As seen in the July 2004 edition of W&ET Magazine
Relic Hunting In The Popcorn Field
By: Ed Fedory
"Civil War bullets, you say?" asked the old farmer, his hand rubbing a bearded chin, and his thoughts racing back to an earlier day. "Why when I was a boy, after a rainstorm, the field would look like someone had sprinkled popcorn all over the turned soil. That's how many bullets there were!"
Who knew that this open stretch of field held Civil War relics? Well, one old farmer recalled a time when Minie balls looked like popcorn strewn across the field after a rainstorm!
"'Don't own that piece of land no more... new fella does. Seems like a nice fella," added the old farmer, his thumbs hooked around the straps of his bibs. "You might try askin' him if you can search for them ol' bullets."
When you're relic hunting, coins are probably the farthest thing from your mind, but it's kind of a bonus to find a coin with the same date on it as the battle, like this Seated Liberty dime!
Thankfully, there are exceptions to the rules, and the new owner was very agreeable to the team's searching his property, and even pointed Randy, Dylan, and Steve, to another section of the field where he'd found a number of Minie balls lying on the surface!
Over the years, Randy and Rhonda, along with their sons Dylan and Quintin, and friend Steve Mense, have been able to collect an assortment of relics from the battle site.
It wasn't long before Randy's wife Rhonda, and his other son, Quintin, got into the relic hunting mode. "There was this one day," Randy recalls, "that I was almost sorry I'd brought my wife along on the hunt. I recovered a few small and pretty insignificant relics during the first few hours of the hunt, and decided to take a short hop across the field to see how Rhonda was faring. I could tell by her smile when she saw my recoveries that I was going to be in for a big surprise... and I was! Reaching into her collecting bag, Rhonda not only pulled out a couple of dropped Minies, but six Union Eagle buttons. That little lady sure hunts hard."
Randy and Rhonda spent nearly two years searching the site of what history has called The Battle of Drywood... or, strangely enough, The Battle of the Mules!
While the battle is little more than a minor footnote in Civil War history, it has certainly provided Randy and his family and friends with some exciting relic hunting. "My favorite find from the site was made about a year ago," added Randy. "I heard this faint signal on my Shadow X-5, and as I dug into the ground, I passed some nails and pieces of iron trash. On checking the hole again, I continued to hear that nice solid and repeatable signal. Eventually, I was able to isolate the target and found it to be a small cuff button. It looked familiar, but with only a slight field cleaning, it gave me the impression of having a flower on the surface.
One of Randy's favorite finds is this Confederate cavalry button with an Old English "C" on its face (Albert's CS-129 Av).
Further research revealed to Randy that the field had also contained a picket post manned by Company D of the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry for a period of about three years. These historical facts certainly go a long way in explaining the number of spurs, harness buckles, and other cavalry-related relics this team has been turning up from the depths of the soil.
"We didn't find very many coins on the site," Randy recalls, "but we did find a few good ones, including a Capped Bust half dime, a few Indian Heads, and an interesting lead poker chip."
"There's this groundhog that has decided to burrow into the top of the mound. When I bring newcomers to the site, I make sure I point it out to them and tell them about its very aggressive nature, and how this "attack hog" chased me across the field more than once... pure fabrication. I've seen this groundhog on a number of occasions, and it never ventured more than a couple of feet from its hole while I was there. However, you should see the reaction of some of the hunters when they find themselves near the hole and begin tiptoeing away from it... or watch them constantly glancing over their shoulders as they dig on nearby targets, anticipating the "attack hog's" appearance!"
Over the years, Randy has watched the frequency of finds begin to thin at the Battle of the Mules, but his research has led him toward other promising sites along the Kansas-Missouri border. "We may not have the biggest battles of the Civil War in our area, but there was no shortage of activity on both sides. I've got this one site all picked out and just have to wait until they cut the hay... another one of those "popcorn fields" of bullets, from what they tell me!"
"You can never tell what's going to come out of the ground on the site of the battle and picket post, but I didn't expect it the day when Rhonda outgunned us with a total of six Union Eagle buttons!" says Randy.
Author's Note: If you would like to see some interesting relics found by Randy and others, you might check out his forum at: ksrandy.treasureboards.com