I had an epiphany today. It is a simple one, but it is a very significant one for me.
You see until recently, due to a family illness, I split my time between Mississippi and Tennessee. I am fortunate to detect in both places. Now that we are back in Franklin, Tennessee full-time, I brought all of my detecting finds from Mississippi up here. And today I was showing my mother some of my favorite finds that she had not seen. And she kept asking the same, single question. At first it was no big deal. Then it bothered me. Then it got downright irritating. Then I almost lost it.
The question was the same every time I got excited and animated over one of my favorite finds:
“But is it worth anything?” – Mom
Seriously? I just stared at her blankly. Sure I have some finds that are worth a couple hundred bucks I guess, but does she see that I pulled something out of the ground that is absolutely astounding, that has a tangible link to a specific time, place in history? In many instances can be connected to a specific family, person, war or event? Does she realize that when I put my fingers on the item in the dirt, that was the first time it had been touched by anyone since it had been lost, fired, or discarded 50, 100, 150 years or more ago?
Does she fathom that in most instances these people and their culture are gone? Does my mom realize that the 1900-dated Barber quarters I have found were likely worth almost a month’s pay to whomever in early 1900s rural Mississippi lost them? Can she imagine that a family – that children may have gone without eating or without other essential needs because of their loss? That some of the items were prized possessions? That real people very likely cried and grieved over and searched desperately to no avail for some of the items that now sit idly in my little cardboard and glass display cases?
“My daddy gave me that locket, and now it is gone.” – Anonymous
Are they worth anything? “YOU ARE DAMN RIGHT THEY ARE WORTH SOMETHING”, I imagined screaming at my mom with my best Jack Nicholson-like, red-faced, A Few Good Men yell. (But of course didn’t.) Each of them is worth a thousand-fold more to me than anyone in their right mind would ever pay me for any of them.
Does she have any idea how much money I’ve saved up and dropped on detecting equipment? Does she think I’d spend all my time thinking and writing about metal detecting if I didn’t eat, drink and sleep it? That I would carefully log where each item was found. (OK . OK, Clark now you are creeping me out – we get it.) The reason I detect is lost on my mom. Maybe the reason is lost on my friends and my wife and my daughter and my dog as well. Maybe it was even lost on me until today.
I use a metal detector for exactly one reason and one reason only. It is because when I pull something out of the ground that is historical, that is the closest that Clark Rickman will will ever come to time travel, That feeling – that split second of awe and shock and incredulousness – that connection with history – is addictive. That feeling drives me. That feeling makes all of the hours I’ve detected without finding anything and wondered what in the heck I am doing worth it. It makes every time time I’ve sweated and grown faint and scratched mosquito bites and poison ivy rashes and fell into creeks and crashed through brambles lost in the woods and got run off unfairly by someone and all the times I pulled live ticks the size of M&Ms off of my body absolutely worth it.
The epiphany was simply this: “I’m into metal detecting solely for the history.”
I’m not criticizing those of you that rightfully supplement your income with detecting finds at all. I respect you and I hope you aren’t thinking “F ‘365 I’m out of here.” Thank-you so much for reading. You, the reader, make Detecting365 possible for our staff and we are each very grateful.
But while we’re at it, I’m not a pillager. I’m not a vandal. You won’t find anything I found with my metal detector on eBay – ever. I might think I am Indiana Jones, but I’m not a grave robber. I consider myself an amateur archeologist. I get it. A lot of people are out there that give the hobby a bad name, but I’m not one of them. I won’t be stereotyped, and neither will a whole bunch of people like me.
So there it is. After today I call myself a “Historical Metal Detectorist”. I respectfully choose to differentiate myself from others in the hobby. I respect the sites, the property-owners, the history and especially the people, mostly long-gone, that made each of my finds possible. I cover my holes and attempt to leave very little trace that I was there. In memory of my mentor, I will mentor others and gladly share everything I learn with anyone who would listen. I donate a percentage of the values of my finds and 100% of my non-historical finds to good causes, and I will gladly give any item that would be of interest to the public to a museum or similar curator. I will return lost items to their owners where possible, and reunite significant historical items with ties to a specific family with the family – where they belong. I should be so lucky. Melodramatic or not, that is my creed from today forward, and I invite you to join me.
Detecting365 will be doing something special in the coming months to support other Historical Metal Detectorists. If you feel likewise, I invite you to join me by simply letting us know that you are like-minded. If I don’t hear from anyone, I will assume that I need to check myself into an asylum.
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