Back in the Stone Age when I was a kid, I discovered the existence of metal detectors and was immediately obsessed with getting my hands on one. I dreamed of exploring every square yard of my neighborhood and wondered whether it would be take me just a few days to come across a giant pirate treasure chest or if I’d have to stick it out for a couple of weeks, even. But when my parents obliged me the following Christmas with a kiddie metal detector, I quickly discovered that a) at no time in history had pirates ever set foot on the ground that became the rural, freezing North Dakota ground occupied by the Air Force base where I was currently living, and b) all my detector seemed capable of alerting on was Schlitz pop-tops and tuna-can lids.
This ended my love affair with metal detectors. The only time I ever saw them in use again was on college spring break trips to the beach, where the occasional old codger would be trolling up and down the sand with a heavy-duty one while I was waking up on the same sand wondering how many beers it took me the previous night to decide that I should just crash on the beach instead of staggering back to my hotel.
But this New Yorker story opened my eyes to the fact that quite a few folks out there are occasionally having some great success with their metal detectors — namely, these British guys who discovered a massive horde of Viking treasure worth millions. But like a lot of people who hit the lottery, the windfall just wasn’t quite enough for them, and their tale did not have a storybook ending. Can you imagine being lucky enough to literally come across a *cached of buried treasure* and still finding a way to screw it up? Me either.