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One Good Deed
by: Jim Davis
Most of us have fond memories of certain days we had out hunting. Some of
those days may have stood out in our memories because of terrific finds or
just joking and clowning around with hunting partners but I'm sure at
least one or two of those days really stand out and make you feel good and
proud to have a great hobby like metal detecting. I'd like to share one of
those days of mine with you.
I had permission to hunt an old house site in town were a huge old
two story house once stood. All that is there now is an open lot, you know
the kind, with two huge trees and a sidewalk through the trees that leads
to nowhere but an empty lot. The lot, about 150 feet by 200 feet was nice
and level and mowed real close. It was the perfect setting. I had been hunting
about an hour finding a few silver dimes and some wheat pennies. I was
kneeling down by one of those huge trees digging a target when I got a
strange feeling, you've probably had it happen, like I was being watched.
I was about to stand up when out of the corner of my eye I saw a foot
beside me. I put my hand on my digging knife and proceeded to stand up
and pull off my headphones when the young man standing there asked me what
I was doing. I explained what I was doing and showed him my finds. He was
impressed at my finds and asked me if my machine would find a ring. I
assured him it would find rings because I had found some in the past. He
asked me if I had found one in this lot, which I replied no and he said
he thought there was a gold class ring on this lot somewhere. Now he really
had my attention. He told me he lived in an apartment next door
and that he and some friends had been playing football on the lot. His
wife was out there with them and when they finished playing she realized
her class ring was gone. They looked for it for about an hour but couldn't
find the ring. He told me that the ring was lost the previous fall and
his wife still hadn't gotten over her ring yet. He asked me if I thought
I could find the ring. I told him I would try to get a couple of other hunters
to come over and we would cover the lot thoroughly but I wouldn't guarantee
we could find it. I explained someone else may have found it or it may
have been hit by a mower and thrown out of the lot. He said he would gladly
pay us and I assured him that was not necessary. He said goodbye and told
me which apartment he lived in should we find the ring. I went back to hunting
thinking the next weekend I would ask a couple of friends to help
hunt for the ring. The more I hunted the more that ring called out to me.
It was getting late so I decided to make a couple of passes across the
lot to see if I could find the ring. I located a couple of landmarks to go
by and headed across the lot. After a few pull tab signals I thought this
lot was too big to hunt alone. I decided to go back across the lot to my
first pass. About halfway across I got a good signal. Pinpointing the target
I kneeled down to dig when I saw something shiny in the edge of the grass.
I pulled back the grass and raked out something with my finger. Pulling
off the grass I quickly realized I was holding something gold, it was the
ring... I couldn't believe it. Moving very quickly I headed toward the
apartment. Stepping higher with every step I went up and knocked on the
door. Holding the ring in my open hand the door opened and the man said,
"You found it." In the background his wife said,
"Found what?" "Your ring", he found your class ring.
Needless to say she got excited. I handed her the ring and as she looked
at it she said it was definitely her ring with tears in her eyes. They
both kept thanking me and I told them it was my
pleasure and I had to be going. The husband kept insisting I take money
for my time and trouble and I assured him time was free and it was no trouble.
Walking toward my truck they kept shouting thank you until I got to my
truck. I loaded my detector and equipment and got in the truck. Feeling kind
of overwhelmed by this ordeal, I sat there for a minute looking over the lot,
looking at those huge trees and that old sidewalk thinking if they could
talk boy what stories they could tell. Then I realized this is what our
hobby is all about, preserving history and the story it can tell and making
ourselves as well as other people happy. How many other hobbies can give
you all that???
Keep your coils to the ground and your batteries hot.
Retreat from Shy's Hill
by: Tom Williams
Shy's Hill was once a great place to hunt. Every time a good story was told
by a long time relic hunter, I could only imagine what it must of been like.
There is a still an occasional artillery shell found or yard you hear about
that yielded a number of relics. But for the most part, the ground is silent,
carrying only the sounds of battle and those who lost their lives during that
cold month of December, 1864.
The surrounding areas of Shy's Hill, however, still seem to produce
some nice finds if you know where to look. There is a great book to read
if interested in hunting around the Granny White Pike area. It is a red book
"The Confederacy's Last Hurrah" by Wiley Sword. It tells of the major
activity along Granny White Pike that took place before, during and after
the Battle of Nashville. It even shows some good maps of troop movements
during the Battle of Shy's Hill and the retreat that followed. There is one
map that shows the Confederate soldiers retreating directly down Granny White
Pike along the stone wall that is still there today. The book also tells
about the major cavalry engagement that happened just up the road at
"Vaughn's Gap" where our author of last months article clearly pointed
out in his treasure maps. The following story is a recent experience I had
while hunting a yard near Granny White Pike that saw much activity.
After listening to an awesome presentation by Mike O'Donnell on Virginia
relic hunting at the last club meeting, I was hoping to find at least a few
minie balls to satisfy my hunger. I headed out that Saturday to hunt a yard
near Granny White Pike. It was a beautiful, clear day (during the Smyrna
Civil War Show of course) and my hunting partner got called into work. I
went alone and got permission to hunt a yard that had been "calling me" for
months. It just looked to darn good. The yard was about 3 acres and went
right up the original stone wall along Granny White Pike where the
Confederate soldiers were firing rounds to hold back the Union advancements.
