‘Dirt’ fisherman searches for treasure among trash

Dirt Fisherman

Chip Kirkpatrick finds more trash than treasure while detecting.

It took 50 years, but Chip Kirkpatrick, a former Boy Scout at Lakeshore Methodist Church, finally found his uniform kerchief slide.

Kirkpatrick had lost it at his very first Scout meeting in 1964. He found it five decades later buried in four inches of mud on the church grounds. He also found a toy gun his wife, Grace, had played with as a child on a local playground.

Dirt Fisherman

Metal detectorist Chip Kirkpatrick with some of his finds.

“You could say finding things is a passion for our family,” said Kirkpatrick. “When we were kids, my brother and I would compete with our mother at finding the most sharks’ teeth at the beach. Then every year we went to North Carolina to dig at Mason’s Mine for sapphires. Now, health and weather permitting, I’d love to hunt every day.”

After retiring from AT&T four years ago the hunt was on. “I visited a friend who had a metal detector and it was interesting, so I got one,” he said. “Now I have nine.”

What started as a hobby, Kirkpatrick laughingly admits, has become an obsession. “I used to be a big time fisherman; now I’m a dirt fisherman. I love being outside, and I get lost in my own little world. It’s sort of a Zen experience. I’ve always been a bit of a history buff and finding objects is fascinating to me.”

Kirkpatrick said he muses over each object, wondering, who lost it? How long did they look for it? Were they sad? What was their life like?

His tackle box is no longer filled with lures but with rings, tiny metal cars, keys and key fobs, coins, necklaces, locks – and each one with an untold story.

His interest in history was piqued by neighbors near his Boone Park home who were Titanic survivors.

“They are gone now,” he said. “But they told the story many times of being saved when they were little children by John Astor who gave up his seat on a lifeboat for the children.”

The Avondale detectorist explained that people assume that every find is something valuable but that is not the case. “Most of the time it’s trash. Gold is the hardest to find. I haven’t found any bars of gold or Jimmy Hoffa or anything really valuable,” said Kirkpatrick. “Although I was in Panama City on vacation and helped a groom find his valuable wedding ring before his new bride found out it was lost!”

Mostly he finds what he calls “can slaw,” the remains of soda cans chopped up by lawn mowers. Being a former Boy Scout and Scoutmaster, his creed is to leave the world a bit better than he found it.

Recently he found three fishhooks imbedded in a school playground and frequently finds potentially dangerous shrapnel under the ground, which can easily work its way to the top soil.

“Everyone thinks their grounds are real clean, but I’ve found old hinges, screws, broken glass, bullets – all kinds of stuff,” he said.

Kirkpatrick is so dedicated to detecting, he offers his services for free to anyone who would like him to come and hunt on their property or help find something that is lost. He can be reached at [email protected] or (904) 868-9168.


By Peggy Harrell Jennings
Resident Community News

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