Overland Park Arboretum
An untouchable paradise.
The 300-acre Arboretum in Overland Park, Kansas has always intrigued me in terms of maybe being a hot spot to metal detect. Not only was there once a story about a dying man who possibly hid some treasure on the property, the almost half-section is located in an area of the State where there were multiple Pre-Civil War Battles, skirmishes, and raids. On the property also sit three old homesites and is within the old Black Bob Indian reservation. They were very close to the border of Kansas and Missouri during a very turbulent time and very likely may have been part of the raids from variousBushwackers. The only problem, according to the City of Overland Park, the Arboretum is strictly off-limits for metal detecting. I had always wanted to go onto this property to metal detect. But, it was out of the question. That is until one day I got a call from a photographer that was shooting some wedding pictures in the Arboretum. It was late in the evening and the shot involved the bride removing her ring. I assume it was some sort of proposal type shot. Staged on a wooden decked bridge as the sun sat in the distance. I am not sure of the exact details but, one thing led to another and the ring was dropped. Ding, ding, ding roll…plop! The ring somehow fell through the one gap in a wooden bridge that was large enough for the bride’s ring to fall through. The park attendant was nice enough to pull off a couple deck boards to see if they could reach the bottom of the lake bed. Although not a particularly deep part of the lake, the bottom was just still out of reach. They searched until the sun went down and they lost light.
The photographer was horrified and felt as if it were somehow her fault the ring was lost.That night she emailed me and called the first morning to see if we could help them find the ring. I had not opened my email yet but returned her call immediately the following morning. The Arboretum is only 5 minutes from our shop in Overland Park. We sat an appointment to meet at 1pm at the Arboretum entrance. As we arrived I noticed a good number of vehicles in the parking lot. ”Oh boy,” I thought, “We’re going to have an audience.” We parked and walked towards the entrance. We greeted the nervous couple and photographer and had them describe the scenario. The good news was they kind of knew the area where the ring was lost. The bad news was the park attendant on duty that day refused to pull up the deck boards again that day. See, it was Tuesday. Tuesdays are the “free day” and the park was unusually busy for that time of the day during the week. Removing the board would be hazardous to the passersby. And sure enough, there were plenty of those in attendance.
We grabbed our gear and headed directly to the spot the ring was lost. The ring was dropped smack dab in the middle of the 10-12′ wide deck in water that sloped from about 18″ to around 3′. The only problem is the deck was only a few inches above the waterline. This meant we had only a couple choices. The first option was to try to reach the metal detector under the deck as we got about neck deep in the water. Swing the metal detector back and forth until we located a target signal that might be the ring. Then, some how, reach 5-6″ under the deck to recover the ring. This would have to be done with a long handled sand scoop (which we had) or I would have to dawn the snorkel and mask (which we also had) and go under for the target. The scoop is just under 3 feet long. So, if I could not reach it, I was going for a swim. Mind you, this water is full of huge Koi fish and larger turtles. The Koi are constantly defecating as parkgoers feed them large amounts of fish food. The snapping turtles in this side of the world can get HUGE and pretty nasty if you startle them in their own territory. Plus, I really didn’t want to go sifting through the mud (or fish poo rather). Putting my head under water didn’t sound too fun either. Fortunately the Garrett AT Pro’s we were metal detecting with are waterproof up to 10′. This depth of water is perfect for hunting with a sand scoop. Although the dock put a bit of a kink in the plan, I was using my Gray Ghost Amphibian headphones. So, if I had to go under and search by hand, I could.
In the typical stream or body of water you have to contend with all sorts of targets. Lead weights, fishing lures, pull tabs, bottle tops, junk, etc. However, in this lake, located within a virtual ecological preserve, people didn’t litter and fishing is not allowed. So, there were very few targets to contend with. Additionally, I have recovered quite a few rings with the Garrett AT Pro. I know what different karats and different sizes of rings sound/look like on the detector. The photographer also had a ring that was similar to the one lost: white gold, diamonds, similar size. I ran my detector over the ring. Just as I had suspected. Solid 42 on the metal detector with a mid-range tone. Having recovered a few of this type of ring, I was very familiar with that signal. Sounded a lot like a pull tab but rings up little lower on the digital read out. I set up my detector to discriminate out everything over a penny and anything below a 35 on the detector. The result is fewer signals to interrupt my search for the ring. Less confusion and less time wasted on bad signals. I left the iron audio on. This way I could be aware of, and avoid recovering, iron objects that may appear similar on the metal detector as the ring.
