The Red and Green Post

28 Jul 2006

An old tale found long ago on the Internet:

Two men were walking along a crowded sidewalk in a downtown business area. Suddenly, one exclaimed, "listen to that lovely sound of that cricket." But the other could not hear. He asked his companion how he could detect the sound of a cricket amid the din of people and traffic. The first man, who was a zoologist, had trained himself to listen to the voice of nature. But, he didn't explain.He simply took a coin out of his pocket and dropped it to the sidewalk, whereupon a dozen people began to look about them. "We hear," he said, "what we listen for." ~Kermit L. Long, American clergyman.

I'm so one of those dozen people who can't resist the sound of a coin on the pavement.

Anyway, a quick memory before getting to this post... It's some Christmas day, or maybe a birthday. I'm somewhere between 12 and 14 years old, and I've begged and begged my parents for a metal detector.They finally relented and bought me a White's Metal Detector -- a mid-range model -- as my "big gift" that year. Man, I totally freaked upon opening that thing up. This was "it." All those rumors of civil war gold, of Jesse James gang stashes, and of other legendary Midwestern treasures would be solved once and for all by yours truly. I immediately took a brand new Kennedy half-dollar with me out into the front yard, closed my eyes, and flipped the damned thing twenty or so yards behind my back. Then, I switched on the detector and set out in the frosty air to find it. (And, about two and a half hours later, I did.)

My daughter asked me recently if I'd ever found any money. It was an enjoyable question because it's one that I not only have a yes or no answer for, but one that I have an opinion about as well. The short answer is yes, I've found my share -- more than my share, most likely. Lots of stray tens and twenties, the occasional fiver, and a couple of larger caches. Never more than a hundred or so at once, unfortunately, but at least that much on a few occasions.

One of the more memorable times was a decade or so ago. I was returning some rented videos late one night, and walked past an interesting little paper rectangle in the parking lot. It was small and red, and it bore metallic gold paint that caused it to flash a little bit from the many neon signs and streetlights. I believe I walked past it on the way in but, on impulse, decided to pick it up on the way out.Yes, that's the kind of person I am -- perfectly happy to pick up trash if it's interesting. The thing had been rained on and clearly run over by a truck, but still caught my eye as something desirable. I'm kind of a simpleton that way, I think -- or, maybe just crow-like; shiny things attract me.

So, I snatched it up and took it to my car to clean with a few stray napkins. That's when I noticed the thickness. This wasn't just a piece of shiny paper; it was an envelope, and it *contained * something. Instinctively, I knew it had to be money. I immediately thought to myself:Where there's one shiny red envelope, there's bound to be more. So, I got back out of the car and casually walked around the parking lot. It was drizzling again.Various patrons of the movie rental store and the adjacent Thai restaurant no doubt thought I was crazy.

I showed them, though. Within a few minutes, I'd located three or four more similar envelopes. All totaled, the haul was seventy or eighty bucks, as I recall. Not bad.I kept the little red envelopes somewhere, not so much for luck as for a reminder that chance, as Pasteur said, favors the prepared mind.

"So, yeah," I told my inquisitive 11-year-old, "I'm always sort of on the look-out." Even if I were a millionaire, I think there'd still be a bit of a thrill to spying a twenty in the weeds along a path, snatching a saw buck from the floor of a department store, or just maybe finding that stack of hundreds out there somewhere.

For those of you who've read my BudMan chronicles, the latter (or, roughly the equivalent) happened to him one time. He's exactly like me in this regard -- probably much more so, come to think of it -- always scanning his surroundings for valuables. For example, he once excitedly yelled to my wife (his sister) to pull over along a pretty busy road near our house. He'd seen something valuable in the weeds. A minute after jumping out of the car, he came bounding back carrying a large bush axe -- something that thousands of other motorists had likely driven by, unaware of its value.

But, his big score came during a house demolition job. He'd been in an abandoned home, uninhabited since the 1950s. The owner told him he could have whatever he found inside, including any money he might come across. Apparently, the owner had already found some cash inside from a prior tenant.But, the man lacked BudMan's determination about such things. By the time my brother-in-law finished scouring the place "BudMan-style," he'd taken upwards of $30,000 out of the house -- all in $20 bills dated 1950-something. The kids had a good Christmas that year.

So, that's what I'm waiting for -- that Brinks truck that hit a perfect bump, that old duffel thrown out of some getaway sedan decades ago, that cache of gold coins buried underneath the garage during the depression.

My normal jogging route takes me near several banks and I suppose the regular proximity has stirred something within me lately -- those old tendencies to scan every street gutter and parking lot fence line. The people who find money, I believe, are often the ones who look for it. Yes, yes, there's something to be said, too, for the "lovely sound of that cricket." I'm not a total idiot, after all. But, like I said, it's just in my nature to think of things like "treasure" from time to time.That's why I love any treasure-related movies -- from Raiders of the Lost Ark to National Treasure. And, btw, I absolutely HATE movies where the treasure gets voluntarily tossed back at the end -- e.g., Titanic and that shitawful movieCongocome to mind.

Lately, I began to think back on when my last cash find was ... Six months or more, I believe. I'd spotted a twenty in the parking lot on the way into work one morning. Yeah, it's been long enough, I figured; I'm due again. And then, on my way home from work yesterday, it happened. I was on that same busy road, not far from where BudMan produced an axe from the tall weeds. A distinctive green paper rectangle shot out from underneath the car ahead of me. I couldn't quite zero in enough to determine the denomination, but it was meant for me -- that much I knew. Unfortunately, I was in no position to pull over or turn around without causing a multi-car pile-up, so I made the split second decision to take a pass. It killed me to do it, though. I have to wonder now if my money-finding mojo is still intact, you know?! We shall see ...

Original Comments

Below, are the original comments on this post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On July 31, 2006, Kevin Wolf wrote:

My brother is of your ilk; I am not, which I do think is too bad sometimes.

[sound of crickets]

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