Monday, April 24, 2017

COLUMN: Treasure Found

Oh wow, guys. I may have found my true calling. If anyone has an opening for a full time Treasure Hider, my resume is now padded with experience.

If you haven't been reading my column lately, let me get you up to speed. About a month ago, I wrote a column about Oak Island, an unassuming piece of land off the coast of Nova Scotia long-rumored to harbor lost treasure. The island's current owners are employing an arsenal of modern technology in attempts to find the fabled cache once and for all. That's pretty cool, but also kind of sad. A mystery like Oak Island shouldn't be solved with ground-penetrating radar. It should be solved with a whip and a fedora and outrunning giant balls through tunnels.

As technology blossoms, our world loses more of its mystery. I, for one, appreciate a little mystery in my life. Hence, I jokingly proposed that a million of you send me $1. I would then take that million bucks, hide it, and leave clues throughout my columns for future generations of treasure hunters and dreamers to pore over. If I ran the world, the world would be awesome (for a week, until all of society collapses because I don't know the first thing about running a world.)

What I wasn't counting on, though, was a handful of people taking me seriously enough to send me dollar bills. Three of you mailed me $1 with no return address. So, being a man of my word, last week I took those three dollars and hid them somewhere in the Quad Cities. I then offered a series of clues in last week's column and a challenge for anyone of brave heart and mind, or at least anyone really bored, to seek and find The Lost Three Dollar Treasure of Shane Brown.

Grand kudos, then, and a well deserved tip of the fedora to Andy Denton of Moline, who went treasure hunting with his wife Madonna, their children Elena and Eli, sister-in-law Mary Schaecher, and niece Claire. Together, they are now three dollars richer. This is awesome for a number of reasons: (1) My clues must not have been as bad as I feared, (2) I was directly responsible for some springtime family fun, and (3) most importantly, I can now officially brag to people about "that one time I gave three dollars to Madonna." Great job, guys.

As for the clues? I went with what I know best: music geekery.

Clue #1: "Lonnie Donegan, 1956." In 1956, skiffle singer Lonnie Donegan released his biggest hit: a cover of Leadbelly's "Rock Island Line." The treasure was hidden in Rock Island.

Clue #2: "Dookie 1:4." If you grabbed your copy of Green Day's seminal album "Dookie," you might discover that Side 1, Track 4 is the song "Longview." The treasure was hidden at Longview Park.

Clue #3: "Be Mice Elf'ed." In 1969, Sly and the Family Stone released one of their funkiest tunes ever. You can probably sing along to it: "I wanna thank you, for lettin' me, be myself agaaaain." The actual title of that song is "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin.)" But notice the past tense in my clue: "Be Mice Elf'ed." I was trying to get you to put the artist in the past tense, too. Sly'ed. As in, "slide." The treasure was taped to the back of a slide in the playground.

Of course, I'm no real expert at hiding treasure, so my clues unintentionally held some red herrings. I hope nobody got "Rock Island Line" and went to the train tracks. Worse yet, one poor reader e-mailed because he got the Sly Stone reference but then spent the whole day peering under every stone at Longview Park, for which I humbly apologize and at least hope he appreciated the exercise on a beautiful spring day.

I learned some important things about treasure hiding, too -- mostly that there's NO way to act innocent when you're skulking around a playground at dusk with an envelope and a roll of duct tape. I spent less time writing the clues than I did rehearsing how I'd possibly explain all this to a cop.

When I drove through Longview Park that day and spotted a good half dozen people sleuthing about, I felt like a god. Well, for about ten seconds. Then I kinda felt like a pervert. Grown man, cruising slowly around a playground, leering at strangers? Not my best look. "What's the problem, officer? I just want to see if anybody wants my hidden treasure." It's probably a miracle I didn't need the $3 for bail.

Only I knew the location of those three precious dollars, and I tried not to let the power go to my head. I only cackled like a supervillain once, I swear. Okay, maybe twice. The point is, I hope it was as fun for you as it was for me. Based on MY level of glee combined with the e-mails I've received, I'm pretty sure we're going to have to make this an annual event. With more time to prep, we'll have better clues and maybe a better reward. Heck, I'll chip in a fourth dollar myself if need be. It turns out that the one thing more fun than a little mystery... is making some of your own. You have a year to prepare.

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