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  • Collin McFadyen

Bottlecaps, Gold Coins, and Words

Writing has been a bit tough for me the past few weeks. Checking Submittable twice a day, spending more time on Twitter than editing. I've told myself that if I just back away from my missing words they will come to me like shy cats on the sidewalk. I tried opening the vault of Drafts and Ideas, looking to dust something off and renew it's shine. Nothing, just nothing seemed to grab me.

So I took a break, got my metal detector, and went out to the local park to dig holes and think.

Metal detecting? Yes, me. Back in the late 90's for some unknown reason I bought a crappy used metal detector and destroyed my back yard digging up nails and a bit of change. I started going to local parks, but never found much more than spare change and once, a silver souvenir necklace from Alaska. I joined the Oregon Treasure Trail Society, a detecting club that met every second Tuesday of the month at the Eagle's aerie on 52nd and Hawthorne. I was the youngest by at least 25 years and my inexperience showed. These old guys were detecting All-Stars, bringing up gold coins, antique jewelry, and artifacts. I never seemed to hit anything interesting, just urban trash and half buried nickels. I remember thinking it was just because they were retired and had all the time in the world to wander around and get lucky. I thought I wasn't hitting any treasure because I had a more than full-time job and couldn't just drive out to some farmer's field on a whim. I was stuck in the park picking up pennies in the barkdust while everyone else was finding treasure, and I couldn't understand why.

Okay, back to the present. My detector, recently freshened up with new batteries seemed to be working perfectly. Swinging it in arcs over the barkdust, it beeped and chirped like it was brand new, but it's digital readout bounced between GOLD RING and BOTTLECAP, so I didn't bother digging. Again, the beep, then NAIL or PULLTAB, so I didn't dig. Eventually a light chirp signaled something, maybe a ring, was underneath if I just dug deep enough. I started to walk away without digging, but stopped.

I finally understood. Those old guys in the club found great stuff because they did the work; they researched the history of that farm. They checked in with cement companies and hunted underneath broken sidewalks while the workers were on their lunch break. I wasn't finding anything because I wasn't following clues, and I wasn't digging deep enough.

Aha. I picked up on the metaphorical nature of metal detecting and word detecting. My word hunting was stalled because I wasn't doing the work, researching and editing, and I was never going to find the words if I didn't follow the little chirps in my mind that could possibly, just maybe, lead to treasure. I just needed to dig deep enough.

So I went home and started writing a short story about a metal detecting club meeting. The words popped up fast and easy. I just clattered out all my memories on the keyboard and didn't try to sort them out, just let them be when they fell. I even did a little research and found the Oregon Treasure Trail Society website, and they're still going strong. I guess it's time for me to renew my membership and start taking notes.

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