needle in a haystack. It sure seemed that way!
Competition relic hunting... never thought I'd ever see those words put together! Relic hunting, by nature, is a slow process. Relic hunters don't rush, and the recovery of history is often a painstaking and time-consuming process. I've also been in a fair share of competition hunts. There is nothing slow about a competition hunt... it's all about speed. It never ceases to amaze me how fast some of my fellow competitors on the field can pinpoint and recover targets. It's a Tortoise vs. Hare type of thing. I'm not much of a competition hunter... guess I'd better get used to being a turtle.
From Louisiana we traveled to the hills and farmlands of Connecticut for a day of digging relics from the freshly harvested fields.
Yet, this idea of having a hunt field laced with relics was something I found intriguing. I decided to give it my best shot. The place was Shreveport, Louisiana, and the hunt took place during the FMDAC National Convention.
I first thought that this delicate flintlock lockplate was from a Colonial period child's toy... that is, until I saw the size of the mainspring on the interior side.
In the first few minutes, following the horn blast that started the hunt, as I stood there looking at a recovered Minie ball in the palm of my hand, I knew I had better start picking up the pace. That bullet sure was a heck of a lot better looking than most of those Mercury dimes I usually find!
The Minie ball was followed by a couple of smaller caliber pistol bullets, a rimfire cartridge, and a Union eagle button. Between the relic recoveries I had been able to pocket a few older silver coins, but I wasn't very interested in them at the time. There were also some tokens on the field that could later be turned in for books on the Civil War, and for small cased collections of relics.
This assortment of relics and coins was found by one contestant during the half-hour hunt. You really have to move if you expect to find targets in this quantity!
I was watching the clock and knew that the hunt would soon be ending. The fellow next to me pulled a friction fuse about 3' to the right of my coil, while my buddy, Roger, who happened to catch my eye, held up another projectile that he'd managed to find among the roots at the base of a pine.
I have to admit that one of my greatest faults is the inability to unpack my traveling bags in a timely fashion. In fact, I was only partially unpacked when it came time to load up again and head to Connecticut. It was only a short hop across the New York State line, and we were in Connecticut, attending a hunt put on by Jeremiah Burr in the beautiful Litchfield Hills of that state. The site was a Colonial farm and the surrounding fields that had been under the plow for the better part of three centuries. According to the current owners the site had never been metal detected, and the air was filled with wild speculations about what the ground might contain. We would have the entire day to search anywhere we wanted on those 300 acres. The pace of the hunt would be leisurely... ahh, the perfect day for turtles!
Barbara Kappus, of the Putnam/Westchester Metal Detectorists & Archaeological Society, found the oldest U.S. issued coin, an 1802 Draped Bust large cent.
At the registration desk we were all issued maps of the surrounding land, and points of interest were marked: the site of the original dwelling, early Colonial foundations, the old orchard, and an old road dating from the 1700s. The map alone was enough to get any relic hunter's pulse rate doubling!
My hunting partner, Roger, who had also made the relic hunting odyssey from Louisiana to Connecticut, was nowhere to be found. In a matter of seconds he had seemed to virtually disappear. Six hours later, when I finally caught sight of him, I found that he had been one of the group high-tailing it up the road toward another Colonial foundation.
From the sixth floor of the school book depository, an assassin's bullets ended an era of innocence.
I was amazed by the number of loud signals I was getting. After digging a dozen of these signals, I began to compute the "glide ratio" and flight patterns of empty beer cans having been thrown from the window of a car traveling at something just under the speed of light! It was time to shift my search patterns farther out into the field.
Initially, I thought, due to the delicate nature of the lock, that it might have been a lock from a child's toy pistol from the 1700s. However, that theory was soon to change when I had cleaned the mud from the mainspring on the interior side of the lock. The mainspring was very large, and the lock had come from a fully functional Colonial weapon.
Frank Colletti, FMDAC national secretary, found a number of interesting relics, along with some tokens that helped add to his relic collection.
The recoveries weren't all silver. Ken Carlson brought up a beautiful Vermont issued coin from the depths of the field, and it was Barbara Kappus who stunned us all with a nice 1802 large cent.
Ken Carlson's Vermont issued copper must have been lost soon after it was minted. Several Connecticut coppers of the same period were also recovered.
Arriving at the field the second day, we bid our farewells to old and new friends alike. It would be a day of competition hunting... a day of speedy recoveries and fast searches... a day of swift swinging and blurred coils. We had some miles to cover before we saw home, and remember... we turtles don't move very fast!