I Don’t Know if I’ve Ever Been More Thankful for a Change of Plans


Ruler added for perspective

Ruler added for perspective

I’d like to tell you a little story about shoveling dirt, repairing water lines, and fixing a sprinkler system. Sounds riveting, eh? I mean, who sees such a spellbinding sentence and doesn’t have to catch their breath in sheer anticipation? This already sounds like something that should be made into a movie. Does anyone have Michael Bay’s number?

All kidding aside, stay with me. It’ll be worth it. I’ll make the back story as brief as possible so we can get to the payoff. Besides, Michael Bay is all wrong. This has much more of a Richard Donner ending.

A few weeks ago while at my house, I went to go wash my hands and noticed the water pressure in my house was unusually low. It was too early in the day for the sprinklers to be on, so I knew they weren’t the culprit. Likewise, the dishwasher and washing machine weren’t running, nor were any of the external hoses turned on. A brief investigation revealed that my backyard had begun to flood, and the source of the problem was clearly coming from one particular corner where the sprinkler valve boxes are. A quick peek inside showed that there was a pretty serious issue with a sprinkler valve.

I called my dad to come have a look at it, as he is far more knowledgeable than I am when it comes to irrigation systems. Okay, so he’s far more knowledgeable than me when it comes to most things. However, in terms of irrigation system comprehension, I hover somewhere near “chimp” skill level. So his input was especially crucial.

Considering that we were now nearing midnight and working by the light of a motion sensor light on the side of my house, we did what needed to be done to simply stabilize the situation and end the chaos. That meant circumventing part of the sprinkler pipe system via a cap. It was a matter of stopping the flood and ensuring the water line to the house was working. The idea was to come back at a more reasonable time to do a full fix.

Fast forward to that “more reasonable time,” AKA today. Starting around 10 AM, we headed to Home Depot to get a couple parts we needed. My dad mentioned to an employee what pieces we needed and the guy pointed us to the section of the aisle where we’d find them. My dad’s demeanor indicated that this would be a quick fix, and that idea was only further cemented when, upon finding all the parts we required, he told the Home Depot employee, “That was too easy.” Jokingly, I spoke up and said, “Whoa. Don’t say that out loud. Don’t jinx us now.” The employee laughed along with us and added, “No kidding. Save that for when the project is over.”

Let’s fast forward again for the sake of the story and the sake of my sanity, because I already lived this once. An old piece we needed to remove from the existing pipe system snapped off when it was being unthreaded from its connection point due to how old and brittle it was. It turns out the broken part that remained connected had been glued in place. No attempt at removing it with all the correct tools and all the sheer force one could muster proved successful. What should have been around a one-hour project was now clearly going to become an all day affair. It was now a matter of removing the whole valve box, and doing a fair amount of digging to get to a big enough piece of the main line to patch off of.

We both dug for a while, talking the whole time and joking around a lot, as we are prone to do when working together. As much as this change of plan was a bit of a pain, we made the best of it. I was loosening dirt around the four edges of the valve box with a pick, while my dad then shoveled out the loosened dirt into a pile. We had reached somewhere near a foot deep on all sides of the box.

As he threw one particular shovel full of dirt on the pile, we simultaneously paused and said, “What was that?” Something that landed on the pile immediately stood out from the standard clumps of dirt, rocks, grass, etc. I leaned over and picked it up. It was a little plastic pouch, approximately 2×2″. As I picked it up, I could tell that whatever was in it had a bit of weight to it for the size of the sleeve it was in. I opened it up. It was a coin. A gold coin.

I handed it to my dad, and as he saw it and felt the weight, he said, “That’s gold. That’s real.” We inspected the face more closely. It read “Suid-Africa * South Africa” and had the profile of a bearded man on it. Flipping it over, the back said “Krugerrand” on the top, had an image of an antelope in the middle surrounded by the date 1978, and read “Fyngoud 1oz Fine Gold” on the bottom.


Krugerrand coin - front


Krugerrand coin - back


Krugerrand coin - with pouch


As much as we needed to get the pipes fixed, this was a valid reason to pause for a couple minutes. I jumped on Google and did some searching. As of today, an ounce of gold is valued at $1,641.80 USD. So the ounce of gold we found is, at least, worth that. The collector value of the coin seems to be somewhere in the $1,800 to $2,500 range, depending on condition and other factors.

There was gold buried in my back yard. Had my sprinkler valve not malfunctioned, we would not have found it. Had the fix gone as planned, we would not have found it.

We immediately started laughing about what had previously been a nuisance. We also discussed the fact that, after finding the coin, we also found an empty plastic pouch (identical to the one the coin was found in) in the pile of dirt we had removed. Needless to say, when the project was finished, we ran the loose dirt we had removed through a sifter before returning it to the hole to cover up the pipes and secure the valve box back in place. We didn’t find another coin in the loose dirt, but I’d say that an ounce of gold isn’t too bad for one day.

Oh, and the pipes eventually got fixed too.




  1. Okay, so I know where you live, just a few hundred feet from my childhood home, and I’m positive that I lost a coin just like that on my way to Cholla Elementary back in the early 80’s. Yeah, so, just pop that puppy in the mail to me and I’ll be so happy to have it back! 😉

    Congrat’s on the find man, shops you buy something nice for your dad with the proceeds! Tell him I said, “Hi”, too!

  2. WOW! What an amazing story. And just think: I would not have read it, had I decided instead to vacuum the carpet like my wife told me to do rather than scroll around on Facebook! (Not quite as a good of find as yours, but still!)

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