Buried Treasure Tea Bags
Greed was in the air, and Leroy was not immune.
Late June, 2002
The weather gets hot around here in June. Mr. Henry still pedals around with a rake strapped to his bike, so it looks like he has a cowcatcher on it, but I don't see him actually using it much. But he still makes his rounds as best he can, despite his diminishing capacity for manual labor. Even Mr. Henry can't outsmart a calendar.
Leroy keeps plenty busy, though. From what I've said about him before, you might think he's lazy, but that's not really the case. He just has a diminished capacity for delayed gratification. It's hard for him to work hard on a Monday and wait for Friday to get paid. But he can be a real ball of fire if the payoff is quick.
He was definitely all in a lather when he came by my house Saturday morning. I was out front giving a pep talk to the azaleas when he drove up.
He looked up and down the road, then came over and whispered, "I got me a treasure map!"
"Treasure? What kind of treasure?", I asked.
Leroy looked around again. "Confederate treasure! Bars of gold! The map's signed by a Colonel who buried it to keep it away from Sherman!"
"Let me see it!", I said, but he backed away. "I got it hidden in my truck."
I looked at his truck, which had progressed to only two thirds pink over the months he's been gradually buying paint. It sure seemed like a place nobody would look for treasure. "So where’d you get the map?"
"Found it out behind my trailer this morning, stuck in the dirt. I don't know why I never noticed it before."
I’m cynical enough that this sounded a bit too good to be true, but Leroy seemed devoid of doubt. I tried to get more out of him. “So where’s the treasure?”
”In Mrs. Thompson’s yard. And she’s out of town visiting her sister, so I can get to it if I move fast!” I gave him a shot of raised eyebrow, but he quickly came back. “Don’t worry, I’m gonna give her half the money.”
He headed on toward town. I knew it was time to mow the grass, but my mind kept wandering down to Mrs. Thompson’s yard instead. I told my wife I needed gas for the garden tractor, and tossed the gas can in the truck.
I took a slight detour on the way to Mr. Manoor’s store, and checked out Leroy’s progress. He had started digging and was about two feet down. He saw me and waved. “This is hard work! But even after I give Mrs. Thompson her third, I’ll still have enough for a new truck! I might even get a new trailer!” He went back to digging, and I went on to the store.
I took my time, and filled up the truck, and talked to Mr. Manoor, and generally wasted enough time so that it seemed worthwhile to go by Mrs. Thompson’s house on the way home. This time, though, the scene was different.
Mrs. Thompson’s usually immaculate yard looked like the set for a WWI movie, and Leroy was sitting dejectedly in the middle of the mess. “I just don’t understand it! I checked out the map real careful, and I know I dug in the right place, but all I found was an RC bottle and one old bicycle pedal. That Colonel must have made a mistake. It’s just not fair. And I was gonna give a bunch of money to the Children’s Home out of my one fourth share, too. It’s just not fair!”
About this time, Mr. Henry came slowly riding up. He always seems to show up in times of crisis. He listened to Leroy’s story, and nodded his head in all the right places, and seemed to be sympathetic. But then he pointed out something that had not occurred to Leroy.
“You know, Leroy, when Mrs. Thompson sees what you’ve done to her yard, she’s gonna make Sherman’s March To The Sea look like a fraternity road trip. You got some cleanin’ up to do.”
Mr. Henry walked over and surveyed the new cavern Leroy had dug. “Where’d you put all the dirt?”
“Well, “ said Leroy, “I was kinda excited, and it’s spread all over the yard.”
“There ain’t nothin’ gonna fill up that hole, ‘less you got a tree to put in it.”, said Mr. Henry.
“But I ain’t got a tree!” said Leroy, who was approaching a panicky state.
Mr. Henry seemed to be lost in thought for a while. ”Well, if you got five bucks, we can go see Miss Maybelle and maybe get one of her leftovers cheap. But you gotta park behind the store, since she don’t care for your truck too much. Just let me go in and do the talkin’.”
