By Norris Chambers

             The old timers named it Cart Wheel Mountain because it was said that the early Spaniards were moving a cart of gold through the area, and were attacked by hostile Indians at the top of the mountain. They buried the gold before they were massacred by the savages. When another party came to investigate, they found only a wheel of the cart. Therefore, the rough hill was named Cartwheel Mountain. I don't know how they knew the gold was buried there. But that is the tale that the old ones handed down to the new generation.

            Clifton and I were not dedicated treasure seekers. We did dig into what we thought was a likely place and found a skunk. That encounter had been several years before and we had practically abandoned the idea of finding a rich treasure. The old timers told about hunters who had come through the area many years ago with divining rods, magic wands, gold witches and other unscientific gadgets. It suddenly occurred to me that we could build a modern electronic metal detector and have a little fun using it. I didn’t expect to fine the end of the rainbow trove, but there might be a few things we could bring to light that would be interesting.

            I had already opened my Country Radio Shop and would have plenty of parts and equipment to assemble a workable metal detector. I knew that a detector consisted of a radio receiver and an oscillator. An oscillator is an electronic circuit that generates a radio frequency signal. To work as a metal detector the signal from the oscillator is placed near a radio receiver. The radio receiver responds to the frequency when it is correctly tuned. The frequency of the oscillator output is determined by a coil of wire and a variable tuning condenser, the coil is wound flat by alternating the wire between small wood rods. When a flat coil of about ten inches in diameter is wound and connected to the oscillator components a radio frequency is produced. The radio is tuned to the same frequency and a hissing sound is heard. Any time the coil is moved near a metallic object the frequency is changed slightly and a whistling sound is heard from the radio.

            The finished machine was nothing more than two wooden slats about eighteen inches apart. A portable radio was mounted between the slats on one end and the box containing the shop built oscillator at the opposite end. The operating coil for the oscillator was mounted near the center on a folding boom extending downward. The operator was inside the frame and could raise or lower the coil or adjust the oscillator frequency with a knob protruding from the case. Sound was transmitted from the receiver to the operator by means of a headset. 

            The final test was a simple operation. Clifton crawled into the machine and put the headset over his ears. He turned on the switches and adjusted the frequency knob until he heard the hiss. He told me he was ready to proceed with the test. I pitched an eight penny nail on the ground and told him to find it.

            Clifton gave me a smart answer and pointed to the nail. “I see it,” he said, “I don’t need a detector to find that one!” I agreed. I told him to wait and I would go behind the smoke house and hide it and add a little challenge to the test. I proceeded to move around the building and drive the nail into the ground, going a little below the surface. The spot was well hidden by a clump of grass. He came around the building and began his search.

            The results were almost unexpected. He found six different nails and two staples before locating the test nail. He also found a bolt and a piece of bailing wire. All of the items were just below the surface and we dug them out with an old Model T tire tool.  The test was officially declared a success.

            Clifton continued to move around and point to the area under his detector coil.  I kept my digger and we soon had to find a bucket to hold all the treasures we were finding – old harness snaps, rivets, horseshoe nails, cartridge cases, steel marbles, all sizes of nails and staples and even a rusty pocket knife. The best was yet to come. He wandered around to the drive area in front of the garage and began to find coins, old and new! Before we stopped for a break we had harvested almost two dollars in small change!

            We spent considerable time around abandoned farms, burned houses, old schools and church yards, cemeteries and other places where there might have been a lot of people at one time. We found a many interesting items as well as spendable and collectible coins.

            All of our hunts were fun with perhaps one exception. Clifton pointed to a likely spot and I started scratching for the treasure. I suddenly unearthed a teenage snake that appeared a little unhappy about being disturbed. Clifton thought that was a lot of fun. He suggested that the snake might have been taking vitamins and had too much iron in its blood. I prefer to believe that there was a layer of gold underneath his bed that we neglected to examine!