“C’mon boys,” my father urged, “time to get up.” My brother and I slowly came to life. “I’ve found a treasure map,” he continued, “but we’ve got to start right now — before the pirates come back for the treasure.” It was a sunny morning in the summer of 1964 and we were vacationing near Gloucester, Massachusetts. I was six and Roy was three.
The thought of searching for buried treasure got us hopping; every child knows about buried treasure, but how many are fortunate enough to come into possession of a genuine treasure map? We were ready in an instant, but after discussing it with my mother, my father decided we had time for breakfast before we set out on our journey.
“Show us the map, show us the map,” we sang in unison. Looking around to make sure no one was watching, my father carefully removed the map from his shirt pocket and revealed it to us. It was old and wrinkled; dotted lines traversed it and a giant “X” marked the spot where the treasure was buried.
“Where did you find it?” I asked.
“I bought it from an old sea captain,” said my father. My brother and I were in awe.
Dad paid for breakfast and we drove to the beach. We exited the green Buick station wagon, eager to begin our quest. “Aren’t you boys forgetting something?” my father asked. My brother and I looked at each other. “We’re going to need some shovels to dig up the treasure; you’d better take your shovels and pails.” We gathered our plastic shovels and beach pails.
“Alright,” said my father as he examined the map, “the first thing we have to do is find the rock with the dragon painted on it.”
“There it is,” I said as I pointed.
“Over there,” said Roy. The three of us walked to the dragon. My father examined the map closely. Dad was sure smart; he could even read old pirate maps.
“Now we have to walk twenty paces to the piece of driftwood,” my father said. We carefully walked twenty paces and, sure enough, we ran smack into a piece of driftwood.
“Now whadda we do?” I asked. He studied the map.
“Now we must face the sun and walk fifteen paces in that direction.” He showed us the map; there was a drawing of the sun on it and a dotted line connecting it with the driftwood. We began walking, counting our steps out loud.
“Giant crab!” my dad shouted. My brother and I jumped sky high.
“Dad,” I said, “don’t do that. Let’s find the treasure.” My brother started crying and it took my dad a minute to get him calmed down.
“Well,” he said, “it looks like now we have to go forty paces toward the tallest tree on the far side of the beach.” He showed us the map and we walked it off together. When we completed our forty paces, a giant “X” appeared in the sand. “Start digging,” my father smiled.
In an instant my brother and I were hard at work with our orange plastic shovels. We dug pretty deep, but found nothing. “I don’t think it’s here,” I said. “Me neither,” echoed Roy.
“Should we give up?” my father asked. “The pirates probably buried it pretty deep to make sure nobody would find it.” We resumed digging and soon hit something hard. We scraped at it with our hands and saw we had found a flat wooden surface.
As we dug more, we realized we had struck a wooden chest — about one foot long and one foot deep. With help from my father, we removed the heavy wooden box and set it down in the sand. The only problem was there was a lock on it.
“The sea captain gave me this key,” my father said. He handed it to me, but I couldn’t open the lock. “Let me try,” said my dad. He jiggled the key and the lock popped open. We opened the chest and saw more coins than we had ever seen — pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and half-dollars.
That was years ago. As I got older I began to question whether my father hadn’t staged the whole episode. After all, pirates probably stopped burying treasure long before the U.S. Mint started producing Kennedy half-dollars. The ancient treasure map could have been aged by pouring coffee on it. And why wouldn’t the sea captain have gone after the treasure himself?
Well, maybe my father pulled the wool over our eyes, but it was a great adventure for two little boys. And I still have the chest.