Grim's Tales: The importance of firsts

Sometimes seemingly insignificant moments are important foundations

Photo illustration /

There's an old expression that goes, "there's a first time for everything."

It's often used to help someone get over feeling anxious about doing something they have never done. A statement meant to make the first time you do something seem smaller, but I think it sometimes does firsts a disservice.

On Saturday night after a shift at the store I belted on my collection and finds pouch, shouldered my metal detector and started hunting the former location of an old store, built in 1933 and moved in the late 70s. The night before, I had a first. I had dug a wheat penny. Until then all the coins I had ever dug were modern. That first convinced me that I was in the right place and that I was on the trail to some silver coins, something I have also never found.

The penny was located in the middle of a field, near some small foundations that mark the location of the front of the old building, confirmed by a photo from 1934, aerials from 1968 and an older friend passing by to chat. There was no other explanation for why it was there, so I wasn't entirely surprised when I dug a high tone signal and watched a small, white metal circle roll back into the hole, a silver 1916 Barber dime.

I hope, probably illogically, that this first silver will be sort of like my first large mouth, my first small mouth or other similar fishing experiences. For some reason, that first fish of a target species is illusive and hard to catch, but once you get just one, it's like a curse is broken and suddenly they are commonplace. More logically, the first is ultimately the proof of concept. A culmination of your work, experience and all you learned to try to make it a reality, just like that silver coin. So long as you remember what you learned, you have a good chance of getting more.


Read more of 'Grim's Tales'

Firsts are profoundly important. They often shape what comes next. My first friend is still an important person to me today who I can depend on for a fun time or help when needed. My first car taught me about maintenance, expenses and road safety. The first dog I knew, Chessie, was as important as the first dog that that belonged to me and nobody else, Katie in surprisingly different ways.

In a lot of situations, experience is an inverted pyramid with the first being a single, small block at the very bottom, supporting all the rest. As you progress you add to that block. The next layer is still full of anxiety and uncertainty and it doesn't necessarily come easy, so there aren't so many blocks. As you gain experience, you get more confident and you add more and more to each layer, until you have the inverted pyramid, but all that rests on the first, so in some ways it's important that the first be done right, with you in the right mindset, lest the whole mess unbalance and cause trouble.

Rolling out of the plug as I prodded it with my pinpointer metal detector, that tiny disc of metal, even smaller than our modern dimes, could seem almost like an insignificant "first time for everything" kind of first. No big deal, just something that other people have seen dozens of times and not even particularly valuable, but it's more than that. That store was in operation for over 37 years. Visitors with pockets full of coins walked up the steps on the front deck, through the door and bought provisions. On the way out they stuffed the coins back in their pockets and they went on their way. That 11 cents could not possibly be the only thing they lost.

Travis Grimler
Travis Grimler

That little dime represented research, history, patience and an understanding of the machine I was using. Like all other firsts, I can use what I learned here to build. I'd be interested in hearing about important firsts from our readers, especially those that seemed so small at the time.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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