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Treasure hunter

Larry stuck the yardstick under the laundromat washer and scraped around. He pulled out a soggy dollar bill, three quarters and some pennies. He went to the next washer and found nothing. At the third, he hit the jackpot — quarters, dimes, nickels and a five dollar bill. The money must have been under these machines for years. He went around to all the washers and dryers in the laundromat, plus the change machine and had all total, more than fifteen dollars. He had enough food money now for a week.

Larry was an orphan child and not much cared for by the people who where supposed to care for him. He had no money and accidentally discovered the change under the laundromat’s machines when he went in late at night to get warm. He saw a dime under the edge of a washer, looked under it and, midst all the dust bunnies and grime, could see a handful of change. In the broom closet of the laundromat he found a yardstick and went to work.

It was an indelible lesson, one he carried into adulthood, even when he was fairly well off and didn’t need to go scavenging for loose change. He carried a coat hanger in the trunk of his car and, if he stopped at an interstate rest stop, if no one was around, he would scrape under the machines to see what he could find — which was usually well worth the effort, to him, anyway. Once he even found a little purse full of Canadian bills.

A rest-stop attendant caught him once and told him that the money belonged to the state.

“Fat chance,” he told the attendant. When the attendant went to the pay phones to call the Highway Patrol, Larry skedaddled.

After Larry was married, his wife had a fit when she saw what he was up to.

“Why are you doing this, Larry?” she asked. “We have plenty of money.”

Larry had no explanation, but could not break himself of the habit.

However, Larry’s wife, knowing more than one way to skin a cat, thought she’d try something. She bought Larry a metal detector for his birthday.

Larry was excited. He read the directions, put the machine together and went to the local park. His very first day of “detecting,” he found a Lincoln penny and a class ring. He was hooked.

Over the years, he’s found more than $3,900 in coins — he meticulously keeps track of everything, recording his findings in a ledger — including an 1887-S American five dollar gold coin, eight gold rings, many sterling silver rings and several 14K gold class rings. Like a sleuth, he tracks down the owners of the class rings and returns them, if he can, giving him a satisfied feeling. The five dollar gold piece he had set in gold, put on a gold chain and gave to his wife for her birthday. After all, she was the one who got him started on “detecting.”

To his wife’s satisfaction, Larry no longer carries a coat hanger in the trunk of his car.

Some days, he goes out in the morning, “detects” for a couple of hours, goes home for lunch, then returns in the afternoon. No one gives him grief for “detecting” because there may be one or two other people out there in the park or beach doing the same thing. Under backyard clothes lines or where clothes lines used to be, are the hot spots. Larry always gets permission before he goes onto someone’s property. They may want a slice of the action.

For the hours spent and the value accumulated, Larry knows he isn’t even earning minimum wage, but he doesn’t care. It’s free money.

One man asked him if his machine could detect dollar bills.

“Only if it’s a silver certificate,” he told the man.

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Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526 or email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com.