I studied the ground below my U.S. Keds. It was a chilly day, but tolerable in shirt sleeves. I plunged the blade of my shovel into the sand.
“I bet there’s treasure right here.”
Cousin watched me make a hole. He picked up a red worm.
“Let’s just dig up a few more of these and go fishing.”
“No. I’ve been reading about buried treasure and there’s always something beside trees. That’s where people hid their money back in the Olden Days.”
The wide oak spread its bare limbs overhead. It had been there more than a hundred years, shading at least two houses in the distant past, now covering a hay barn and corn crib.
“How do you know that?” Cousin picked up another worm.
“Well, I read a story in Reader’s Digest the other day about treasure buried under a tree somewhere called Oak Island.”
“Was it buried under an oak tree?”
“That’d be my guess. Anyway, the guy who wrote it thinks a pirate buried millions of dollars there, so people are up there digging it up. Then I read a book about gold buried all around Texas during the Depression. So, what better place to hide jars full of money than here?”
“From what I’ve heard, our kinfolks didn’t have two nickels to rub together back then. They didn’t even have paint for the houses.”
“That’s because they saved all their money and didn’t tell anybody they had it.” I turned up another worm. Cousin picked it up and went into the hay barn. He came back a few minutes later with a coffee can.
“At least we’ll have bait when you give up.”
I shoved the blade in deeper.
“I’m not giving up. There’s something down here.”
He was right. I hit a thick root and moved over a foot to dig some more.
“That’s what people would do if they were burying their money. If they hit a root, they moved over.”
“They could have moved over the other way.”
I paused. “Well, maybe. Hey, I hit something.”
Suddenly interested, Cousin leaned over the shallow hole.
“Wouldn’t they bury it deeper?”
“No. Who wants to dig down three or four feet if you need a couple of dollars out of your jar.”
“I doubt they’d bury just a few dollars.”
“They kept the folding money on top of the gold coins.”
I turned up a rusty bolt.
“That’s not gold.”
“No, but I bet it’s a marker so they’d know where the money is.”
“They’d remember it was on the right side of the root.”
“It doesn’t work that way.”
Cousin collected a few more worms that were startled to be out of the ground and in the chilly air.
“There’s nothing on this side of the root.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because the ground hadn’t been disturbed here.”
“You know that how?”
“Because it’s hard to dig. Ground that has been disturbed is softer.”
“How do you know all this?”
The next exploratory hole was on the opposite side of the thick root. I turned up broken crockery, glass, and unidentifiable pieces of metal.
“This is nothing but junk.”
The Old Man appeared around the barn.
“What’re you two outlaws up to? Going fishing?”
“No. We’re digging up buried gold.”
“How’d you know there was any there?”
I explained what I’d read while he studied the results of my efforts.
“Well, you might be right.”
Cousin added more worms to his can as I straightened with interest.
“Sure. Some of your kinfolk are still burying money even today.” He pointed at the broken glass. “That looks to me like a Mason jar. Somebody could have buried their money, then broke the jar digging it up. There might be another one around here somewhere.”
“I’ll keep digging, then.”
“You do that.” He watched Cousin head for the barn. “You going to get another shovel?”
“No. I’m getting a fishing pole.”
Ten minutes later they were down at the pool, watching bobbers as I dug up some more broken crockery, a patent medicine bottle, a rusty ax head, and lots of glass, but no money or gold.
But I don’t feel bad about it. Even today they’re still spending millions of dollars digging on Oak Island, and I’m looking at the ax head I’m still using today.
I’d say I was successful, because one man’s treasure might be a modest discovery that sparks ideas and memories.
Reavis Z. Wortham is an award-winning outdoor writer with family ties to Lamar County. He is the author of “Hawke’s Target.”