I tuned the Blue & Gray and decided to start at the edge of a
creek and then head to the stone wall. Hunting right along the wall, I was
surprised to dig a dropped enfield 3 inches deep. Then a few feet away, I dug
another one 5 inches deep. By the time I reached the end of the wall, I had
dug 8 enfields, an old brass key, and plenty of trash. But after hunting the
wall, the bullets were scarce and far between, finding a minie ball every 15
minutes or so. That was soon to change. After several hours, I finally had
some luck. Right under a large tree there was a small mound of dirt where a
mole (or some earth creature other than a groundhog) had created while digging
a tunnel. Lying on top of this mound was a dropped enfield and a round ball.
Excited, I picked up the round ball first and noticed that it had a shank
on the back and was pretty light. It was silver plated and turned out to
be a Zouave button! This got the blood pressure pumping. I swung the loop over
the hole and got several weak signals, which turned out to be several more
Then while hunting up a small hill in the back yard, I dug a large piece
of lead sabot. After checking the hole for more signals, I began to dig up
remains of an exploded Hotchkiss shell. The lead sabot was in three pieces
as well as the iron nose section. There was also a piece of the brass fuse.
Then I made a chilling discovery, which reminded me of Mr. Mike O'Donnell's
experiences while hunting the deep trenches in Virginia. The last signal I
dug out of that hole was a brass wedding band. It was possible that it
belonged to a Confederate soldier who was wounded or killed by this shell.
The yard suddenly came to life as a cold chill ran up my spine.
At the next hunt, David Williams was able to come along so we got
permission to hunt the same yard. It was a humid day with no wind. The owner
was actually glad to see us because I gave him a small display case and a few
bullets the week before. He wanted us to find him "a few more." So David
did just that by digging a few bullets before I could even get my machine
ground balanced. But I was about to get even. By a large tree, I got a funny
signal. It was the same signal I walked over and decided not to dig the week
before. The needle on the machine would lock in all the way to the left but
then rebound to the right giving a clear signal. This meant it was probably
something iron, round and big. I dug down about three inches and hit
something with the shovel that was laying against the tree root. After
removing the large root, I could see the object had a silver shine where my
shovel hit it. It was led sabot and, not only that, it had a shell attached
to it! After calling David over, he congratulated me on finding a whole
artillery shell. I told him that it had been fired so it wasn't live.
Lifting it out of the hole, I could see rifling marks on the sabot but it
looked like the Hotchkiss shell was almost complete. I picked it up, brushed
some dirt off the nose, saw the fuse was still in it, got nervous, and then
dropped it. You would have thought it was the summer Olympics. In a matter
of seconds David jumped two bushes going west and I jumped two tree stumps
going east. The owner heard us yell and saw us running so he came to see
what in the heck was going on. It didn't take long for him to say "get
that thing out of here!" He gave me a scrap piece of carpet to wrap
the shell in for the ride home.
It's still sitting on the back porch waiting to be defused. Hopefully, my
wife will stop complaining soon. It's only been 3 weeks being married and
she's already on my back! Well good luck to y'all and watch for those
Trash or Treasure
by: George Knight
Metal detecting is one of the most fascinating hobbies that I have ever been
involved with. When the old detector sounds off, you never know what will
come out of the ground, be it old or new coin, jewelry, relic or trash.
One of my most memorable hunts involved trash and goodies. I had obtained
permission to hunt a hill near Shy's Hill for relics. One Saturday, Chuck
Pavla, my son David and I started hunting this hillside. It was very thick
with bushes and trees with an open area near the top. We started
in the open area and I immediately got a good signal. I was using a Garrett
Master Hunter with a 14 inch coil. Dug signal, beer can. Oh well, beginners
luck. Two feet from the first signal, another beer can. In all I dug about
five beer cans, each about two feet apart. The sixth signal was approximately
two feet from the last. Beer can, six pack, sure it was. Did not dig it.
I continued hunting around the hill, getting signals and digging bullets.
Both dropped and fired. Chuck and my son were also digging bullets. After
making a circle on the hill side, I found Chuck surface digging in about
a five or ten foot circle. He stated that he was finding pieces of a
projectile that had exploded.
I continued hunting and got a signal, which
was in line with the five beer cans I had dug. Thinking that it was the
sixth beer can, I started to leave it, but my curiosity got the better
of me. I began excavating the hole and after going down about three feet,
I had still not found anything. The signal was still there so I continued
to dig. About four feet, the signal was still good. I could not get the
14 inch coil into the hole, so I got my son to check the hole to see if the
signal was on the side or down in the hole. He stated that it was still
down there and as he moved away, he ran his coil over the dirt I had dug
out and almost had a fit, stating there was all kinds of signals in the
dirt. We sifted through the dirt and found numerous round lead balls. After
laying on the ground with my entire arm in the hole, I brought out a complete
"Hotchkiss" shell. The shell had exploded but only
blew half of the side off. The other part had the entire fuse in it along
with black powder and more lead balls. I also recovered the base cup and
lead sabot. This was one of the best finds of the day.
Before we left, I went closer to the top of the hill and got another signal.
Found laying under several layers of leaves and not buried, a complete
In closing, I say if you are relic hunting, dig those signals,
even if some turn out to be trash.
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