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Treasure hunting for a good cause in Piney River

PINEY RIVER — Metal detector beeps and electric wails mingled with the incessant chirping and tweeting of birds outside the Piney River Volunteer Fire Department on Saturday morning.

About 50 people wielding a variety of equipment almost like armor paced a coned-off field looking for hundreds of tokens buried below the ground — some intentionally, some accidentally over time.

“What’d you find?” asked Joey Damiano, walking across the field.

“It,” responded Josh Hooper, kneeling on the ground surrounded by his gear and studying a small plastic bag.

Damiano whooped and others soon gathered around to take a look and congratulate him. Hopper found probably the most coveted prize of the day: a small gold coin about the size of a dime.

“Somebody passed it up, man; the hole was already dug,” Hooper laughed.

Having come to the hunt from Cana, Virginia, it was the first token he found that day. He said he’d been metal detecting for 15 years and it’s been harder to get permission to metal detect on private property after moving a little over six months ago from Kentucky, where he knew everybody.

Saturday’s event, called a “seeded hunt” with intentionally buried coins and other tokens for people to find, is a gathering meant for those passionate about metal detecting. It also served as a fundraiser for the fire department.

Damiano, known as “Swifty” in metal-detecting circles, had buried and scattered the objects with a few friends the night before and coordinated the event — his first one. Having known David Parr, a Nelson County supervisor and fire department president, Damiano contacted Parr a couple of months ago with the prospect of a fundraising hunt.

Parr said the hunt was a far cry from the usual cookout-style fundraisers the fire department usually sees, but it’s a welcome change that introduces the firefighters to new people. And since the coronavirus pandemic has stood in the way of some of its other fundraisers, he said every little bit helps.

Early in the event, Damiano said he’d raised a bit over $2,000 already.

With a close-knit metal-detecting network online, the event drew people from all over the country who contributed a $100 buy-in to help pay for the tokens and benefit the fire department.

Kaye Matteson came from eastern Texas for the hunt and travels all over to hunt with friends. Though the prospect of finding coins and interesting historical tokens is fun, she said her main purpose in driving to Piney River was the camaraderie and to support the fire department.

“If I don’t find anything significant, I’m fine,” she said.

Terry Glover, of Amherst, is a hobbyist who mostly goes metal detecting in and around Lynchburg, getting permission from locals through his work at a maintenance company. With so many old houses, there’s plenty of treasure to be found.

“That’s part of the fun of this … you just never know what’s going to come out of the ground,” he said.


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