Saturday, February 21, 2015

Dear Obscure American Friends!

Dear obscure American friends!

I love it when my finds have words.

I’m particularly thrilled when my finds say stuff like “Dear obscure American friends!” for I feel I have some real alien communication going on, and not just the imagined variety.

More on this shortly.

First of all, my new metal detecting CD, I Dug it Up, has been selling steadily, right off my website ( and I’ve loved all the wonderful feedback from people from all over the country. You can listen to (but not download) most of the songs on the record by clicking the "music" tab. Funny thing is, I haven’t really released the record yet – that will come later this year. Stay tuned.

OK: Finds.

Not long after the ringing in of 2015, I found myself in a very nice yard on the west side of town, belonging to a friend of a friend. Only really cool finds were an awesome cat charm (that the homeowner was delighted with), a Catholic medal and a really old brass buckle with swell patina. I may go back one day. Feel lucky there…

That permission led to another one that Cheryl and I hit in late January: a four-acre lawn right in prime Battle of Nashville territory. It had been well hunted years before, but we worked it for two weekends. Here’s my edited take:

FROM TOP: bar of camp lead, connector thingie,
part of a watch, saddle decoration, chewed up lead,
brass coupling, spoon, buckle, Mercury dime,
wheat pennies, modern fuse part, thing I THOUGHT
was CW fuse part, but was actually a swimming pool
cover anchor. CENTER: horse shoe, giant 1963 Mexican
peso, nice Enfield bullet (left with homeowner, sniff),
bullet pieces and lead scraps.:

FROM TOP: lovely decorative mystery item, Masonic ring,
bunch of old keys that Masonic ring was attached to, wheatie,
token, round thing with CW uniform button inside, shell, three,
minie balls. CENTER: another lovely decorative mystery item.

See those keys? The huge honker of a Masonic ring above them was attached to it. I did a little research of previous owners of the property and finally sent an email to Stansell Electronics, a revered Nashville company started years ago by James Stansell, Sr. – who had built the house I was hunting. Could the ring and keys have belonged to him? They did. At the February meeting of the Middle Tennessee Metal Detecting Club, in walked Mr. Stansell’s son, Jimmy, and he could not have been nicer. We had a little presentation.

Jimmy Stansell retrieving his dad's Masonic
ring and keys. He said, "This is the coolest thing
that has ever happened to me... except for
meeting my wife!" Fingers crossed some good
new permissions will come of this! If not, that's
fine too; it was really nice to meet him.

One day, I found myself to be inexplicably brave and knocked on a door in my neighborhood. A lovely woman named Lisa said I could detect her whole property which was rather delicious. There’s a beautiful stream that runs through her property and I arrived with big rubber boots and gloves, determined to explore it and the land around it.

The stream had huge, flat rocks, almost like steps that the water ran down. I kept getting a strong signal at the edge of one “step” but could see nothing so I reached my hand under the edge and started pulling out strange metal bars.


When I got them home, I looked at the edges more carefully…

They read (from top):
The Open Way
Anything For Your Smoking
 . . .  . . . . . . . . . .
Artist as a Young Man Modern
only 29 cents
The Open Way (again)
Dear obscure American friends!
Library Edition New York City
Crazy beatnik poetry!

The only sense I can make out of any of this is that two of them went together to read "(Portrait of the) Artist as a Young Man Modern Library Edition" which was first published in 1928, though I have no idea where.

Nashville, of course, was and is a huge center for printing. I have no idea how printers blocks got wedged up under a huge rock in a stream, but I’m glad I have them and am working hard to try and use ALL these phrases in a song.

Here are some other lovely finds from that house:

1899 Barber quarter! 

Thimble, soft lead tag of some sort, dog tag for "Maisy."
Also a  luxury token from the
Alabama Tax Commission.

I then was obliged to interrupt my digging life by a trip to my hometown, New York City. My husband, Al Hill, is the music director for singer Bettye Lavette and the band had a two-week residency at the Carlyle Hotel. I got to see the show (feeling very out of place next to the elegant New Yorkers wearing sweaters far less shabby than mine).

I'm with the band.

Al and I enjoyed a frosty walk through Central Park.

Fun in the sun with m'hun.

And my dad took me out for Chinese food -- a tradition begun when I was just a little tyker.
It just doesn't get better than this for your Dirt Girl.

Dad also hosted a Super Bowl party for the entire Bettye Lavette band and some great friends of mine too.

Some of you might not know that my dad, Ed Setrakian, is a wonderful and highly respected NYC actor. Here’s a link to a Super Bowl ad he starred in a number of years ago. (He’s the lead juror).

Here’s a pic of the view from my dad’s apartment:

Every time I see this view, all I can think is "Hmm,
wonder what's under all that?"

I had as good a time as anyone can have in New York City in February but was very VERY glad to come back to Tennessee.

In fact, I was so happy to be home, I decided to be brave and knock on the door of Lisa’s neighbors, Bart and Kimberly. They, too, gave me permission to explore their property which is also huge. 

Christmas cookie dough extruder! Who knew?
Apparently everyone but me!

Nice three-ringer. I've found a bunch of
these in my neighborhood and always
wonder about them.

This one's particularly cool because it's a solid-bottom.

Last weekend, Cheryl and I revisited The Farm – the 100-acre property (house, cemetery, barn, old foundations) we explored with Doug Drake before he died. We walked way into the woods and were just getting started when Cheryl’s machine died. I flailed around guiltily for about 20 minutes while she sat against a tree playing Candy Crush. Then we walked back to the cars. What to do?

Cold-knocked on the house next door and met a man who’d grown up in that holler and knew all the history. Showed us some old foundations and said we can hunt his 40 acres any time. Cheryl left – it was getting really cold – and I swung around the Farm property by myself as clouds scudded overhead. Found these…

1919 wheatie and two flat buttons.

No one here in Nashville will disagree when I say that it’s been a bitter winter. Last Sunday (February 15) began an ice and snow (but mostly ice) extravaganza that we won’t soon forget. It’s now five days later and I have driven my car exactly once. And now it’s sleeting again. I’m lonely and bored, my dog is unimpressed with me. What else to do but GET OUT THE BOX!

This is the box of special finds. Every digger has one. Mine is completely disorganized. It holds most of the silver and includes stuff that is uber old and stuff that is basically junk but I like.

I know... it's a modest hoard, but I like it. Mostly, I
like that the oldest thing -- by several thousand years --
is the arrowhead that isn't even metal.

Feast your eyes, my dear, obscure, American friends!