THERE'S A PACKRAT AMONG US...

By Dick Stout

Written for Western & Eastern Treasures

Just north of Spokane, Washington, Larry Bateham tends to his farm, metal detects, and offers his treasure hunting expertise to anyone wanting to learn more. If Larry's name is not familiar to you, let me share with you his nickname....."Packrat"! Larry lives with his wife Michelle in a log house on twenty acres, along with 5 horses, 3 parrots, a German Shepherd, a Basset Hound, 3 Boxers, 1 Pug and a Great Dane. A lover of animals, and a man of many talents, Larry Bateham is also a treasure hunter's treasure hunter.

Over the years I had frequently heard other detectorists throw out the name Packrat , but was never quite sure who they were referring to. Likewise, after writing a few bio articles for Western & Eastern Treasures, I started receiving emails suggesting I do one on "Packrat", a.k.a Larry Bateham, and I hope the following offers a small glimpse of why so many think so highly of him.

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Q. First off Larry, how did you get the name "Packrat"?

A. In the 80's Tommy Long, a well respected treasure hunter from Lewiston, Idaho, was the first one to call me Packrat and the name stuck. Everyone calls me Packrat now.



Q. When did you start metal detecting?

A. I started detecting in 1971 when my dad bought us both detectors. Mine was my high school graduation present, and he purchased them from Lucy Bowen at Bowen’s Hideout.


Q. What was it that actually got you interested in the pastime?

A. I liked old things, and was into digging bottles from old dumps. When I saw people find coins with a metal detector it was something I knew I would enjoy.


Clay Soliday awarding Larry Lifetime
Membership Award in the NWTHC

Q. What was your first metal metal?

A. My first detector was a Garrett Playmate BFO. It had no discrimination, and I had to dig everything. People today often say “You started so long ago you must have found lots of good stuff”. Well, there were lots of good things to be found, but what they didn’t know was you dug one coin for every eight to ten pieces of trash. If you came home with 30 to 40 coins it probably meant digging well over 200 signals.


Q. What was your very first find?

A. Wow, trying to remember that far back is hard. I think it was a new nickel. First time out I found about a half dozen coins, and they were all new coins. Nothing old.


Q. What was your first "good" find (if different)?

A. One of the first really good finds was an 1858 Canadian Large Cent. It is the first year Canada produced coins.


Q. Where did you spend your time initially?

A. I started out hunting schools and parks. I found my very first half dollar (1921 Walking Liberty) at a school that was one block from my house. I used to strap my detector on my back, and ride my bike to the various schools and parks.


Q. How long did it take you to find your first silver coin?

A. I found my first silver coin after about four weeks. It was a Roosevelt dime. Prior to that however I did find a couple of buffalo nickels, and quite a few “wheaties”.


Q. How long did it take you to find your first ring?

A. I had been hunting for about two months before I found my first gold ring. I had dug a few junk rings prior, but that was the first decent one. You have to remember, I didn’t have discrimination and pretty much dug everything. Gold, along with everything else, was in play.


Q. In the beginning how did you go about finding places to detect?

A. I started reading about my city's history, and where people went in the early years. What events took place, and where they were held. For example one park I hunted was the infield for the first race track in town, and a lot of the residents would picnic and socialize there.


Q. Did you eventually join a club?

A. Now you’re talking about my true love. Metal detector clubs, organized hunts, etc.. I joined the Northwest Treasure Hunters club in 1973, and was just awarded a lifetime membership in 2007. Only seven members in over 30 years have been given this honor. This group also includes Betty Weeks and Lucille Bowen. To receive this award, and be part of such an illustrious group is a real honor.


Q. Were you a loner or did you tend to go out detecting with partners?

A. I really prefer hunting with others. In the beginning I went out with my Dad, and later on found a hunting buddy. It’s always more fun to share your hunting experiences, good and bad, with others. Now, however I pretty much hunt alone.


Q. What would you consider to be your best find after all these years?

A. In my area (northwest) finds before 1890 are rare. The oldest US coin I've found is an 1876 Barber dime. I have found three 1931S pennies, and a number of silver halves, Barbers thru the Kennedy's (64). I have also been lucky enough to find two silver dollars.


Q. What would you consider to be your weirdest or funniest find (if any)?

A. I’ve found a bunch of weird things for sure. I found a hollowed out wheat penny with a Mercury dime inside, which I later found out was a kid’s magic toy. Then there were two Memorial pennies jammed inside a gold wedding band, a box of abandoned puppies in a park, and an old-time pulltab gambling machine (stolen).
Larry at the NWTHC Hunt 1983

Q. What is the one item that you are still searching for that eluded you?

A. Like so many other detectorists, I am still looking for my first gold coin.


Q. Do you attend open hunts?

A. You bet. I find them to be the best thing about metal detecting...


Q. What metal detector(s) are you using today?

A. I have used almost every major brand of detector at one time or another. Today I use the Fisher CZ5 and CZ3. In competition hunts I still like my old Compass 77, with the body mount. It's an old machine, but it pinpoints great!
Packrat with his finds at
the Kelowna B.C. hunt/1995

Q. What accessories are you currently using?

A. The one accessory I cannot hunt without is a decent set of headphones. They are necessary in order to hear the faint signals that are usually older coins. They also help to keep from being distracted by other noises. Other than that I am old fashioned in that I use a 3/8 inch screwdriver to recover my finds. Have tried a couple of pinpointers but do not use one as of now.


