|The Stupid Brothers Have A Dream
© Mark Gatter, 2004
Back in May of this year I wrote about (fellow Stupid Brother) Martin's close encounter with a small river not too far from where I live. I didn't mention that the landowner we had approached that day had at first been reluctant to allow any detecting whatsoever on her land. She was concerned about the 'environmentally sensitive areas' in the area, and feared that if she allowed us to tramp all over them she might lose her precious farm subsidies. I checked up and discovered that while there were areas on her farm that we needed to avoid (sigh) the rest of the land (nearly a square mile) could be searched without risk - at least without risk to landowner and livestock! It remained to be seen whether we would be able to detect on it without further risk to ourselves.
The research into all this took some time, as did finding the owners again - I had to make eight trips out there before I managed to catch them at home again! However, as you'll see, the effort proved to be very worthwhile.
The centre of the farm is a lovely old house dating from the early 1600's, and right behind it is a huge field. Level in the middle, it rises gently on both sides to form a sort of natural amphitheatre. Just the sort of field that looks as if it's been worked for hundreds of years, and where all sorts of artefacts and coins must surely have been gleefully discarded.
After arranging for Martin and I to go out there to do some serious detecting I realised that the day I'd picked was right in the middle of the visit of an old friend from California. Of course, in the US there's precious little to find unless you wander up and down beaches, which has never really appealed to me. I know it's a popular activity among those who practise the World's Greatest Hobby, but I'd much rather dig up old stuff than find wedding or engagement rings that only slipped of their previous owners fingers a few days, or weeks, before. Anyway, I asked Mike if he'd like to accompany us, and his eyes lit up - "You bet," he said. Typical enthusiastic Californian response. At least he didn't say, "have a nice day!"
A couple of days later I received a call from Julian, another old friend. "I'm fed up of looking at all the things you find, so I've just bought a metal detector," he said, "but I can't figure out how it works. Do you think you could help?" I suggested that he bring it along. So now there were four of us. It was beginning to feel a bit like The Three Musketeers.
Then, the night before, I had a dream. There I was, wandering about in the field that we had in our sights. I got a clear signal, and dug up a Charles 1st crown... However, it was just a dream, so I didn't believe it and decided to keep it to myself.
The day dawned, and rain threatened as breakfast was consumed and various protective clothing was heaved out of the cupboards. Mike travels extensively and sported a matching ensemble made, so he claimed, from recycled plastic bottles. "It doesn't keep ALL the rain out," he laughed, "but even if you get soaked, you stay warm!" I, being a Brit - and therefore while used to horrible weather was disinclined to actually do anything about it - had a thin, semi-waterproof covering over my trusty anorak, and my usual jeans and wellies. Everyone else seemed to be taking the elements a little more seriously.
Off we went. Four detectorists in the same field is a bit like four marbles dropped onto a level floor - all of us went in separate directions. Julian, resplendent in a huge oilskin cape, had forgotten to bring the manual that went with his new machine. He wandered off with a hopeful expression, looking a bit like Father Time wielding his scythe. Martin, finally at home with his Minelab, took a determined line across the level ground. Mike decided to hug the hedge along the track way, and I just sort of wandered aimlessly around waving my detector - as usual. Hey, it works, don't knock it! Sometimes, if finds are being found, I'll be a bit more methodical. But usually, in a new field, I just go where the detector takes me.
Happily, Mike took to detecting like the proverbial duck to water. I walked over to see how he was doing after about a half hour. "Great, just great - I'm fine, go on, go detect somewhere else!" Ah, I thought, a hopeless addict already. Such a shame that there's bugger-all for him to detect once he's back home!
Martin was having some luck, for a change. And he deserved it, too - after all, he'd been listening to a 'turkey being castrated' (his own words) for the last few weeks. A few calls to qualified Minelab personnel had persuaded him to change his programme, and he was getting positively optimistic. "No rivers for me this time," he chuckled, "I'll just dig up some treasure for you all to drool over." Such a nice fellow.
Julian had by this time managed to find several fine horseshoes and some really old iron nails. I found myself wishing that he managed to actually find something decent before it was time to leave. Otherwise, I thought to myself, we could be seeing a 'tried it but didn't like it' event... very sad.
My detector suddenly gave a solid, two-way 'bleep' that said something good wasn't far away. I dug carefully, and up came a lovely Elizabeth 1st sixpence. Not a rare coin, but a great portrait nevertheless. I walked across and showed it to Mike, who just about had a seizure. "Oh my god, oh my god, you mean to tell me that that...that THING just came right out of the ground? HERE? Awwwww..." and he fell over backwards, rather theatrically I thought, forgetting that the hedge (and accompanying brambles) was right behind him. I helped him extract himself from their tender embrace and decided he was a worthy addition to the Stupid Brothers, even it was only for a single day.
Martin had by this time found a very respectable Henry III penny (type 5a) and was hot in pursuit of more. Then the rain began...You could see it, sweeping in from the north. Cold, blustery, and bloody awful in my opinion. Mike didn't care - no doubt his plastic bottle suit was keeping him nice and warm - and Julian shed every drop under his trusty oilcloth, er, thing. I was getting drenched from the waist down, and there's nothing quite like cold, wet jeans.
Martin strolled across. "I'm calling it a day," he muttered. "Don't care for the weather, and I've found something nice so I'm off." I showed him my sixpence, then remembered my dream. "I still have to find a Charles 1st crown," I answered. "I dreamt about it, last night." "Yeah, right - you find that crown! I'll be nice and cosy at home by the time you do!" And off he went.
I wandered around for another 20 minutes getting colder, wetter, and colder - in that order. Eventually I detected my way over to Julian, who by now looked a bit like a sodden Dementor from a Harry Potter movie. "I've had about enough," I told him. "I'm getting hypothermia of the legs. If I don't leave soon I'll sprout roots." "OK," he agreed. "I'll meet you down by the gate in a few minutes."
I heaved myself off to tell Mike the good news. "Oh, no," he pleaded, "We HAVE to stay, just for a bit longer. I'm having such a great time! And I might never get to do this again! Look - you're already wet, you can't get much wetter, and it's going to stop raining in a minute!" He pointed out over the valley, and, sure enough, a break in the clouds was heading our way. I had to agree. Yet again I heaved myself off across the field to where Julian waited by the gate.
"Mike really wants to stay," I told him. "I said I'd give him another half hour or so, unless the rain comes back sooner." Julian nodded his assent and began to Dement his way off again. I hadn't detected near the gate, so I thought I'd just wave my machine around, and 'bleep!' - another good signal - and up came a beauty. Not a crown, but a whopper nevertheless. And Charles 1st, most definitely. It looked too big for a shilling, but it had the roman numerals 'XII' next to the head, so I assumed that must be what it was.
I kept it to myself until we were back at the car, otherwise I would have never persuaded them to leave. Mike just about fainted when I showed it to him, so it was definitely a good thing he was already sitting down. Julian vowed never to set foot outside the door again without his detecting manual in hand. And Martin... well, I couldn't find the coin in my Spinks, so I called him. "You know that dream I had...?" And the phone began to melt. When he (and it!) cooled down a bit, he asked me to send over a scan. Pretty soon he'd identified it as a Scottish 12-shilling piece, hence the lack of them in the (English-only) Spinks book. One very nice coin, and a very welcome addition to the retirement fund!