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Digging for Treasure

When I was a kid there were a few movies that my brother and I really latched onto. They were all part of a specific genre.

Romancing the Stone

Raiders of the Lost Ark

The Goonies

The Secret of Treasure Mountain (a Goonies/Indiana Jones pastiche made by a Christian film company)

The Rescuers (yes, the Disney movie)

Yes, my friends, my brother and I were obsessed with the sweet glitter of gold and treasure!

Now, most of these films were set in places where it was natural to find treasure. The coast, Egypt, South America, the Bayou; my brother and I did not live in any of these places. We lived in a New England suburb, far from any pirates, far from any Egyptians, far from any Colombian emerald mines.

So any hopes of finding treasure were dashed.

But then one day my brother and I found something in our basement.

A Map

Note: Dramatization, not actual map.

How fortuitous that my father just so happened to have an old map of our town! And how even more fortuitous that the location of the secret treasure was right in our back yard!

Well, it may have been, the map didn't have any X's or "Here be the treasure" or "Dig here, Kurt and Eric" or anything of that sort. But it was a map, and it was in OUR basement. That meant the treasure was in OUR woods.

We set our course to dig. Our path was clear, our treasure guaranteed.

We set out for our woods with the certain knowledge that treasure was not far from our grasp.

The tools:

My grandfather's army shovel, he had given it to us several years prior when he cleared out his attic.

My dad's compass (neither of us knew how to read a compass)

The map (of course)

A machete (for chopping down the vines we were sure to encounter)

We came to a point in our woods my brother and I called "dirt hill" - it was a hill made of dirt. The hill had been constructed when a bulldozer cleared and flattened our backyard, pushing years of topsoil into a pile that spilled over into an old ravine in our woods. From dirt hill we could see everything, and using the compass, my brother "found" the most likely spot for the treasure. 

The River

Earlier I said I didn't live near any traditional treasure places, but I suppose rivers have an allure to them. The River was more like a brook, but in the summer it ran fierce. 

There was even a waterfall. Not a very large waterfall, but enough to be the kind of place you hide treasure behind.

"That's where we'll search." My brother said. He looked at the map. "We must be right here." He pointed to a snaking blue line that went behind our neighborhood, the map didn't lie; the treasure was here!

Since I was smaller I had the task of searching the cave behind the waterfall.

"But I don't wanna get wet!"

"Just do it, you baby!"

So, bracing myself with the shovel I went down to the base of the waterfall. I reached my hand behind but couldn't feel anything. 

"Put your head in there!"

I put my head in, and still couldn't see anything. 

Then something happened. I can't swear to it, but I believe my brother put his foot on my leg and gave it a shove. He contends I slipped on the rocks. At any rate, I was in the water, and soon I was swept away by the current.

Picture Sassy from Homeward Bound...but a kid instead of a cat. 

I eventually came to a rest near a rock in the center of the river. My brother grabbed the shovel and held it out to me. I vainly reached for it and he stretched a bit further. I grabbed on and he pulled me in. 

I was soaking wet, and I had no treasure to show for my trouble. But my brother was not dissuaded.

"Let's keep going down this way. If we follow the river we may come across some more clues."

I wasn't willing to go on, but I wasn't willing to go home either. I followed my brother.

Eventually we came across something that told us the treasure was definitively nearby. 

A castle.

Okay, not a castle, but it was a large stone wall. My brother and I examined the wall. It was definitely made by humans.

"Who put this here?" I asked.

"Someone who wanted to keep the treasure guarded." My brother's eyes lit up, he started scaling the wall. I found a different way up, the wall was formed on the side of a hill, I climbed the hill and soon was on top of the wall before my brother. I sat down and tried to let the summer breeze dry me off.

My brother sat by me and pulled out the map. 
"This wall isn't on the map, but I bet the people who made the map made the wall to deter thieves."

To my brother and I the wall was anywhere from twenty to thirty feet tall, and stood on both sides of the river. The river ran through what appeared to be ruins of the wall.

We searched the top of the wall, certain that a stone was false, a cavern was hidden, and the treasure waiting to be uncovered.

There were no hidden caverns, no false stones. There was no treasure. After an exhaustive search of about 3 minutes, my brother and I walked home.

And that was the end of our grand quest for treasure. True, there were more in the future, but none had the fast pace, the danger, the promise of glory, that this quest had. Years later I worked for my town's Historical Society and found out that our "castle wall" was the remains of a now ruined mill and dam. The mill was used in the 18th and 19th centuries, but by the time my neighborhood was built it was long gone.

So, for the sentimental among us, my brother and I did find a treasure. But its value was hidden to me for fifteen years. 

Thanks for reading.
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Vaporman87 Posted on Aug 07, 2015 at 03:43 PM

Hunting historical treasure, even in the form of information and education, still can be fun. I know when I was a kid, I really did not care to visit a museum on a field trip, or have guides go on and on about the history of a monument. But as an adult, those things have taken on new meaning and importance. Especially local history which tends to be easily lost to that of national history.

kstrom22 Posted on Aug 07, 2015 at 06:05 AM

heh "dig," I get it...

Thank you. My brother and I also used to road over abandoned and overgrown areas of my hometown.

Now that I'm a history teacher I can go on a treasure hunt with a whole new generation, it's great! One of my students actually asked me if I'd ever heard of "The Goonies!"

mickyarber Posted on Jul 23, 2015 at 11:22 PM

I really dig this story. It reminds me of the long summer days my cousin Tim and I would road all over the 43 acres I grew up on. I had almost forgotten those adventures, but so many of them came rushing back to me while reading this.

I love it.

Vaporman87 Posted on Jul 23, 2015 at 05:26 PM

Holy cow! Two "adventure" articles in one week? You can't beat that. This is a great story. It reminds me of those days when you just knew treasure was hidden somewhere around you, waiting to be found. Why it would be there, who would have put it there... didn't matter. It was there, and you were going to find it somehow.

Making it even better though, is the fact that there was this relic of a by-gone era that you found. That really adds to the excitement of it.

I love the reference to Homeward Bound and that you felt you needed a machete for the trip. LOL

Thanks for sharing this kstrom.

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