As small towns go this one was no less normal than all the rest of the sleepy burbs in the midwest. Blessed or cursed with a valley, it all depends upon your frame of reference nicknamed Sinus Valley for it’s ability to clog up your sinuses like you were producing a double cheese pizza right there in your sinus cavity. “Look ma no breath.” The bad thing about not breathing through your nose is you must then breathe solely through your mouth. Do you realize how many germs don’t get filtered making your immune system work overtime when you cannot breathe normal?
Richie was a friend of mine as far back as I could remember. He liked to tear things up. I mean he really seemed to live for the destruction of physical things. There were broken toys all over his yard. I only remember seeing things still intact on Christmas Day when I visited Richie to see what he got from Santa Clause or his parents, whichever school of belief you subscribe to. Before I left for the comfort of my own home though he would have already destroyed one or two more newly acquired gifts from that elusive giver.
Next door to Richie lived Becky. I was in love with Becky the first time I saw her on her front porch. I was coming over to see what he destroyed since my last visit and we were on his front porch so I asked him about this girl next door. He said she just moved in over the weekend. I told him she never even looked up when I came cutting across her yard singing Fats Dominoes Blueberry Hill in a pretty healthy voice.
“She’s out of your league man, give it up.” He said.
“Hey, let’s go down by the creek and throw rocks at birds or beer cans.” I said.
“My dad has some beer bottles in the garage, we can take them down there and set ’em up and do a little target practice. I’ll get my BB gun and you go home and get yours and we’ll meet at the creek.” He said.
“Okay.” I said and set off to get my Daisy BB gun.
Just as I got near my house I saw my dad lifting a long dark green box out of the bed of his pickup truck. The letters U.S. ARMY were stenciled on the top and sides. It smelled old when he popped the latches and lifted the lid. The box was made of wood and inside was a strange looking device that looked like a giant metal detector.
“What is it Dad?”
“It’s an old mine detecter I found at a surplus electronic store.”
“Does it work?” I said with excitement dripping from my voice.
My dad always had a stone cold serious look on his face but I’ll never forget the big smile that lit up his face when he switched on the power and the red light came on and the meter jumped. You could hear a loud crackle coming from the earphones attached to the base unit. It had adjustable straps so you could wear it on your back and leave your hands free to hold the pole with a square flat piece down to the ground and look for things like buried bombs I guess.
I ran as fast as I could to get down to the creek and tell Richie about my dads mine detector. I didn’t even bother to grab my Daisy because I changed my mind and wanted to see what this old detector would find in our back yard. Richie had already set up the bottles and was loading his BB gun.
“I’m going to stay and shoot these bottles and then I’ll come over and see this thing you’ve got.” Richie said.
“Alright Richie.” I said and turned and ran as fast as I could to get back home again.
My dad showed me how to work it and since it was so heavy he carried the big base unit and I swung the square piece back and forth.
“Swing it a little slower Tanner.” My dad said.
When I did, I began to hear faint little squeals in the earphones. I found one of the squeals that was louder than all the rest so I put down the detecter piece and pushed the small spade into the dirt. It was hard earth and I couldn’t get much dirt out. I dug a couple more times and up came a bottle cap with Root Beer painted on the top of the cap. It was still pretty bright paint after I spit on it and wiped it on my pants. My dads eyes twinkled when I did that.
Looking back now, I realize how close my dad and I were at that time.
Since I couldn’t carry the base unit and swing the detecter part too, I went and got my old radio flyer wagon and set the heavy piece in there and pulled it along around the yard.
Richie came walking around the garage and into my backyard. He watched as I swung the detecter pad and listened for the squeals. I told him to pull the wagon behind me. He did and he didn’t complain, probably because he knew I didn’t want him to break it like he always broke everything he touched.
We had covered maybe three quarters of the back yard when my eardrums were almost blown out. It was such a loud squeal that went from a low growling to a high piercing screech. I tore the headphones from my head. I looked at him and he looked at me. I grabbed the spade and after a couple of tries, I knew I needed a real shovel for this one.
I found it back in the corner of the garage where it always stood. I put it in the ground and jumped with both feet to get it to go deeper into the earth. I dug maybe three or four inches and got the detecter to check if I was getting any closer.
“Why did you do that?” He said. “It didn’t move or go anywhere.”
“I just want to see if the sound changes and if I’m getting closer to whatever it is.” I said.
I couldn’t tell if it got any louder since the headphones were now laying on the ground. So I kept digging. I jammed the shovel into the dirt a couple more times and it was on my third try I hit something solid. Richie said he saw sparks fly when I hit whatever it was. My heart was racing as I got the spade and continued unearthing this large chunk of metal that had clearly been buried here for many, many years.
“It had to be buried here before we were born.” Richie said and I agreed with him.
It took both of us after two and a half hours of digging to pull this rectangular metal box up and out of it’s hiding place. It was rusted but it still held its contents like it was designed by the builders of Fort Knox. That is if there was anything in it. The old lock on the front wasn’t as strong as the box itself and it broke open after maybe five hits with a heavy ball peen hammer.
I looked at Richie and he looked at me with all the excitement and anticipation two ten year old boys could stand and we both looked down as the lid begrudgingly squeaked on its hinges revealing its prized contents.
We expected gold or money or maybe a gun but the excitement only diminished a little as we opened up the folded piece of paper that felt more like canvas than paper. In faded red and black ink was what looked like a map.
Richie said, “you think it’s a treasure map Tanner?”
“I don’t know, it’s kind of hard to read.” I said.
Richie said he had to be getting home for supper, so I began filling the hole back in but it wasn’t enough since the space the box occupied had to be filled in as well. I went around the garage to get more dirt to bring the ground back to its original level again.
I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about the map and where it would lead me and then what I would find after deciphering and following the map to it’s treasure, if in fact it was a treasure map at all. Why was it buried in my back yard in the first place?
The possibilities are endless, I finally fell asleep.