On My Mind: On the hunt


I’m convinced that I’m part bloodhound. I love the challenge of looking for lost things. If someone near me asks, “Have you seen my cell phone or my other earring?” I’ll instinctually launch into a serious search and rescue mission, even for a complete stranger — it’s just part of who I am.

My wife can attest to countless times I’ve rounded up bits of jewelry or odds and ends that have gotten away from us, sunken through the cracks around our house or in our travels. I guess I love the reward it brings, of making someone happy and relieved to get that thing back. One of my greatest “finds” includes the time I tore our driveway and yard apart and found not only a very small earring for my wife, but also the minuscule butterfly screw backing that helps hold the piece to her ear. That took some doing, but I loved the final outcome. One time I covered a police chase on Roache Road by Airport Boulevard for the R-P and, when the thing was over, I heard one cop tell his team that he had lost his handgun somewhere in the foot chase. That opened up a very serious search, with scores of police scouring the vast landscape behind fences, shrubs, in shaggy grass and around abandoned cars. When I found it that move garnered me quite a load of praise. I’ve found bullet casings and slugs at crime scenes for the police and once found a house key my wife lost miles from our house when she exited a party and walked back to her car.

I trace this skill and interest back to my youth. My dad used to take us kids on various outings where we’d dig around construction sites, old factory yards, cemeteries and historical spots in search of odds and ends from yesteryears. One such spot, where we poked around numerous times, was out back of a string of old saloons, some from the Gold Rush days in the Sierra foothills in the town of Columbia. My dad was an expert at this, mostly because of his patience and belief that there was something there hiding, just waiting to be found. We used sharp sticks to ply the soil. The bottle shown in this article was one of my dad’s greatest scores, mainly because it had lettering on it from the nearby town, Sonora.

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This bottle from the Bacon Soda Works in Sonora Calif. is one of the treasures my family dug up behind the old saloons in Columbia, Calif. back in the 1950s. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

When we lived on the South Pacific island of Guam, my dad became glued to the hobby of beachcombing, especially for the highly prized Japanese glass fishing floats. You commonly see them as decorations at seafood restaurants and markets, light greenish-blue glass balls, often encased in a weathered brown net. They range in size from a tennis ball to larger than a basketball. Of course, the larger ones were the top prize and not easy to find. Many of them got crushed as they were dashed against the rugged reef of the island after traversing the Pacific for hundreds of miles and years at sea. My dad used to take me out on the very early morning treks to remote beaches on Guam where there was nobody around, no buildings, no telephone poles, no signs or even fences — just rugged, unspoiled beaches. These outings became some of our closest times together. We’d fan out on the rugged shores and then meet back up to boast our finds. Many times we found nothing. But it sure was a blast when we’d both meet back up with several glass floats piled in our arms.

When we moved to San Diego and my dad retired, he got into metal detecting the numerous popular beaches there. He called it his therapy and exercise. After numerous years he accrued one heck of a collection of wristwatches, rings, bracelets and so on. Most of the junk jewelry he’d hand off to curious kids that followed him around on the beach.

Just this morning I tore our house apart searching for some Japanese calligraphy paper my wife was looking for. Though I was trying to get out of the house for work, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to sniff out something that was lost. I found it, deep in the stacks in one of our closets. That find even surprised me.

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Contact Register-Pajaronian photographer Tarmo Hannula at [email protected]

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