Bear with me here…it’s winter and I can’t go looking for Forrest’s treasure til spring….
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 2011
Finally, someone in my family has taken an interest in looking for Forrest’s gold with me. His name is Devlin and he’s almost three.
He’s a smart kid and after watching trains on YouTube with him until my brain hurt the other day he listened patiently as his father and I talked about the next place I would be looking for Forrest’s chest of gold. Devlin didn’t interrupt but did seem to be interested..paying attention. When the conversation began to die down Devlin asked, “What’s gold?”
Now, a person can answer that question in a multitude of ways. I considered and then rejected bringing out my Periodic Chart of the Elements. Not because I thought it would confuse him but because my chart is from when I was in high school and it only lists 101 elements. Not the 111 physicists claim today and I really hated showing him an incomplete chart. It could be something he would hold against me for years. I needed another way to explain gold…and I needed it quick because someone almost three has a fairly limited attention span. Kathy and I don’t happen to have any bronze chests filled with gold and jewels laying around the house so an actual treasure chest was not possible. Kathy has a few rings and earrings and things that are gold, but I really didn’t think that would leave him with the kind of impression that I had in mind. So I quickly grabbed an old, heavy, solid brass candlestick. “This”, I announced proudly, “is gold.”
I handed it to Devlin.
“Its heavy.”, he claimed.
“And that’s a good thing.” I explained. “Because the more something made of gold weighs the more valuable it is. And for something to be a treasure it should be valuable.”
“Okay.” He said. And handed the candlestick back to me. Then went over and played with his Thomas The Train set on the living room floor.
I felt as if I’d failed. I hadn’t made the impression on him that I’d hoped for. He didn’t jump up and down as I had imagined and start looking around the house for more treasure. In fact, if anything, it was fair to say that he was uniformly unimpressed. But, I convinced myself I had planted a seed. Some day he would understand the ages old relationship between gold and humans. Some day he would value this early grand lesson in world economics.
A few minutes later Devlin came up to me and asked if I would watch trains with him again. I politely begged off and then he asked if we could go look for the treasure.
I could barely contain myself. Finally, someone in my own family was taking an interest in a treasure hunt. Someone had been bitten by the same little bug that bit me years ago. A comrade…a fellow searcher…an adventurer…albeit a mere almost three year old one.
I began to devise a plan in my head. “Of course.” I said. Lets start looking right after dinner. Okay?”
“Sounds good.” , he said, and went back to playing with Thomas on the floor.
The game was afoot!
I quietly disappeared into the garage where my stash of odd things I can’t bear to toss live. I found my old Boy Scout first aid kit, my ice axe, a couple of white garage rags I hadn’t used yet and some other items important to the outcome of our treasure hunt. I cut up the rags and made a quick trip out to the woods behind our house and then came back to my map collection and dug out a fake pirate treasure map that I got at the Seattle Zoo twenty years ago. It actually shows all the places in the zoo where you can get something to eat and find a restroom. But for my purposes it was perfect. It looks like old, weathered parchment and is illustrated with a pirate head, a sea monster and a fancy compass rose. I took a thick Magic Marker and put a big black “X” on it. I rolled it up and took it back into the house and hid it until after dinner.
Devlin seemed to take forever to finish his dinner. Then a yummy apple pie for dessert, home made by his gramma. Some conversation about who-knows-what. Then there were dishes to be washed. Finally it was over and we could start.
I broke out my map. I showed him the picture of the pirate and told Devlin his name was Alfredo Jose San Cristobel Santa Clara Conquistadoro, a famous and murderous pirate who plundered ships and then burned them to the waterline. I told him it was the only map of buried treasure on Lummi Island in the known world. I told him about the Spanish pirates that used to sail the Salish Sea. I told him about their stolen treasures from far away China and Seattle. Gold and Jewels and sometimes actual shrunken heads. Devlin seemed impressed. I showed him the big black “X”. I announced that the treasure could be found at that spot and we, Devlin and Dal, were going to head out to the deep and dark forest of Lummi Island and find the treasure of Alfredo Jose San Cristobel Santa Clara Conquistadoro.
I helped Devlin put on his jacket and we went out to the truck. I pointed out my ice axe and told him it was the most important treasure hunting tool a man could have. Devlin agreed. I strapped him into the passenger seat. I put my ice axe between the seats and asked Devlin if he was ready. He was.
We drove on winding dirt roads and through places neither man nor beast had ever traveled before. After about five minutes of relentless and exhausting driving I asked Devlin if he could smell the treasure. He said he could. I knew we were close. I pulled over in my neighbors drive very close to the same woods I had been in before dinner. Devlin and I looked at the woods. We agreed it looked kind of scary. We opened our doors. I helped him out. I grabbed my ice axe. Devlin asked if he could carry it. I showed him how to keep the pointy parts away from his face and off we went, bravely marching into the deep and dark forest in this wild and uninhabited region.
Devlin was the first to spot it. A large “X” on the ground evidently made from white cloth torn into strips and pinned to the ground with common box nails. He felt this was the treasure place. I consulted the map. Looked up at the trees and checked the area all around us. I agreed.
Devlin scraped at the dirt with the ice axe directly under the “X”.
“Brilliant”, I thought.
He found a corner of it almost immediately. A green metal box with a red cross on it and a simple latch. He pulled it out of its hidey place and fiddled with the latch trying to understand its cryptic unlatching mechanism. Finally while holding the box upside down he undid the latch and two items fell out to the forest floor. Devlin lunged at the blue Thomas the Train figure, scooped it up and proudly showed it to me.
“Wow”, I said. “That’s terrific. You’re a lucky lad. I wonder if Alfredo Jose San Cristobel Santa Clara Conquistadoro knew you would be the one to find his treasure and knew you liked Thomas.”
“Probably.”, said Devlin.
“What’s the other thing?” I asked “There on the ground.”
Devlin put Thomas into his jacket pocket and picked up a small shiny coin with uneven edges.
“I don’t know.”, he said and handed it to me.
“Its a Spanish Piece of Eight“‘.”, I said. “its very valuable. It probably came from the pocket of Alfredo Jose San Cristobel Santa Clara Conquistadoro.”
Devlin took it and examined it for a mere moment before putting it in his pocket with Thomas.
“Well.” I said. It took two of us to find the treasure. Shouldn’t you split some of the booty with me?”
“Okay.” Devlin agreed and reached into his pocket and handed me the bright blue Thomas the Train. “That’s yours.”, he said.
“Well, wait a minute.”, I said. “Wouldn’t you rather have Thomas than an old silver Piece of Eight?”, I asked.
“No.”, he said. “I already have Thomas at gramma’s.”
It occurred to me that I had just been outwitted by an almost three year old who was now in possession of my precious 16th century Piece of Eight.
We cleaned up the area so no one would know we had been there. Packed up the treasure chest, the ice axe, the cloth and the nails and headed back to the truck. Devlin ran the whole way back with his hand in his jacket pocket.
Apparently, its not that easy to outthink an almost three year old.