The setting for my novel, Riding Babyface, was inspired by the little farm where I lived as a kid. My old homestead had a mysterious feeling. When I told my friend Sam a treasure might be buried in the barnyard, he got permission to metal detect there.
We hit the trail bright and early. Sam slowed his Blazer, then he turned off the main road. He drove up a dirt driveway to the hill pasture where a barn and bunkhouse once stood.
"Does anything look familiar?" Sam asked.
Not sure of the barn's exact location, I looked for a cement slab that had been inside. It was still there. Then I tried to figure out where the walls had been and found a big rock near the slab. "Sam, look. This old cornerstone must be where the door hung."
Sam unloaded the metal detector from the back of his Blazer. "The bunkhouse site is the best area to look. Where do you think it was?"
I kicked in the dirt about twenty feet from the barn site and found pieces of broken boards. "It's overgrown with sagebrush, but it must be right about here."
"Let me show you how to work this detector." Sam squatted and placed a dime and a penny in the dirt. "Different metals change the sound of the beeps." He held the detector an inch from the ground. Then he skimmed it over the two coins and it beeped. "Listen for the beeping and look at the register. The needle points to silver, gold, or copper and will tell you what you've found. Hear the difference between silver and copper beeps?"
I listened but couldn't tell the difference. Sam's ears seemed to tell him things mine didn't.
"Here, you try." Sam showed me how to hold it, then handed me the detector.
A brace at the top of the detector's handle wrapped halfway around my arm to help me keep it steady. I grasped the handle with both hands but couldn't seem to get the hang of it. The round disk attached to the bottom of the detector kept touching the ground. Treasure hunting wasn't going to be easy.
"Just listen, and you can tell," Sam reassured me. "Keep it close to the ground and wag it back and forth where you think the building was. Just slowly cover the ground."
My arm got tired running the detector back and forth, and it yielded nothing. I wanted to switch arms, so Sam readjusted the detector for my left hand. Again, back and forth, back and forth, but still nothing.
Sam shrugged. "Let's try the area around the barn."
We walked to where I believed the barn door had been. I repeated my efforts. Suddenly, the thing started to beep. Excited, I tracked the detector over the spot where the beeping was the loudest.
"We've picked up something. Sounds like iron. Let's see." Sam bent down on one knee and scraped the topsoil with a digging hoe. Then I ran the detector over the area again and the signal grew louder.
"Yeah, that's the spot." Sam scraped deeper, found a big rusty hinge and handed it to me. "You're right. This was the doorway."
The old hinge stirred my imagination. I sensed the presence of people who had lived here: farmers who built the barn, ranch hands who occupied the bunkhouse, even the little girl who wandered here, riding Babyface.
"Your first find. You should save it." Sam's voice pulled me back. He took the hinge from me and strolled to the Blazer and put it in the back seat.
Again, I wagged the detector over the ground, excited by my "find." A loud beep, beep, beep, told me to stop, look here.
Sam retrieved his hoe and said, "Okay, let's dig."
Did we find a treasure? Not unless you think a rusty hinge, a few nails, and a spent bullet are great finds. Sadly, we found no pot of gold, but Sam said if we did find one, "Only a fool would tell."