Trove, anyone?

ONE news item that seems to cheer everyone these days is the treasure find off the Florida Keys worth $400 million. It certainly has cheered treasure hunter Mel Fisher, who announces he is at last rich. And I suppose it cheers me in some perverse way, even though I am not the treasure-finding type. For most people, finding treasure is a lifelong dream. For me the dream is slightly tarnished ever since I did find a small treasure at the age of seven. Maybe when I say I found a treasure I am using the wrong word.

I had been reading ``Treasure Island'' for the first time, so for many days I was living out the story. I searched empty lots; I went looking for lost maps in empty houses, and I even carried a small compass around with me, just in case. This haphazard hunting may sound like a hopeless enterprise, but persistence did finally win out. After about a dozen digs in various places, I hit pay dirt. It was buried treasure all right, only 15 inches below the surface in a vacant lot.

My fortune consisted of silvery-looking objects in the form of six forks, five table knives, one large bent spoon, one dented napkin ring with flowery decoration, and a fancy mug with a broken handle. Also, oddly enough, there was a buffalo nickel.

I put the bulk of my treasure in a sack, hid it in my backyard and then went to the store and bought some ice cream with the nickel.

It is hard to explain, but the treasure grew to have a life of its own, which means I kept it for several years, delaying that moment when I could turn it into cash.

The day of decision finally came. I toted the sack down to a jeweler my family knew for an appraisal and possible settlement. Alas, it wasn't silver. In fact, it was appraised as worthless. The jeweler even told me I would have done better throwing the knives and forks away and saving the nickel.

How true. It was only an ordinary buffalo nickel then -- dated 1913 -- but if I had saved it until now it would be a real treasure.

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