The Good-For

Once upon a Time in a Pool Hall

By Les Tanner

Is anyone paying attention to me? Hello?”

No response.

I tried again with the same result, but I might as well have been talking to myself.

The members of my intended audience were either looking through the things I had spread out on the tables or trying to decide what an object was that I’d passed around earlier. None of this was happening very quietly, either.

Sigh.

Madge had warned me about this, but I’ve given such presentations to grade-schoolers many times, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. The thing is that these folks weren’t fifth-graders, even though they were at least as curious and interested and talkative as a bunch of school kids. I was talking to a group of folks at the Senior Center in Melba. At least I was trying to. The reason I was here in Melba, attempting unsuccessfully to get the attention of this bunch of curious folks, was about the size of a nickel, a heavily encrusted object I’d found with my metal detector.

In the summer of 1968, on a trip south from our home in North Dakota, I stopped to visit a friend in Storm Lake, Iowa. After Dick and I had worn the topics of fishing and hunting to a frazzle, I asked if he’d done anything else of interest lately.

“When I was on my daily morning walk along the lake last week,” he replied, “I came across a fellow on his hands and knees beside a park bench.

“ ‘Are you okay?’ I asked the man.

“ ‘Yep. Just digging this up.’

“What he handed me was a half-dollar. Not just any half-dollar, either. It was dated 1857. He’d located it and another dozen or so old coins just that morning with a gadget called a metal detector.”

Goosebumps hit me instantly. I’d always been an avid looker-for-things—still am—be they four-leaf clovers, golf balls, butterflies, or whatever. Even fish, if you think about what fishing really is. But coins? And old coins to boot? Wow! I got my own detector as soon as I could afford it (I’ve had nine so far), and in the forty-five years since then I’ve spent countless hours in parks, yards, school grounds—in fact, any place where humans have been—sweeping a detector, listening, digging, and uncovering thousands of pieces of metal.

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