Friday, December 30, 2011

Triune Hunt, early November, 2011

Early November. Triune Hunt

Flawless fall day in middle TN.

Drove south via 24 to Nolensville area and met Cheryl at an agreed-upon spot. The plan: check out some soccer fields that were being dug out; a member of the club had said they were good hunting.

But when we got to the spot, it was all roped off with No Trespassing signs. Dang.

We stood around awkwardly for a while, then decided to just hunt around the area, but not cross the lines. I went off to a creek and found a bunch of trash. Cheryl was out by the road. When I checked on her, I saw that she was talking to a tall man in overalls who had just driven up. I stopped what I was doing and went to investigate.

That man was Doug Drake. He's been md-ing around here for 50 or so years and is considered one of the grand daddies of the practice in these parts. But we didn't know that. He was very friendly and gestured to where there'd been a huge encampment on a ridge along one side of what was now to be a complex of soccer fields. He said he'd show us a good place to hunt. We got in our cars and followed him. He pointed down a dirt road, then drove off. I followed Cheryl down the road that dropped rather steeply down, then leveled out. It dead-ended at a house with a NT sign, so we pulled over and got out to review our options.

A man came out of the house and Cheryl, with her excellent Southern friendliness (and knowledge of the Titans, who were playing that afternoon) made the perfect emissary. We were given permission to hunt behind the house.

Plunged in. It was thick woods, but doable. Very lovely and peaceful. As always, I had an almost overwhelming awareness of the fact that hundreds (thousands?) of young men had lived in these woods, bored out of their minds, homesick, horny, probably hungry, probably scared, waiting for orders that might very well end their lives.

Swung my machine about a million times, back and forth. Walked up and down the ridge, always trying to be aware of where Cheryl was. We lady detectors have to take care of each other.

Found a cannister shot thing – white like a dusty marble – as well as the usual junk: wire, can slaw, pull tabs. This is a dirty world masquerading as a pristine wilderness. Towards the end of the day, I got a not-very-strong signal and got to work on it. It kept jumping around. I'd think it was in one clump of dirt, but then I couldn't find it. Almost gave up. Then there it was: the word “OHIO” in bright silver, right there in my hand.

It was really sweet and beautiful, but I didn't know what it was. For one thing, it felt too strangely light to be silver. I tucked it in my fanny pack. It was getting dark and for a last blast, I moved down the ridge toward where we'd parked the car. Found a good-trashy area and right away got a nice minie ball, part of a uniform button and a couple of '70s-era toy cars. How cute is that: historic detritus all hanging around together, partying.

Back home, I looked and looked online for some kind of mention of the OHIO. What to call it? A “Civil War state tag”? Couldn't find anything like it.

A couple of weeks later, I drove over to Doug's house to pick up some maps he said we could have. What a treat. He has an impressive collection. He went through my finds and really lit up when he saw my OHIO. He got right on the phone and called someone else. I had pretty much decided it was junk – maybe something from a Cracker Jack box, but he got quite excited about it. Said it might truly be worth something.

Next morning tho, he left a message on my phone and said he'd thought about it all night and thought it probably wasn't old. It just didn't feel right. I agreed. But he said he'd be at the relic show the next weekend in Franklin. I should bring it by.

That Friday, Cheryl and went to MTMDC meeting and I showed OHIO around. The editor of American Digger was there and was intrigued, as were a few other folks. A couple of guys looked at it and shook their heads. Naah, it's nothing. Probably from a reenactor. Naah.

Oh, ye of little faith.

The Franklin Civil War Relic Show was quite something. For one thing, Cheryl and I were just about the only female humans in the giant building. Booths and booths as far as you could see, filled with relic stuff for sale. It was starting to hit home for me: this is a culture of its own. I felt like a visitor to a far-off galaxy.

Doug was there, manning his very impressive booth with his lovely wife, Brenda. He was excited to see us and immediately started taking us around, introducing us to other hunters, dealer, experts. It was very quickly established that this OHIO was the real deal: a “veterans tag” sold by sutlers (itinerant storekeepers who followed the troops around). Once we knew what I had, we went to the American Digger booth and had it photographed. I bought a subscription too. My find will be in the March/April issue.

Things were heating up. Apparently these things are collectible. The dealer who had identified it immediately got on his cell phone and called a collector in Brazil (seriously... Brazil?) and left a message. While Cheryl and I were up on the second level trying on some bonnets (and greatly annoying the man selling them), my cell rang. It was the dealer offering me $700 cash money for my OHIO.

I said I'd think about it and get back to him. Talked to Doug and some others. I knew it was a fair price, but I just wasn't ready to let it go. Especially if it was going to be featured in American Digger. So I said no for now.

I've never been in this for the money, though God knows, I need money. Somehow, it felt right to wait. Maybe I'll sell it some day. For now, I keep it close. I hold it in my hand because it's so pretty. I like to think about it pinned to that blue uniform. And how one day, it fell off on a ridge in Triune, TN. And lay there through 150 winters and summers, waiting for a girl like me.
The day's Civil War finds, courtesy my Tesoro Cibola metal detector...

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