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Following the Beep: Why I have a metal detector and how it (hopefully) helps me find treasure 

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This late winter and early spring, I have become a slave to the beep. Beep, beep, beep - a quick metallic staccato as our metal detector, the Garrett Ace250, teases us with the possibility of unearthing a rare coin, a lost Rolex or an antique diamond ring. Armed with our "kit," slang in the metal detecting culture for our detector, a pin-pointer, a shovel and an ice pick, my husband and I have scaled hill and dale in the hopes of finding that elusive buried treasure.

Metal detecting, like gambling, attracts the eternal optimist. Who else would spend a sunny Saturday afternoon waving a metal wand for hours over countless acres of park, forest and desert on the slim chance of striking it rich?

If you are a group-joining type, you can sit in on a meeting of the High Desert Treasure Club. They meet the second Wednesday of every month at the Bend VFW Hall at 7pm.

My husband and I prefer the rogue approach, the two of us against the earth where clandestine fortunes beg to be liberated. OK, well maybe we aren't entirely going rogue, as we did visit the Oregon Parks and Rec. website to clarify where we can and cannot metal detect in central Oregon. The turf and developed areas of several parks are fair game, including the Cove Palisades, Smith Rock, La Pine, Cline Falls and Pilot Butte. Basic metal detecting etiquette echoes the "leave only footprints" recreation theory. And you're supposed to let the park staff know if you, "find an artifact with possible historic or cultural significance."

Possible historic or cultural significance? We don't metal detect to find artifacts. We long to find a booty of cold, hard cash in scattered and forgotten spare change, maybe a bracelet, a watch or two. It isn't necessarily the outcome, but the hunt that keeps us going. It's that whole "life is not a destination but a journey" philosophy.

Metal detecting was a little confusing our first time out. My husband and I, with our "Irish negotiating skills" took turns swearing at the device when it seemed to beep over one section of ground, then stop, then randomly beep two feet from the first beep, then stop. After meditating a few moments on the concept of patience, and sharing a king-sized Snickers bar, we began to differentiate between the metal detecting sounds. The detector can be set to find coins and jewelry. It warns you when your metal "target" is potential junk, like a bottle cap or foil gum wrapper or old pop-top and if the metal you seek is too far underground for the effort. My husband then set the detector on the "artifacts" button and we heard no beeps at all. We quickly agreed that even a "junk" beep is more exciting than silence.

We have followed the beeps over dormant meadows, combing the parched grass with our ice pick to expose an old copper button now green with patina. Next to a stream we found a rusty old bolt my husband and I have taken to calling our "Pioneer Bolt." Around the Prineville Reservoir on a day chilly enough to warrant cocoa and a good book by an even better fire, I found myself digging, with both manicured hands, deep into the banks of mud after our metal detector beeped like it had located the Holy Grail. After covering my hands, shoes and pants with mud, we finally retrieved a fishing lure from the water's edge.

My husband's dream is to find an Indian head nickel. Mine, a necklace bigger than the 641-carat Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton diamond. Of course, an eternal optimist can dream, but the pursuit is just as much fun as the conclusion. We both squealed with delight when our metal detector located a dime in the Prineville Reservoir parking lot. After hours of listening and looking, at that moment, that unassuming little treasure seemed like its own reward.

Getting Started

For all your metal detecting needs: Blue Bucket Mining Co., 62497 Stenkamp Rd. 541-318-1131

High Desert Treasure Club meets the second Wednesday of every month at the Bend VFW Hall at 7pm.


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