This seemed to be a good plan, so they headed out to Wal-Mart. I went home and mowed the grass, but I soon found myself drawn back to town. The new tree was in place, but the installation still looked messy. Leroy and Mr. Henry were surveying the situation. Finally, Mr. Henry snapped his fingers and said, “Pine Straw! That’s what we need. With enough pine straw, anyplace looks good.”
“But where am I gonna get that much pine straw?”, said Leroy. “That was my last five bucks.”
Mr. Henry’s voice dropped to a whisper. “I know where we can ‘liberate’ some. But you gotta be discrete. Get my rake.” Caught up in the new plan, Leroy tiptoed over to Mr. Henry’s bike, picked up the rake, and snuck it into his truck. The two co-conspirators left again, and I went on home. There was too much Saturday left to waste on this foolishness.
I saw Mrs. Thompson after church on Sunday, and asked her how her trip was. I was waiting to see if she had any comments about her yard. After talking about her sister for awhile, she changed the subject and said, ”You know, I just don’t understand Mr. Henry. I asked him to plant a tree I’d ordered from Miss Maybelle, and he took care of it while I was gone. He did a real nice job, and mulched it and all. But when I went to pay him, he wouldn’t take but twenty dollars. But I gave him a pie, too!”
Well, that was an interesting piece of information. I decided to go see Mr. Henry down at his special place that afternoon. As I was going down the trail I met Mr. Bowman from the hardware store coming the other way. We spoke for a few minutes, and as he left he said, “You know, I just don’t understand Mr. Henry. I asked him to clean the pine straw out of my back yard, and he did a real nice job of it. But he wouldn’t take any money, just wanted some old stuff from the store. So I brought it down here, and he seems perfectly happy.”
As Mr. Bowman left he turned and said, “But Leroy’s not very happy! He’s visiting Mr. Henry, and he’s ranting and raving about some silly thing!”
And so he was. Leroy was storming around the clearing waving what I figured was the treasure map. Mr. Henry was just quietly sittin’ in his green chair and watchin’, no conversation being necessary. He waved me over and poured me some tea.
Mr. Henry had a new hat. I wouldn’t call it a cowboy hat, since it would scare any self respecting cow. It was more a cowboy singer hat, bright blue, way too tall, and trailing curly ribbons down the back.
He saw me looking at it and whispered, “Twenty five bucks at the GoodWill!. I been eyein’ it for weeks.”
After a while, Leroy calmed down a bit and sat down. He threw the map on the ground in disgust.
I waited a decent interval, then picked up the paper and started checking it out. Leroy started to object, but decided it didn’t matter anymore.
A few things about the map kind of jumped out at me.
“Leroy, did you notice this Colonel’s name? It’s N. Ronald Andersen.”
“So what?,” he said. “Lot’s of them guys back then parted their names in the middle.”
“And this map,” I said, “It’s real complete. It even shows the propane tank and the water meter. Didn’t that strike you as a bit odd for 1864?”
On hot afternoons this time of year, you can look off to the southwest, and watch the sky slowly and majestically turn from blue to brown to black, punctuated by increasingly frequent flashes of lightning, as a major storm develops. Leroy’s face looked a lot like that as his feeble brain began to make a few connections.
But before the storm struck, Mr. Henry called out, “Leroy! I got a box of stuff I don’t need, so you can have it. Come have a look.”
Leroy, always easily distracted, walked over to Mr. Henry and opened up the box. It held a full dozen cans of bright green spray paint. This real treasure ended all discussion of the previous day’s travails, and Leroy broke out in a broad smile.
I put down the map and tried to puzzle things out. I had a feeling that somehow great crimes had been committed, and I tried to put everything together. I reviewed the cast of characters. Mrs. Thompson was happy with her bargain tree planting, and Mr. Bowman had a clean yard and less junk in his storeroom. Leroy was happily inspecting every can of paint, getting a satisfying rattle from each one.
Mr. Henry had gotten up and moved over to where his mirror was set up, so he could properly adjust the ribbons on his new hat.
My duty was clear. I went over and helped
myself to the last piece of pie.