By Jared Janzen
HALSTEAD—Mike Armendariz has been on the hunt for buried treasure for the past year, but instead of using a map with X marking the spot, he’s been using a metal detector.
“It’s a lot of fun. It kind of gets in your blood,” he said. “I’ve kind of always been like that, interested in finding things.”
Armendariz said he took up metal detecting a little less than a year ago as something to fill his free time. He was inspired by some of the shows he watches, he said.
“I also had some friends that did it, but I didn’t even know they did it,” he added.
Most of the metal detecting he’s done so far has been around Halstead, but he’s also spent some time in Newton and Burrton. He’s had a couple of cool finds so far, such as a coupling link on what was once his grandparents’ property.
“It’s a big chain that they would have used on trains back in the late 1800s, early 1900s,” he explained.
He found another item buried eight to 10 inches deep among the trees west of the softball diamond at Riverside Park. He had trouble identifying it at first, but with help from Tom Rose of Halstead, he learned it was a coupling pin, which also would have been used for trains.
“I enjoy the relics, even though I don’t think there’s really a lot of value there,” Armendariz said. “It’s pretty interesting.”
Armendariz donated both these items to the Halstead Heritage Museum last week for display in its train room.
Other finds include shotgun shells and a piece he believes may be part of the truss of the old swinging bridge over the Little Arkansas River.
“I get all kinds of stuff. I get a lot of trash,” he said.
One of the challenges of metal detecting, he said, is they way the machine beeps, it’s hard to know whether he’s detected a worthless pop tab or possibly a more valuable ring, since both are about the same size.
“When you get something in that range, it’s like, ‘Do I dig it? Do I want to take a chance that maybe it is a ring?’ So yeah, you dig up a lot of this stuff up,” he said.
When he does have to make use of his shovel, he’s always careful to replace his divots afterwards and minimize an appearance that he’d been there.
Last Thursday, he was taking advantage of the milder weather by metal detecting around Scout Park and then at the softball diamond at Riverside Park.
“Over the summer, I saw people sitting out here, and I thought maybe this would be a good place to go,” he said.
Unfortunately for Armendariz, no softball fans had left behind a gold bracelet or watch. Instead, his afternoon of searching yielded a nickel, three pennies, some pop tabs, bottle caps and miscellaneous metal scraps. He said this was pretty typical of most days.
Coins are a pretty common find. He puts the ones he finds in a jar and saves them and estimated he’s found less than $10 worth so far.
“I’m new enough that I haven’t found any silver coins,” he said. “All the coins I’ve found are newer.”
Armendariz said he’s still learning things when it comes to metal detecting.
“There’s a lot of resources on the Internet, and then one of my long-time friends, it turns out he was interested in it, too, so I’ve gone with him several times and learned a lot that way,” Armendariz said.
Every now and then, he might retrace some areas where he’s already searched if it’s an area that gets a lot of foot traffic, but he also enjoys hunting in new locations.
“I’ve always got my ear open, trying to find a new place to go,” he said.