For some reason I can’t completely explain, I have always been fascinated by pirates. Not the ones you hear about today, but the swashbuckling ones I watched in countless movies when I was a kid.
Somewhere, my parents have pictures of me dressed up more than once like a pirate for trick or treat, and when my kids came along they were all dressed up at least once like a pirate before they went out begging for candy.
I’m not sure, but I’m pretty certain I must have told me mother I wanted to be a pirate. When it comes to my kids, it likely had something to do with my distaste for store-bought Halloween costumes. I could never see the point in paying for a costume when, with just a little effort, I could create a fairly decent, and more original, one on my own.
Maybe it had something to do with seeing the “The Swiss Family Robinson” at the Roselawn Drive-in in Allensburg when I was young, or maybe it was the countless afternoons we spent as kids “sword fighting” – using sticks as swords and metal trash can lids as shields. More than all of that though, my fascination with pirates was likely because they were always searching for treasure. I have always been intrigued by the idea of looking for hidden treasure.
And that is why a U-Haul trip to Springfield when I was a junior or senior in high school has a special place in my book of memories.
Back in those days we had a relative we called Aunt Annie that lived in Springfield. I don’t think that was her actual name, but I do know that we visited her a time or two when I was a kid, and that her husband, Jesse Brewer, had been a renowned maker of fine wooden furniture once upon a time.
He must have died fairly young, because I never met him. But I heard enough tales about Jesse and Aunt Annie when I was growing up that they piqued my interest.
One tale was that if anyone from the family named their child Jesse, they would receive a diamond ring that Aunt Annie’s husband had owned. I always wondered why, since my parents named me Jeff, they didn’t just go ahead and name me Jesse. The way I figured it back then, that would have entitled to me to ownership of the ring, but I guess that was just the stuff of childhood daydreams.
Jess’ antiques must have earned him a fair amount of money, because one of the other tales was that Aunt Annie had money (I preferred to think of it as treasure), hidden all over her home. And I do know that to some extent at least, that tale was true.
Not long after Aunt Annie passed away in about 1978, a great-uncle and my grandfather made a trip to her home. I do not know exactly how much money they found, but it was more than a small amount. And there were rumors that there could still be more hidden in the house, maybe some of it in newspapers that lined the drawers of all that antique furniture in her home.
So, when my parents, grandparents and siblings loaded into a couple U-Hauls to go pick up many of those antiques one Saturday afternoon, I was more than a little excited. As soon as someone unlocked the door to the house, one of my brothers and I started tearing through the paper in those old drawers. We looked and looked and looked some more, and about the time the excitement had wore off, one of us came across an envelope hidden inside the newspaper in a drawer. And when we opened the envelope – there it was, hidden treasure!
If I remember correctly, it was $400-plus in cash. We took off running, hooping and hollering, to share our excitement with everyone else. Eventually, my grandmother decided the loot would be shared evenly with all those present – which was fine, but not the same as my brother and I splitting it.
We spent the rest of the afternoon searching every drawer we could find, until we finally had to load up and head home. When we got home we unloaded the antiques into our next-door neighbor’s barn and then we started hunting some more. At some point, I think it was my sister that found another envelope. It had a handful of $1 bills in it, and I believe grandma let us kids split them evenly between ourselves.
I have always suspected that my parents hid that last envelope when we were not looking, and that they likely placed it so that my sister would find it, since my brother and I had already found one. But if they did, they have never fessed up.
Later on, my brother and I got to talking about what we could have done with the money in that first envelope if we had kept it to ourselves. It would have been a lot of cash to a couple high school boys back in the 1970s.
But that would not have been right, and besides, I was happy as it was. I had cash – hidden treasure – in my pocket.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.