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The Perils of Detecting Kansas
The Perils of Detecting Kansas
Written By: Shon “ KansasDigger” Fox
When most people think of Kansas, they picture rolling wheat fields, long dirt roads, sunflowers, and tractors. This is the Kansas people see, while suffering the I-70 drive. Starting in eastern Kansas, the rolling Missouri like hills soon begin to level, and by the time you pass the I-135 line, just outside Salina, endless pastures and fields, accompanied with, disappearing radio stations, and continually growing gusts of wind. Just off the interstate, a few miles in any direction, you begin to see the true Kansas, the desolate wasteland of the prairie dessert. This is where I detect, a rewarding, virgin landscape, full of history, mystery, and scientific wonder. Many places in America have harsh detecting conditions, and certain precautions, no matter where you detect, are fundamental to a successful experience. These are a few things; I have to prepare for, before sauntering off into the wild Kansas Prairie.
Before my journey, I have certain maps to check, even a mile outside of town. There are certain areas that are off limits to everyone, and wondering into these areas causes a swift and severe response from a number of different agencies. Though Central Kansas is set up on mile section grids, each section could have a marinade of owners, lease holders, coops, and situational rules; most of this is due to two industries, cattle, and oil. Having an up to date plat map is crucial to keeping yourself out of trouble, pipelines, reserves, and electronic beacons, all are continuously monitored, by radar, planes, and yes, Drones. Setting foot in the protected path of the pipelines is as severe as wondering onto an army base, or National Park. They do not have a since of humor or a lenient attitude, especially if you are in possession of gps capable electronics, cameras, or ground penetrating electronics, i.e. Metal Detectors. If your machine begins erratic behavior when you are alone in a pasture, you had best stop, turn it off, and proceed quickly in the path which you came. In most cases there will be an official of some sort waiting by your car, and your day is over.
In most cases, I carry a backpack with essential provisions that are a necessity when detecting in the open range and desolate prairie pastures. I am sure most hobbyists carry a few if not many of the items in this list, but, a few may surprise you.
Supply list
1. Sunscreen, even in the winter, the sun and wind will cause a burn.
2. Bug spray; make sure it’s a brand that covers ticks, lice, mosquitoes, ants, spiders, and most of all chiggers.
3. Smoke flare, this has many uses. Used as a signal in case you are lost or injured, but, also to ward off bees, wasps, horse flies, and the occasional furry critter.
4. Bandages and tape. Despite the depiction in the opening credits of “Little House on the Prairie,” the prairie grass isn’t ideal for running through. It is sharp, and has sharp spikes that stick to every part of your clothing. Prairie grass, the thorn riddled brush, cactus, sandburs, and a myriad of other sharp and/or pokey plants are a constant variable, seldom does anyone coast through unscathed.
5. Pocket knife, tweezers, lighter, gloves; peroxide, Benadryl, and eyewash are also included for injury or other unforeseen need.
6. Batteries, of course
7. Extra coil, things happen.
8. 3 to 4 bottles of water, if nothing else this is what I pack, the dry plant dust, rugged terrain, constant 30 to 50 mph wind, and the humidity, will drive a thirst pretty fast. Dehydration, even in the winter, is at the top of the list for injury, emergency situations, and even death in Kansas. Most disappearances or individuals losing their way, is caused by confusion due to dehydration. Remember, in most cases you are miles away from the nearest farm, and up to 40 miles to the closest town. Though the land is flat, it all blends together, everything looks the same, and with little to no landmarks, even a native to the area can easily get confused and disoriented, even if hydrated.
9. A whistle or screamer, this is to ward off skunks, deer, possum, badger, coyotes, porcupine, and other potentially harmful critter. For big cats, such as bobcats and mountain lions, the screamer is best.
10. A thin blanket, we still have dust storms, and the weather can change before you know it. Large hail, tornadoes, wind storms, and pollen clouds are a common occurrence. The blanket will help protect your lungs, and body in these situations.
11. Goggles, I know it sounds weird, but try walking through a wind storm without them.
12. A few Granola bars, or cereal bars. I eat one even when not hungry, to help with hydration.
13. Cell Phone, although you are lucky to get a signal, the gps, and data are usually still capable of being used. In an emergency, it may be your only way to get help.
14. Pad and pin, I never liked the idea of gps tracking, I prefer making pirate style maps, and using natural markers to record the camp sites, old homesteads, and other hot spots. I have had other detectors use gps and the clues in my videos, to swipe detecting areas. Kansas is full of history, and unmarked historical sites. As part of my profession, I work with local historical societies, county museums, and other historical preservation organizations, to provide location conformation of these sites. My finds, are donated to the organization I am helping, and I am often commissioned after to write a historical article, and preservation outline of the site. Without my notes, I would never be able to decipher the evidence of my finds, or determine measurements and size of the camp. Some camps, were semi-permanent sites, others were only used by one Army Officer for one reason or another, when they headed the wagon train from one fort to the other.
In a pasture or field, you always have to be careful. Cellar holes, wells, sink holes, and large varmint holes, such as badger, skunk, armadillo, and porcupine, are a constant hazard. It is common for individuals to step into these hazards, injuries range from sprains and scrapes, to death. In the recent past there has been a major increase in deaths related to people falling into old wells, old oilfield washouts, that have collapsed, leaving a 4 to 6 foot hole that goes hundreds of feet down. Unfortunately, there were not many regulations set up when oil drilling began in Kansas, and many long expired companies used cheep and dangerous tactics to save a few bucks. A frustrating and severe situation we are just now discovering the magnitude of. Many farmers are sitting idle, unable to stop their quarter mile sections, of fields and pastures, sink into big bowl shaped areas, unable to be farmed, and livestock avoid. Useless land that they will never be able to use, due to an oil field companies decision to not cement in a washout, or expired well. In southern Kansas earthquakes have been becoming more frequent, due to questionable drilling practices.
Another hazard is the wind. The further west you go in Kansas the more the wind blows. It is common, here in central Kansas to have a steady wind speed of 30 to 40 mph, with gusts up to 60 or 70 mph. In far western Kansas a constant wind speed of 50 to 60 mph, is common, with gusts up to 80 mph. In combination with the loose sandy soil of central Kansas, or the dry black dust of western Kansas, the wind can become a major hazard. The dust bowl, though defensive measures have been established, is still alive and well here in Kansas. A wind storm can and do happen without warning, and if you are stuck in the middle of a pasture or field, your best option is to find a low spot and wait out the blinding, and painful mixture of sand/dirt and wind that is bearing down. If you are stuck without any form of protection, such as a light blanket or jacket, and eye protection, it is a miserable experience.
Every outing, no matter where you live, should begin with safety in mind. I will admit I am guilty of rushing out the door, excited to head to a new location, and half heartedly prepared. I will also tell you I have paid the price. I have had stitches, a broken ankle, heat stroke, pneumonia from my lungs filling with blown dirt, that I inhaled, after being stuck, unprepared, in a wind storm, and numerous sprains, sunburns, bruises, scrapes, and infected bug bites. After 15 years, of fighting the elements, and terrain, to rediscover the history of my great state of Kansas, I have learned to respect her cantankerous weather, and her beautiful yet unforgiving landscape. Thanks for reading, and remember, dig safe, dig right, and dig often.
Shon Fox

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