Treasure Hunting with Kids

Geek Culture People

Last month, I read a nice tribute to William F. Buckley’s passing, written by his son, Christopher. The article was mainly about their adventures sailing together – from the time he was a child until he was an adult. It was a wonderful collection of memories, but there was one that really jumped out at me:


"When I was six, my father contrived a treasure hunt. He bought an antique wooden chest and filled it with silver dollars. Also with some of my mother’s jewelry. He and a friend sailed across Long Island Sound one weekend and buried it on a sandy spit called on the chart Eaton’s Neck, but which I will always call ‘Treasure Island.’

He told me that he had come into possession of an old treasure map. It was something out of Robert Louis Stevenson, scratched on thick parchment in blood-red ink. The location of the treasure was indicated with compass bearings. I couldn’t sleep the night before we set out, I was so excited.

We sailed across. After digging up half of Eaton’s Neck, we found the treasure. I can still remember the thrill as my fingers scraped the chest’s wooden lid beneath the sand. When we got home, my father said it would be a nice gesture the pirate jewelry. Okay, I said grudgingly, but I’m keeping the silver dollars."

I thought this was such a great story that it was one that I had to replicate. After all, I’ve got a six year old son. Unfortunately, I have neither a sailboat, an ocean or an island (mostly due to the fact that we’re living in the middle of the country right now).

But our area is steeped in western lore. The Pony Express had its eastern terminal just an hour from our house. The Santa Fe trailhead is even closer. So I came up with the idea of creating a story about a stagecoach robbery. The Buckley’s pirates would become my horse-riding bandits. I’ve also procured a suitable wooden chest for the task. It’s about the size of a shoe box, complete with antiqued hardware. But it’s sitting empty in a closet right now, hidden away from young eyes.

I’ve come up with a few ideas of what to bury in this box: some confederate money left over from an old vacation to Civil War battlegrounds, a sheriff’s star and an old sepia-toned photo of a man with his horse. I also found some Civil War-era playing cards and a rope bracelet. I’ll reproduce a "wanted" poster to throw in there too. Beyond that, I’m a little stumped – any suggestions of what I should put in the treasure chest?

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