NORMAN — Southern homes and buildings often served as hiding places for goods or money, buried by soldiers afraid of being captured. Sometimes family members hid belongings to keep them safe. Many never found the goods thereafter.
Monica wishes to refinish an old travel trunk dating back to her great-grandmother’s travels. Her aunt, who lives alone in the old family home, never cares about what is in the storage shack. Monica searches through the old travel trunk, hoping to empty it. To her surprise, she finds an aging map.
“I found this stuck to the bottom of the old trunk,” she tells her aunt. “Do you think it means anything?”
“I doubt it. Someone hid their money and already dug it up. Don’t you think so?”
“What if it shows you have buried treasure somewhere around here?”
“May be your great-grandmother, since it was her trunk.”
Monica decides to follow the “X” on the map. She digs a deep hole. She almost quits. Then she sees something. She quickly digs it up. It’s a rusty box. The lock comes off easily.
Monica catches her breath. Gold and silver coins, even expensive jewels. She sifts them through her fingers. Unbelievable. She shows her find to her aunt.
“That box might have a curse on it,” Aunt Minnie says. “It could be Indian gold and jewels. Maybe it belonged to a fleeing jewel thief. I wouldn’t feel safe a minute keeping it, would you?”
Monica shivers imagining all that. She buries the box in the same hole and hides the map.
Monica refinishes the old trunk and sells it for a good price. She decides to look for the tin box again, thinking maybe the box has value. She is scared when the tin box with its contents is missing.
Her Aunt knows nothing about it.
“Probably a ghost from the past,” she comments. “Or someone was watching you.”
Shared experiences matter. Even when the unexpected happens, most folks hope not to be alone.
Claudia and Martin travel home to visit relatives each summer from California. One time, they decide to drive by the place a youth center once stood that they helped build. Even though had been warned, they were shocked to see it completely destroyed.
“We moved the church and youth center to a brick building after the big storm,” her dad explains. “That ‘big one’ flattened the former church and pushed it over onto the center.”
Claudia cries to hear that.
“It’s sad to think of all the hours everyone spent building and finishing the center. All of it gone in a matter of seconds.”
“Yes, it’s a sad thing,” Martin agrees.
“Anyway, as the saying goes it’s an ill wind that blows no one any good,” her dad says. “When the old building blew over onto the center, it unearthed a great deal of money in bags. Talk about surprise. But no one claimed it, so we built the new church with it.”
Shirley Ramsey, a retired professor of journalism, lives in Norman.