Q. How often do you get out detecting today?

A. I try and get out hunting at least once a week, when my work and farm allow it.


Q. What do you see for the future of this pastime?

A. I think our pastime will grow, and we will be fine IF we are respectful of the environment and the law. We also need to keep our good deeds out there so those not familiar with detecting understand the hobby better, and know us for who we are.
Larry, presenting Lucille Bowen
and Betty Weeks Hunt Chairman Awards, 1982

Q. What can detectorists do to promote the pastime?

A. Get more kids and young adults involved in the hobby. Also, offer to share your experiences at schools, and create public displays at community events and local fairs.


Q. If you could pass along one or two words of advice to other detectorists, what would they be?

A. The real treasures you find are the friends and the people you help. The gold and silver are simply a bonus!

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MORE FROM PACKRAT.....

For me, clubs and club hunts are the best thing about metal detecting. I went to my first hunt in 1973, and have been hooked ever since....not because of the hunting, but because of the people I’ve met over the years. I was fortunate enough to meet many of the people I had read about in the 70's. Charles Garrett, Roy Lagal, Hardrock Hendricks and others. In the 80's I met and made friends with Jim Lewellen (Fisher president & GM), Irwin Lee, and Rosemary Anderson of Western & Eastern Treasures. And of course simply being friends with club members Lucile Bowen & Betty Weeks was a major plus.

I put on my first big hunt in 1980, and since then have chaired or co-chaired thirteen Northwest Treasure Hunters Club hunts, two Federation hunts, and 24 Snow Bear hunts. I also helped form and was first president of the northwest chapter of the FMDAC.

I define a successful hunt not by how many prizes I won, but whether or not I met someone new or helped a beginner to do learn something new. On the Friday night before the NWTHC hunts I often have a short program to help people who have never been to our hunt do better in the competition, and to know what to expect the next day. When I chair a hunt I never worry about the good hunters. They will always do fine and come away with a few prizes. I am concerned more about the average detectorist and the beginner. They are important in that you want them to have a good time, find a few prizes, and of course return year after year.


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ACCOLADES

Lyle Thomas, former president of the Northwest Chapter of the FMDAC, and long time member of the Southeast Washington Association of Treasures Hunters, when asked to comment on Larry, offered the following:

I am honored that you have asked me to write about Larry Bateham. Larry and I first met in the late 1970's, and we became good friends. Over the years Larry was always willing to do anything for the betterment of the treasure hunting pastime. He has been the northwest chapter president of the FMDAC, president of the Northwest Treasure Hunters Club, and most important, an inspiration to me and so many others in the area. I am positive that I am not the only person that Larry has inspired, and that I will not be the last. Since I started detecting in 1975 I have met many treasure hunters, a good number of which I would call outstanding. Larry would be among the top ten for sure.


Clay Soliday, president of the Northwest Treasure Hunters Club, adds...

Larry joined the NWTHC in 1973. His first official title was prize chairman. After that he became editor of our newsletter. He was also the one who convinced us to have have two "mini" hunts each year, and to hold our large national event. Every January Packrat chairs a hunt during a local community winter festival. The coins are planted in snow that can be anywhere from 4 inches to 4 feet deep. I suspect this hunt may be the only one of it's kind in the country. As a result of this he was elected to chair these events, and their ongoing popularity is a tribute to his dedication and love for the pastime. 2008 marked the 14th time Larry has been chairman or co-chairman of our yearly national hunt in June.

When talking to Larry it is obvious how much he loves and lives the treasure hunting pastime. When he can, he attends hunts all over the country. He is not only a very knowledgeable and productive hunter, he is also someone who doesn’t hesitate to help people new to the hobby. Ask any treasure hunter in the northwest what they think of Packrat.....he’s one of a kind!

Larry with prizes at recent Snow Bear Hunt

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A FEW IDEAS FROM PACKRAT FOR YOUR CLUB

Club activities are important to me. A good TH'ing club will have programs that all members can participate in and enjoy. A few ideas I came up with for our club are....

Scavenger List

Originally this was a list of common and not so common items to find during the year. The idea was to get everyone to participate, not necessarily to find everything on the list. Tickets are given out to everyone who found things on the list at the end of the year, and we have a drawing for prizes.

Coin Point Challenge

This is divided into four categories, based on how many coins you find in a year. Each month you give your totals to the person in charge. You get different points for pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, etc.. The winners in each category get prizes. It’s fun to see how many coins and what types of coins are found by members in a year.

The Snow Bear Hunt

The Snow Bear Hunt is just that...a hunt in the snow. We hold the event in January a a local Winter Festival. In the 24 years this event has been held the hunters have faced everything from rock solid bare ground to over three feet of snow. I give out awards to the top three men and top three women (usually stuffed Teddy Bears). It’s a lot of fun to hunt in the snow, and it certainly helps relieve cabin fever.


AND SO.....

I think you can see why Larry Bateham is so well known, and why he's highly respected throughout the industry. He's a dedicated detectorist, teacher and more importantly, a great ambassador for the hobby of metal detecting. If you go to a hunt and see a nest of silver and goodies being raffled off, you can almost bet that Packrat is there and donated it. Make sure to seek him out, shake his hand, and tell him Dick Stout said hello!!

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