Back when I first started detecting, like most detectorist, I focused on the easy sites to hunt first. Sites like my own yard, local parks and schools. Then, after I thought I had cleaned them out, (boy was that a joke) I started looking for new areas to hunt. One of the places on my list was Grandma and Grandpa's place near Otsego Michigan located on the banks of the Kalamazoo River. I knew this was a very, very, old place. My Grandparents purchased this home in the early nineteen twenties, and it was so old then, that it was falling apart! They went on to restore and landscape the older house and it became quite a beautiful landmark! The oldest map that I have is 1867, at it shows up there, but I believe it was built in the 1840's or before.
Granddad was a German immigrant who came to this country without a dime to his name. After being here for nearly 70 years, he died one the most successful businessmen in southwest Michigan. I'm proud to say the business he started is successful to this day. If you live in the Great Lakes area perhaps you have enjoyed the product, Michigan Cottage Cheese. To this day it is still the best there is!
I recall one day Granddad showed me a quart jar full of twenty-dollar gold pieces! He had been saving them up for many years. That's right ,a quart canning jar full to the lid!
Granddad's business was very successful and they were able to purchase a winter retreat in Fort Myers, Florida back in the mid nineteen fifties. Their home in Otsego was out in the country and remained vacant all winter while they were gone. Every year it seemed, when they were gone, someone would break into their house and really mess things up. Of course, they would steal everything they could carry away! Yep, you guessed it, the gold coins were discovered by the thieves and sadly they are now a part of family history.
I remember going out to "the farm" as we called it, with my father, mother and the police to access the damage and determine the loss. I know where the thieves entered and exited the home. and to this day I still scan the area wishing one Double-Eagle gold coin was dropped. I guess there is no reason why any of the coins should have been dropped by the thieves, but it seems like just one isn't to much to ask for . . .right? When I saw these coins as a boy I really didn't understand the significance of them, or understand their future value. I am certain that if I had asked grandpa for one, he may not have 'given' it to me, but he would have thought of a simple way for me to earn one. He was the greatest grandpa in the world and I was his fishing buddy! Sure do miss him...
One spring I was detecting an area between their house and a little pond they have. As I was scanning across the ground, I thought back to when my brother and I would sit on the shore and fish for anything that would bite. Granddad was still working at the cheese plant each day but before he left for work he would set up a couple of cane poles for us. When we had a problem with lost hooks, tangled lines, we would go into the garage and raid his tackle box for whatever we needed to get back to fishing. A lot of his tackle was for deep-sea fishing in Florida. One of the most impressive items in the box was the large lead sinkers --- many as big as robins eggs and bigger.
As these things raced through my mind my detector let out a real scream! I dug into the wet muddy soil only to find a foot long piece of black pipe which brought back more memories! Granddad used to work with all sorts of pipes and pumps to draw water from the pond for his yard and garden. Sure enough, no mystery of how this got here. He taught me all about pipe- threads, elbows, tees, nipples, pipe-dope etc.
As I continued my detecting, I soon had another solid hit. This time I recovered a heavy mud-caked ball of metal which at first glance resembled one of those huge sinkers. The thought of tossing it into the middle of the pond flashed across my mind, but instead it went, mud and all, into my apron. Another three to four feet passed with no noise from the detector. Then suddenly a loud strong signal! The problem was, it was too strong! I tried to pinpoint and it seemed clear by it's length, this was another piece of black-pipe. No way was I going to the trouble of digging out one of those again.
Later that evening at home, I rinsed off the muddy treasures, that's when I noticed that the sinker wasn't a sinker at all. It finally dawned on me, it really wasn't heavy like a lead sinker. As the water was cutting through the mud, I noticed the item was hollow except for fine roots that were trapped inside. After a real good cleaning, I was holding a German-made embossed silver sleigh bell! The high acid conditions had turned the metal a lead gray-black color but it was clearly labeled and finely and ornately decorated! What a thrill! I didn't even know what a great treasure I had, and to think I almost tossed it away!
Almost two weeks had passed, and I had found other treasures in different places, but my thoughts kept returning to my grandparent's house. As I lay in bed one morning thinking about treasure hunting, my thoughts returned to the river bank..... Then like a shot I sit up in bed with both eyes wide open! Could it be? Is it possible? Well, within an hour I was back at granddad's digging the big hit that I mentally rejected as a pipe and sure enough two, three, four, five, the sleigh bells were coming up like I had hit a bell mine! Pieces of old leather still fastened to some and it was so rotted you could crumble it between your fingers. When the detector refused to give any more signals there were twelve sleigh bells in assorted sizes! Over the years I have displayed many of my finds in my detector store and those sleigh bells always got the most praise!
In 1987 while I was still doing business at Curtis Trailer Sales, we too were robbed one night. Along with a large assortment of gold and silver rings, lots of coins, and even a Confederate Army Civil War belt buckle (that was loaned to me) and my sleigh bells were lost once again. But this time to THIEVES! The real mystery about that theft was this. While there were many new detectors on display, the robbers stole six metal detectors . . . and they were all used! Maybe I someday understand it!
Matthew Chapter 6:19-20
19. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
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