Metal Detector Stories - Big Mike
By Dan Breitenstein
Shortly before the ground froze last December, I was metal detecting in my fathers' old farm yard. I stop there periodically to swing a coil and visit with my folks. It's just on the next hill west of my house and has a history that goes back to the mid 19th century. My folks have lived there since I was in high school and the territory is like home to me. It's a good spot for the occasional Merc dime and I've even found a couple of Indian Heads there. But this day was different.
Something drew me to a corner of the yard that I had always considered sacred ground. As I swung the coil a beautiful high tone pierced the headphones and the knowledge and memories of what was there came over me like a wave. On a cold November day in 1971, my father and I had buried the greatest dog that I had ever known in this place. He was a big Black Labrador Reteiver named "Big Mike".
Mike was a duck dog, born to swim and raised to hunt. We got Mike when I was six years old and he literally was a member of our family. We were an inseperable pair as I grew up. He was my companion, my protector, and my best friend.
Dad and I spent every weekend during the duck season down in the Andalusia Islands of the Mississippi River with Big Mike. It was as though he lived to hunt ducks. I clearly remember trying to hold him back after the first shot was fired. He would break my grip and leap through the ice, plowing through it as he swam. I can't ever remember him coming back to the blind without a duck in his mouth. Then he would stand at the door with steam rolling off him waiting for the next shot. When Mike got to old to hunt, Dad and I didn't have the heart to go out anymore without him and we sort of faded away from the sport entirely.
On November 11, 1971 Dad and I buried our best friend. It's so vividly etched in my mind how the sleet was hitting us in the face as Dad covered the grave. I was devastated and Dads' silence told me what he felt. When he had finished, we stepped back and stood there looking at the grave and we both clearly heard the sound of ducks calling in the valley below. We've never heard that sound again since that day.
The sound I heard in my headphones last December was the signal from a large brass buckle on Mikes' collar. It was as if he were saying "hello" to me. I stood there for awhile with my old friend and swung the coil one last time. Rest in peace Big Mike.