Finders keepers

December 4, 2018

Screen shot 2018-12-04 at 8.32.14 AMHe knelt in the muddy grass, digging intently. My mind being on forestry these days, at first I thought maybe he was gathering soil samples. But that seemed a random thing to be doing on a cold Saturday morning in Dufferin Grove Park.
Then I noticed a black metal detector lying next to him.
I threw the frisbee for Coco and then the gentleman stood up. He’d heard a ping from his metal detector and was digging for coins. But he gave up on that hole.
“Water pipe,” he said.
He was wiry, with a lined, strong face, lots of teeth, and wore construction knee pads over his dirty jeans. Along with the 2-metre metal detector he wore a small orange portable detector, the length of a serving spoon, in a sheath on his belt, and dug with a thin sharp garden trowel. Alex, his name was, and he said he’d made a hobby of metal detection for many years. He spoke with a thick accent which at first I guessed was Russian.
“Ukranian,” he corrected me.
Alex’s first big metal detection discovery came after he was demobilized by the Israeli army. Scouring the ground with metal detectors is forbidden in Israel. So he and his army buddies put on their uniforms, got some military-grade metal detectors, and, posing as soldiers, found a bunch of Roman gold coins. They took the booty to Cyprus.
“We didn’t know much so we sold the coins for 40% of their value,” he recalled. “Even so, we stayed in Cyprus, drunk, for a month.”
He pursues his hobby in Canada, though the coins here, of course, are not as valuable. Plus the ground freezes in winter.
“Last winter we went to Cuba,” he said. “Metal detection is strictly forbidden there. So we rented a yacht. We had done our research and knew where to look. They search yachts less than airplane travelers. So we took our metal detectors apart and docked at a port. And we found gold dubloons, Spanish coins, 1642. Paid my rent and my gas bill and all my bills for a month.”
Coco brought back the filthy frisbee, and I tossed it again, as Alex bent again to his work. Soon his detector beeped.
“George V or George V1 penny,” Alex said, knelt, and dug.
He soon fished out a Canadian penny. It was, indeed, George VI: 1942. Alex wiped off some dirt with his glove and put the penny in a little pill container.
“It’s not a job,” he said. “Just a hobby. You should try it.”
Screen shot 2018-12-04 at 8.40.57 AMLife is all about knowing where to look.