Sometimes there's a silver lining to unfortunate circumstances.

Just before the COVID-19 shutdown we were already selling our office in Pequot Lakes. None of us was particularly happy about it. Except for a couple days a week, the whole work-from-home situation is pretty much permanent for Echo Journal newsroom employees.

On the bright side, it has gotten me out of the house in the evenings.

You see, I work a lot, which always made me feel guilty because when my mom was living at my house, my dogs had constant company. When she died, there were five years where they had way too much time alone at the house, so I would stay home many nights because they deserved it.

Now I'm working from home all the time, and they are constantly near me. I feel a little better about getting out. Since then I've ramped up my metal detecting. Detecting feeds my adventurous side, and occasionally I can convince myself that my finds are “treasure” and not junk.

Years ago I bought three display cases with glass fronts that I hung on my walls. One I put fossils into; another has the lures I have found while snorkeling; the third was supposed to have metal detecting finds in it. I say "supposed to" because for five years or so the only find in this small case was a 1970s Imperial pocket knife.

I dug it up with friends in college on Shingobee Hill about four inches down, and in return I had blisters almost as big around as pennies between my fingers because along with our metal detecting finds, we dug up poison ivy roots. Another friend we called Jersey John found two pocket knives, one a vintage Old Timer just sitting on the surface, the bone scales bleached white, and another one a brand new stainless steel Winchester brand knife.

That brings us to this year, because I started my metal detecting back at Shingobee. I know there has to be good stuff on that hill, but I only found about a buck in change and a ton of trash, and, in spite of washing with detergent, once again had my hands covered in poison ivy.

This poor luck did change, however, because after Shingobee I went to the beach on 11th Crow Wing Lake in Akeley and unearthed a shiny metal (I think aluminum) pendant cast in the shape of a shark tooth. The next day I brought my niece and nephew back to the same lake, magnet fished and metal detected with them. Just to show me up they both managed to dig up something that I, at that point, had never found.

Each of them found a ring. One was a smashed ring from a quarter machine, the other could be silver, but because they dug them I let them keep them. I did fix the quarter machine ring first.

Fast forward a couple months and my display case now has a knife, a shark tooth pendant, a fake ring I found in Pine River (which I wish was real), a 2012 charm from a graduation tassel, a daredevil lure, a key and four other finds that are very special to me. I'll explain why.

From the right are an Imperial pocket knife, a shark tooth necklace pendant, a costume ring, a 2012 graduation tassel charm, a Yale key, a Daredevil lure, a 1920 or 1930 pocket watch and a very 80's bangle. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal
From the right are an Imperial pocket knife, a shark tooth necklace pendant, a costume ring, a 2012 graduation tassel charm, a Yale key, a Daredevil lure, a 1920 or 1930 pocket watch and a very 80's bangle. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

I use local history books to research potential detecting spots, and with the Cass County Centennial book I found that a friend lives on a property that once held a schoolhouse in the '30s. On the property I found a coin spill, a fake gold bangle and something I never expected to find - a pocket watch.

These finds themselves were fun, but there is something very special about the property, because my family lived there until I was about 10. The bangle was found in the yard where my mother used to set up her lawn chairs and sunbathe, and the shallowness of that find suggests it could have been hers, maybe.

Based on the dates on the coins, they were dropped some time in 1981 or later, but were deep enough they were almost certainly dropped by my family and not the family who bought the farm from us.

I went back once more and not far from where our sandbox used to be I uncovered a graveyard for matchbox cars. They are in pieces and make me think they got left on the lawn and run over by a lawn mower. I was able to find almost all the pieces to a 1970s Lintoy DC 9 passenger jet. Back near where I found the pocket watch I unearthed my first silver plated spoon. A stamp on the back reads "Cream of Rye Silver Co." They were produced in 1911 as a promotion found in cream of rye cereal from Minneapolis.

The pocket watch is my new favorite detecting find, supplanting my pocket knife. Various detectors have told me the watch is a style from approximately the 1930s or 1920s; another said confidently the style is from 100 years ago.

Sadly, the back cover and front glass and face are missing, and most of the parts are rusted away, so it will never work again. But sometimes treasure is treasure because of the effort and sacrifice of the hunt, the memories of finding it, the story of who lost it or even the mystery that surrounds it.

Oftentimes something's value can only be measured in the adventure and how it makes us feel.

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.