Rio History: Stranded on Boca Chica Beach

Special to the PRESS

A few years back, Steve Moore, marketing manager for Garrett Metal Detectors decided to test some of Garrett’s machines in the heavily mineralized sands of South Padre’s shores and asked if I could guide him to some of my secret sites. Jerry Wilson of helped with the logistics and we also enlisted the aid of several locals to accompany us and try out some of the detectors that Moore had brought along to test.

On Monday we visited several residential sites on Taylor’s Hill in Port Isabel and even got a chance to metal detect the front and side yards of Port Isabel’s Historic Yacht Club.

Our volunteer metal detecting enthusiasts included South Padre Island’s Kay Lay, Jackie and Jerry Wilson and their daughter Katy, and local sculptor Andy Hancock.

Steve Moore was busily adding to his personal collection of coins and trinkets when he suddenly got a very strong signal on Garrett’s newest detector. The readout indicated the target was a good 12 inches down so Steve had some digging to do before he uncovered an antique brass escutcheon (circa 1930s) for a fancy mortise lock. While Steve was excavating his target, Andy Hancock showed me an old key he had found. Other finds included coins, several more keys and of course, bits of foil and iron. But the find of the day was a nice Mexican War era military button.

Tuesday morning, Steve, Brian and I headed to a secret spot over at Boca Chica that is so isolated that very few people know about it. About 2 miles shy of our destination we came upon a wide mud flat and I decided to check the stability of the ground before we continued. It only took a few steps for me to realize the terrain ahead was very treacherous.

Back in the Jeep I eased the transmission into reverse, that’s when our trouble started. As soon as I felt the tires spinning I eased off the accelerator. We only sank about an inch so I was quite optimistic about my ability in freeing us from our muddy trap. We dug pathways in front of the tires and laid pieces of board and broken branches under the treads. But the slick mud covered our tires so completely that we could not get enough traction to move forward or backwards. In addition, the vehicle had now sunk several more inches. It was cold and windy but at least there were no mosquitoes! In the distance we could make out the Port Isabel Lighthouse and a steady stream of cars crossing the Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway, but we may as well have been stuck in the wilds of some primitive land.

Now I was starting to worry. Upon hearing of our dilemma, Jerry Wilson called for a tow truck. The plan was I would meet the driver at the Boca Chica jetties and guide him to our vehicle. In the meantime, Steve and Brian walked ahead to the “secret site” where they were able to shoot some good video of Steve swinging the coil of his metal detector.

The tow truck driver arrived and it was readily apparent that his truck with its heavy boom and winch would probably run into problems once we got back into the dunes. He graciously declined our offer to pay him for his trip but did send a text a message to some folks he knew in Brownsville who he thought might be able to help us. The sky was getting pretty gray by now and the wind had picked up another knot or two. Jerry was out of ideas so I scrolled through my contact list until I found the number for another local towing company who said they had a beach rescue vehicle which is much lighter in weight than the other company’s winch truck and that he could be there in less than an hour. We met the tow on the beach and he had us free of the muck within 15 minutes. Later, Steve showed me some of his finds for the day that included a Civil War era button, several coins and of course some foil and trash that he had carried back to properly dispose of. I did not get a chance to swing a coil that day but I did walk-off about 10 pounds, which was reward in itself.

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