DIGGING RIGHT WHERE WE LEFT OFF
There’s an old road that runs from Santa Fe to Madrid ,the interstate passed it by and its rarely used now. The stretch is about 30 miles and if you include both sides of the road that’s 60 miles to cover! The nice thing is when you find cans on this old road, most of it is pre-1960. The method used here is scatter-dumping with metal detectors. Ed and Don were scatter-dumping this old road before Dave Lang coined the term. It can be a windy and twisted road in spots with steep hillsides. Of course anything that has a northern exposure is going to have nice color. Anything facing the south and thus exposed to the sun is going to be toast even with decent tree cover. Most of the cans found were tossed out car windows.
Don and Ed have made 3 or 4 trips to this old road with good success in the fall. This is the same stretch that they had found some Cream Tops and Manhattan OIs. It was now spring but we had to wait until it got warmer due to some late snowfalls. I joined Ed and Don on this latest outing. They had the routine down. We all had small backpacks for snacks (canned sardines and tuna) and water and lots of newspaper to wrap our new-found gems. Small hand-held digging utensils were all that was needed, since the cans are seldom deeper than one foot. Ed bought this cool small pick-ax that worked very well to extract the cans. I learned the hard way that a shovel is not the right tool for the job. Of course metal detectors were a necessity.
We picked a spot that Ed and Don hadn’t worked before and it turned out to be a good one. Almost every beep of the detector is a beer can. If you detect other metal, its usually car parts, mainly hub cabs, license plates and such. Don was working close to the road and I was down the hillside about 10 feet below him. Ed leap-frogged about 50 feet in front of us so we are not in each other’s way. Lots of national brands were found but the majority of cans turned out being 1955 Coors. The only good thing about these nationals is that they are from the Los Angeles branches, which makes them worth picking up and taking home. There’s also some regional brands like Jax, Walters, Lone Stars, Luckys, and Acmes. If we find a can that is too rough or too common to take home, we toss them up on the road. Then after we are done with that stretch of road, we go back and pick them all up in hefty bags for disposal. This makes it easier when we go back and do the same stretch just to make sure we didn’t miss anything. Also so we don’t re-detect the same cans previously unearthed. Plus we are hoping for brownie points from the Can-Gods for being such good citizens! We found probably 10-12 keepers each and 2 bags of discards. Everything found here was post-IRTP.
Next spot was an area where Don and Ed had worked before. Don had even done this spot in the early 80s but there’s always stuff to turf up. We parked the truck and scurried into the woods. This spot we detected is what we are going to call an old picnic area. There were literally hundreds of cans here, all buried by 50+ years of leaves and debris. I guess the only way to work this spot effectively is a grid system but it really was too much fun just to swing the detector and turn up cans. You get a reading , dig out the can ,swing the detector over the hole or close to it and theres another can buried. This area also has a rock-slide area with huge boulders. Some of the best condition and older cans have come from this spot. Don got a reading right in the middle of the trail, which we must have walked over a dozen times. He popped a really nice green Old Milwaukee from that hole. This spot had age as were we finding IRTP cans such as Brewers Best and Black Millers. Ed was working a spot where he was pulling out some Manhattan beers. I mosied on over near him and found a Canadian Ace beer IRTP! We had found lots of non-IRTP Canadian Ace cans but even though they had the small shield ( vs the winged version) they didn’t have the magic four words. The IRTP version is tough as nails. The fast way to tell is to look and see if there is a Keglined box is outlined near the seam. The IRTP version does not have the box. This one upgraded Ed’s shelfer so I got his downgrade.
We all then went up the road a ways and I got a "hit" close to the road. This can was deeper than the others and after about 20 minutes of digging I was able to see the can. This spot was all rocks and roots. I can see the tell-tale gold of a Bud OI. It was placed over a large rock and then a root had grown and wedged it in place making its extraction very difficult. I finally get to the point where I can get my hands around the rim and start to pull it out…big mistake. It
dis-lodged and it now had a couple big gaping holes in it. No big deal since its just another Bud OI right?….wrong I looked more closely at it and it’s the open star version. Boy did I feel sick after that…but how did I know it was the tough variant. It just goes to show that you have to treat each extracted can with the utmost care, even a relatively common can, can be a rare variant.
Since this place is so close to home there’s no added pressure to try to do the whole area in one day. At this place we had 4 big bags of discards. Usually after 4 hours of hill climbing and detector swinging, one is just tired and it’s a good time to call it a day. An added bonus is getting home early enough to get a batch of acid going.
A couple weeks later, Dale Bramlette came out here to Albuquerque. We were having poor results down south so decided to take him to the old faithful spot. This time I bought a small pick-ax just like Ed had to reduce the chances of shovel-killing a can. The old picnic grounds and rock slide area still turfed up more cans. Dale went right to the rocks and started digging in there. He pulled out some 30s cans that if there anything else besides Bud and Pabst OIs (red opener) their condition would have made them killer keepers. He did find some odd-ball stuff like Golden Grain from Mitchells of El Paso, the white Muelhebach cone and Tivoli IRTP. I was digging into the rock about 10 feet from Dale and pulled out an Altes cone from Detroit, a Country Club high-pro IRTP cone and a sweet C&C super orange cone top.
We then walked down the road to the "triangle". This is where Don and Ed found the Cream Tops and ABC low pro. Swinging his detector across the road Dale uncovered what we think was a meteorite. Dale kept it and is sending to a place for verification. I was once told the New Mexico is the 2nd best state to find meteorites, probably due to its wide open spaces. I went across the road opposite the triangle to try my luck. Again lots of cans, just not anything too old or too rare. I also uncovered a Miller OI that the paint was so smooth one would have thought it was through there yesterday. I did take my time and gingerly dug this one out.
Ed and Dale didn’t find more Cream Tops, just some post-OI IRTP Pabst and a decent yellow Coors double-aged but the "triangle" did get a through going-over. The thing about dumping this road is you never know what brands will show up