MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

March 10, 2013

Treasure hunter takes advantage of state’s drought

By Joy Hampton
CNHI

— NORMAN – Calvin Gifford has been roaming the shores of Lake Thunderbird for years seeking treasures. He’s collected more than 7,000 old lures, but with lake levels at the lowest he’s ever seen, new treasures are being revealed.

“This is the lowest it’s ever been,” Gifford said, gesturing to the extended stretch of sandy clay leading to the lake. “I go beachcombing out here. I’ve found jewelry, coins and old fishing lures. I’ve found a few arrow heads.”

Gifford tromps the beach with his two dogs, six-month old male pups from the same litter. They wear harnesses he fashioned out of soft rope. He wears a cargo pants a heavy windbreaker and a sports long beard.

“You can see where the weeds have grown,” he said. “Several years ago people were swimming where we’re standing.”

Gifford has walked these beaches for decades, enjoying the hunt for treasure.

“I’m getting a lot of exercise for an old man,” he said.

Once upon a time, he brought along a metal detector which helped him find even more treasure, but he said a lake official told him metal detectors weren’t allowed since the lake is technically a federal project and there could be Indian artifacts located there.

That doesn’t stop him from beach combing. Hunting for treasure is particularly rich after storms rearrange the beach and shift the sands.

“You can come down and look around,” Gifford said. “The whole terrain has shifted after a storm. I grid it and go back and forth.”

Lake Thunderbird is a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Project. The dam was completed in 1965.

“I remember when they were putting the lake in and building it,” he said. “They had a contest for naming it. This is a pretty lake, there a lot of scenery out here. It’s about as low as I’ve ever seen it.”

The swimming areas are particularly rich in treasures as people drop coins or lose rings and other jewelry in the water while swimming.

“I’ve found some nice women’s gold metal rings,” Gifford said. “Since you can’t use metal detectors, they’re just laying there until the weather reveals them.”

He said the difference between old copper pennies and the new zinc pennies are very obvious. Silver coins and jewelry tarnishes but shines right up. Gold is always good, he said.

Once he found a gold chain and sold it for $850.

“Gold prices are high,” he said. “I like finding things.”

Gifford said he lives alone with his dogs and when he’s not walking the beaches of Lake Thunderbird, he’s reading.

“I come out here because it’s peaceful,” he said. “It’s serene. It’s life.”

Joy Hampton writes for The Norman Transcript.