Having written many articles for this magazine, and four books on the metal detecting pastime, I am always amazed by the correspondence I received from those who also participate. I find these letters enlightening, often full of useful information, and always enjoyable reading. So it was three years ago when I received a manilla envelope from Scotland...return address....Lynside, Romano Bridge, West Linton Borders Region, Scotland.
It contained a personal letter from a gentleman name Bill Stout (a last name that is not totally unfamiliar). It began, Dear Mr. Stout, I have been meaning to write you for a very long time. What prompted me to do this was getting your book, Metal Detecting....The Hobby. As a fellow Stout and treasure hunter in Scotland, I thought you might like to know where the Stout name came from.
The information in this packet concerned the genealogy of the Stout clan, but also contained information about a few potential treasure sites near his home. Aside from being a detectorist, it was obvious that he was an avid researcher, and his knowledge of the area's history was evident. This correspondence from across the sea was the first stop in a series of letters, phone calls and a sharing of thoughts, ideas, and recommendations concerning the treasures he sought. Bill then began sending photographs and maps of the sites he was researching, mentioning how he found them, detailing the obstacles he might encounter, and of course the treasures they might hold. I would often respond, giving my thoughts and suggestions as though we were both going to detect the site next week or next month, when in fact we had no idea when and if that would happen. We were treasure hunting over the miles...
Our contacts become more frequent and Fay and I began to feel like we were indeed family. We soon learned the names of Bill and Jean's children, their professions their families, as well as their wedding dates and plans. We were excited to receive photos of these events, and wished we could have been there to share that special moment.
We wrote, called every now and then, and we cared. Always knowing that one day we would meet face to face, do some detecting, share a glass of wine, a meal and simply chat about the Stout heritage. It was predestined and meant to be. We simply had to set a date and time and since Fay and I enjoyed traveling in Europe, that did not seem an insurmountalbe problem.
About the middle of last year we received a letter from Bill. It was one which we wish we could cancel out. Bill had been diagnosed with cancer and would have to go through chemotherapy....a long hard road for anyone with this dreaded disease. We offered him encouragement support and felt sure that if anyone could beat this it would be Bill. At the same time our contacts began to diminish and quickly we became concerned, however we also know that going through chemotherapy was painstaking at best and just maybe Bill wasn't up to writing.
We sent off a couple of letters and still no response. Then in February of this year we received an email from the Stouts in Scotland (a surprise since they had not previously owned a computer). We were glad in that we could now stay in touch instantly and converse via the internet. We responded to that first email, but we were quickly disillusioned when Jean wrote back saying that the chemotherapy Bill had been taking was not doing the trick, and that his doctor had given him six months to live. Their plans? If it's a good day go and do something. If not...relax. The doctors had also found a way to control Bill's pain and hopefully he could sneak in a few days of detecting. I pray he can because I know how much he enjoys it, and I wish I could be there to join him.
We had hoped to travel to Scotland and spend a day or two with Bill and Jean. We talked about it often. They were close friends and distant relatives at that. We met because of our pastime first, and also because of our last name. Now, however, it seems as though that will not come to be. We think a great deal about Bill and Jean, what they must be going through, and hope that the days and months ahead are good ones.
I share this story with you because so often we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our lives, and forget what the true treasures are. I personally have hundreds, if not thousands of coins, gold and silver jewelry, civil war, roman and celtic artirfacts, but my most cherished finds are the friends I've made while searching for those treasures. I hope you too will always remember that as detectorists, as amateur treasure hunters, we are bound by a common thread and it is this friendship, this comradery, this sharing, that is so much more important than any treasure we can ever hope to find.
Bill... still looking forward to detecting with you. Keep battling....talk to you soon.