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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 titled "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 dropped enfields.

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 live ones!

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 bayonet.

In closing, I say if you are relic hunting, dig those signals, even if some turn out to be trash.


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