We began setting up. We strapped on our water shoes, fired up our headphones and got to work. They showed us approximately where the ring had gone through the deck. Scrap Iron waded right in on the shallower side of the dock and began detecting. I jumped in the deeper end and went to work too. We were on opposite sides of the deck walkway and our detectors, with arms completely stretched out, should be able to reach across the entire distance. And fortunately they did. The idea was to get in and out as quickly as possible.
As we entered the water a funny thing began to happen. A crowd began to gather. Folks asked, “What are they doing?” Kids accumulated (as they typically do at the sight of a metal detector). Some people speculated we were checking the water depth, some thought we were testing for chemicals. We continued to work as the owners of the ring told people that we were looking for her lost engagement ring. The sympathies poured in and the people continued to gather. Some passed by only to return later to see how we were progressing.
Fortunately for us, the job didn’t take too long. Within 5 minutes of searching I heard that signal as I was stretching my arm and metal detector as far as I could under the I shouted over to Scrap Iron, who was on the other side of the dock) “I got one good potential target. I will see if there were any others and then try to recover them all at once.” Beautifully, that was the only target under the dock, and within my reach, that I felt could be the ring. Even better, it seemed like if I went a little deeper (like up to my cheeks) the sand scoop just might reach the target. And it did, barely.
The particular sand scoop we were using was the Sand Witch Sand Scoop which was ideal for this situation. It is bent so it works better to pull towards you than to scoop outward. Perfect for this job. The target was barely within reach. I scooped once and detected the spot where the target was. The target had moved but it was not in my scoop. I had though I heard the scoop hit something hard as I scooped but I did not recover the ring. I relocated the target, which had moved a couple feet closer towards me. Good news, I didn’t have to go any deeper into the stagnant water. With the second scoop I noticed the target had disappeared from where it previously was and as I rattled the scoop I heard something in it. I quickly looked through and saw nothing but a bunch of sludge and some clam shells rattling around. Scrap Iron’s mother who just happened to be in town and a spectator along for the trip suggested I dump it onto the deck. I was concerned that if the ring was in the basket it could fall through the deck again and I would have to re-recover it. I found a spot where there was hardly any gap in the deck board and emptied the contents. As I pulled the scoop away I saw it. The shimmer of white gold and glittery diamonds. And just as I had feared the ring had nearly fallen between to of the deck boards and back into the water. Fortunately the gap was smaller than the stones on the ring (lucky girl). I quickly cupped my hand below it so if it fell through I would catch it and shouted, “Right there! I found it!”
When I tried to remove the ring from where it was wedged I couldn’t get it. I was at a weird angle as I tried to prevent its return to the abyss below and my fingers were too big and wet. I motioned the bride to come over and get it so I could keep my hand below it as a safety net. She was ecstatic and so was the crowd. There were cries of joy, hugs, congratulations, and a lot of thank yous and pats on the back. As always, it always feels great to help someone find such a dear item. I could also visually see about a thousand pounds being lifted off of the shoulders of the photographer. As she came over to offer hugs of thanks, I reminded her we had just been face deep in a murky little fish pond. She didn’t care and embraced us anyway. It felt great.
The happy couple thanked us and we headed back up to the parking lot. The whole ordeal taking less than 15 minutes…that includes the 1/2 mile walk both ways to the vehicles! The photographer had felt as if the ordeal was her fault (which no one felt it really was). So, she wished to cover the expense of our services. When she asked how much she owed us, I told her whatever she felt it was worth. Quite often if the job is quick and no hassle I tell them nothing. Although, 99% of the time they insist. However, in this case, it was a dirty job and I had dropped everything I was doing that afternoon to assist. Afterall, I certainly had to go home to take a shower and get out of my fishy clothes. I learned from a very experienced ring finder once that your time is worth something but it is always good for us metal detectorists to put what we do in a good light. Sometimes you work for nothing, sometimes you score a good recovery deal. Most of the time the price is negotiable and it is always wise to let the person suggest an amount. 9 out of 10 times I end up getting more than I would expect. Rarely less. I told her whatever she felt it was worth. They were all young couples and entrepreneurs. Besides, I am not in this for the money. As she began writing the check I saw $60. I said, “That is too much. I would have done it for $20…if you would have forced a number out of me.” I smiled, she smiled and she handed me the check and thanked me and told me it was worth every penny.
This was the perfect recovery effort. In and out with success. Plus, I was able to get out of the office on a beautiful day, get in the water, find some valuable jewelry, and help out a couple very nice people in the process. We parted ways with another hug. As I drove out of the arboretum I looked back. ”Ha.” I though, I finally got a rare opportunity to metal detect an untouchable property…and I found real treasure! No better way to spend a beautiful spring Kansas day.