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Monday, June 20, 2005

The Metal Detector and Buried Treasure

Let’s be honest. By a show of hands, who wanted a metal detector when they were a kid? If you’re hand isn’t up, you obviously never had a childhood or you were clearly ignorant of metal detectors. If you were ignorant of them, I don’t see how your childhood could possibly count as a childhood.

Anyway, I don’t remember when I first heard of metal detectors (although, it’s coming back to me: I seem to remember Gyro Gearloose—the wacky inventor—using one on a beach in a Walt Disney comic book), but I know I wanted one when I was growing up. I felt certain that there was treasure buried in my yard somewhere. And just before my mother’s divorce when I was 8 and even after that, all the money we found that my crazy father hid seemed like a good indicator that there was a buried treasure in the yard. After all, he landscaped it and worked tirelessly at keeping it well-manicured before and during the crazy years.

My father was no stranger to caching away large sums of money*. His not-so-secret fear seemed to be that A) he’d be robbed by a man in a nylon stocking mask, B) he’d be robbed by my mother while he was sleeping, C) one of his brothers would knock him out and yes, rob him, or D) the stock market would crash again, the banks would fail, and all that would be left with any value would be gold and silver. The logical thing to do was to hide money. Paper money and silver and gold coins.

Why not a treasure in the yard?

To illustrate with a story why my yard should be rife with treasure: when I turned 18 my father was once again in jail. I don’t remember what it was this time. Attempted arson, failure to pay traffic tickets, I don’t know. But at 18, I was now able to visit him in the county jail. So my older sister, Kelly, and I went to visit him out of a sense of duty and goodwill.

At the jail, we waited for him in a room separated by glass, like the kind you see on television. He entered wearing an orange jumpsuit (this was 9 years ago, maybe they didn’t really wear orange jumpsuits and my mind is just filling in the details). The important part of this was the little, penciled map he gave us. Before going to jail, he’d hidden a bunch of gold and silver coins in a coffee can somewhere in Salt Lake. The county, not the city. To paint a picture, the county has roughly 740 square miles of hill and dale, with just under a million inhabitants. The treasure was somewhere in that area. I didn’t live in
Salt Lake City or County and was only familiar with the portion of Salt Lake near the U of U, where I had gone for ballet lessons for many years.

So, we gave the map to our cousin Mark who was building a house close to where the map indicated the coffee can pot o’ gold was. He didn’t find the treasure. When Kelly told my father, he was doubtful and suspicious. All his worst fears were coming true. The can was gone . . . supposedly. I’m sure my father suspected Mark. Or Kelly. Or my mother (she had used some of the other money she’d found in the past to pay for our braces—since my dad never paid child support). Well, a little while after he got out of jail** he went looking for his wayward treasure. And he gloated when he found it:

“Nik, remember the money I hid?”

“No. Well, which money?”

“The money in the coffee can, remember? When I gave you a treasure map to find it?”

“Noooo.” My dad never forgets anything. It’s part of his problem. He dwells on things. Sometimes it’s funny.

“Remember when I was in jail and you and Kelly visited me?” Then I remembered because how could I forget seeing my dad in jail?

“Oh. That money. What about it?” I thought he was going to accuse me or someone of stealing it.

“I found it,” his grin was very large and a little frightening.


Mark must have read my father's map wrong. I don’t see how, since it was so accurate.

Years later, imagine the possibilities when
Stoker digs his old metal detector out of storage at his parent’s home. Okay, okay. So I wasn’t that eager to go metal-detecting around my mom’s yard. I don’t know the measurements of it, but it’s not small. Last night, Cassi, Stoker and my step-dad, Terry (who I sometimes call my dad when I write here, to be more concise and because he’s been a better father to me than my biological father. I just don’t want you getting them confused), took the metal detector for a spin. Eventually I joined them.

All we found was a bunch of rusty nails and a large, metal pipe. Even the spots under the cherry trees, where I always suspected a buried treasure would be, were empty of anything but a few nails (my sisters, my cousins and I liked to hammer nails into the railroad ties for fun). The only triumph came when we found an old metal sprinkler head that went missing 8 years ago or something. Terry was thrilled.

Anyway, this story was going to be about our adventures with the metal detector, but ended up being more about my father. Stories involving him are more entertaining anyway. As far as digging for treasure in my mom’s yard goes, there might still be something under the old cherry trees. The metal detector only detects about 6 inches into the ground. I’m sure my crazy father must have buried something there.





*During the crazy years while my mom was still married to him, my sister Kelly found between $3000 and $4000 in one of the vents. After the divorce, my mom or Terry found $2000 in the jacket of one of her records. This was years ago, when $3000 was more like $300,000.


**side note: growing up my family played Monopoly a lot. My dad was always in jail. Seriously. Either for getting doubles three times in a row, or for getting the “go to jail” thing. I haven’t played in years and don’t remember if that’s a space you land on, or if it’s one of those “chance” cards. Well, it’s like life imitates fiction. In reality he’s in jail all the time.

1 comment:

sassy (or would that be sassi?) said...

Some day, Nik, I'll invent a super-powered metal detector and we'll find that treasure under the cherry tree. Or at least a spoon in the old sandbox. Which is way cooler than rusty nails.