From detectorist to privy digger
It’s a common phenomenon for people to branch out from one hobby into other related past times. Its no different in the world of treasure hunting. Some people focus on only one aspect of a certain hobby while others enjoy a broad spectrum. Coin hunting, tot-lot chip searching, silver searching, and beach jewelry hunting all are different aspects for the detectorist, yet they may also delve into prospecting, nugget shooting, dredging, relic hunting, privy digging or dump searching. These all share the underlying goal of finding treasures unknown or forgotten to the rest of the world.
The first bottles
I began bottle hunting many years ago. Searching an abandoned farm that was about to be demolished and plowed under for farming, I could see the trash dump exposed on the surface. Through the tangle of twisted rust and broken glass I could see that even the surface trash was quite old. I began peeling back the surface debris and quickly began seeing bottles that were still intact. I knew nothing about them other than I was fascinated by them. Cloudy aqua colored or pale purple glass with words like “Lydia Pinkhams”, “restorative nervine”, and names of local drug stores long since closed.
Those first bottles led to a lot of research, which wasn’t nearly as fast, easy or thorough since the advent of the internet. I began learning about turn of the century bottle making and dating indicators. It was so amazing to hold bottles over a hundred years old that had been blown by hand before factory automation had begun.
I still love it
Fast-forward to 2019. While out hunting for more lost treasures in my ghost town, I got a large hit on the metal detector. I knew it was most likely an iron target falsing, but I decided to investigate anyway. After digging the hole down over a foot deep I found part of the target, a large iron hoop. Then, a section of dirt broke away and I saw the side of glass bottle exposed. I lost interest in the hoop and began recovering the bottle. As I worked to gently free it from the clay holding it tight, I found another bottle laying against it. It was a great feeling to know that I had just stumbled onto a trash pit and I could once again start finding more old, handmade, fragile bits of local history.
I had never dug bottles like these before. One bottle was a small, un-embossed (aka a “slick”) medicine. There was also a clear crown-top soda and broken bottle from a local bottling works. I never knew before that we had ever had a bottling works. Once again, I delved into research. Once again (and just that quickly) I was hooked on digging for old bottles and glass. I really want to dig an intact “Enid Bottling Works” soda, so it was time to get serious! Time to get out the bottle probe, look at the old maps in a new way and start the hunt. It didn’t take long to find the next pit, only 20 feet away from the first. This one didn’t have but a few bottles in it either, but that’s part of the game. I knew if I kept searching, I’d find better pits.
It’s a virgin ghost town. Every bottle that hasn’t been destroyed by farming is waiting there for me to find and recover. I get to reveal hand made bits of local history. One man’s trash is always another man’s treasure!