Saturday, June 20, 2009

Treasure Hunting

My dad was, for the most part, a sane and rational man. Actually, I use "sane" rather loosely, but he was not one to dwell on intangible things. He did not go to movies or read fiction. He was a pragmatist.

So his one real departure is rather ironic. He believed unflinchingly in hidden treasures.

Florida is full of treasure, or so one is lead to believe. Growing up I was spoonfed stories of people finding Spanish pieces of eight on the beach after a hurricane. John Dillinger supposedly buried money from a bank robbery in the yard of a house where a huge beachside condo now stands. Plantation owners buried literal pots of gold before the Seminoles came through and burned their sugar mills to the ground. It was this Florida that my father grew up in and he spent a lot of time with a metal detector and entrenching tool in his hands.

We once bought a house in New Smyrna all based on a second hand story told to him by a patient who had worked on the house. The story was that the man's father had been the cook for a bunch of outlaws in North Carolina, I think. They all got killed or thrown in jail and he took off with all the gold. They buried it in North Carolina somewhere and the man's son eventually moved to Florida in the 1920's, bringing the remaining loot. My dad's patient had been hired to put bars on the windows of the house.

For me, two questions would have immediately popped up:

First of all, why would someone who is putting bars on his windows be dumb enough to tell someone the story?

Secondly, why would someone who had that much money choose to settle in a ratty little house in the middle of nowhere?

But those particular red flags were never raised in my dad's head. We bought the house and began using the metal detector as inconspicuously as possible around the yard.

Inconspicuously, I said. A middle aged white dude and his son digging holes in the yard of a house in the middle of the poor, black section of town. There were these two ancient guys across the street that would just sit out on their porch and watch us.

When we'd gone over the entire yard several times, we figured it was time to start on the house. Over the course of a hot Florida summer, we proceeded to completely demolish that house by hand and cart it away, a dump truck load at a time. The two guys across the street just watched us and shook their heads at the things crazy white people do.

We never did find anything of value. I can't
say I was all that surprised. But my dad never seemed disappointed.

And looking back, I guess he gave me a little nugget to carry with me.

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