Treasure 2 of 3

Have you ever gone treasure hunting?

If looking for arrowheads (Native American artifacts) in the Flint Hills of Kansas, hunting for geodes on the banks of the Missouri River, and “gem mining” in the North Carolina mountains counts, then I have been treasure hunting.

Oh, and there is also river fodder in the Current River in Missouri. What is river fodder you ask? My best friend Russ lives 45 minutes from the Current River which is labeled a National Wild and Scenic River because it is not dammed, it is spring fed and crystal clear, and has rapids. Hundreds of thousands of people take day trips down the river each year in tubes and canoes, a great majority of whom are so intoxicated they have no business in a boat. When they hit the rapids, they tip over and lose their belongings in the water – river fodder.

One of my favorite activities in life is snorkeling. I could spend the entire day doing it and often have especially in the Current River. You can put on a mask and snorkel, get in the river and float for miles. Watching the fish and multi-colored gravel bottom of the river as you pass and having the sound of the water in your ears is mesmerizing. After a while, it is almost transcendental. Just when nirvana is approaching you spot something out-of-place, maybe a pair of sunglasses, a cooler, a shoe, a t shirt. You know the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. That mostly applies here, except on that rare occasion, when you find something of real value.

Over the past 25 years, Russ has probably spent more time on the Current River than 99 and 44/100 of the world population. When he is taking a break from his chiropractic practice, he is usually on the river with family and friends. He has pulled expensive sunglasses, several iPhones, knives by the bushel, cash, wallets, keys, a couple of guns, whole tackle boxes filled with fishing gear, plenty of fishing poles, lifejackets, paddles and even a canoe out of the river. He also found a diamond wedding ring and the tungsten wedding ring I wear from the Current River. Look for it on video or the next time you see me in person.

The real treasure is the time spent on the river with people you care about. If Russ decided to give up his practice and make his living off the treasures from the river, he would be a poor man indeed, and probably very lonely. (SEE CURRENT RIVER PICTURES HERE)

It’s the rare big finds that keep people on the hunt, but the numbers are not in favor of the hunter. Treasure finds its value in scarcity and discovering it comes at a cost.

For example, during the California Gold Rush (1849 – 1850?) nearly $2B US was extracted from the area. It is likely that 500,000 flocked to the Sutter’s Mill region during that era but one cannot deduce that each left $4,000 richer. Even with the comparative abundance of precious resources mined, the treasure only equated to wealth for the minority. The masses left penniless and probably broken in more ways than one.

I once took a group of boys to Reed Gold Mine in Midland, North Carolina, USA. It is the site of the first commercial gold mine in the US where, in 1799, Conrad Reed, son of farmer and former soldier, John Reed, found a 16-pound gold rock in the creek. It wasn’t the biggest chunk of gold found there. Some years later a slave named Peter found a 28-pound nugget there. The mine, now a historic site, has produced a tremendous amount of wealth. John Reed died a rich man but his treasure doesn’t make any of the 60,000 visitors each year any wealthier. In fact, when our group visited to do “gem mining”, our guide was speaking to us and suddenly pointed and cried out,

“What is that over there?”

While we turned our heads, she tossed gemstones in the creek behind us. We turned back and, imagine our luck, we found treasure in the creek just like Conrad!’

Of course, if you are already wealthy, you can buy treasure. If you have an extra $8M in your sock drawer you might consider the Flowing Hair Coin. Maybe a $30M diamond bikini is more your style. (It won’t cover much but people would remember your name.) If you are really interested in a splurge, you can try talking the Qatari royal family out of the Wittelsbach-Graff diamond. They got it from Graff in 2011 for a mere $80 million.

As we make our way back from Fantasy Island, there is a treasure purposefully hidden in the Rocky Mountains for any “Average Joe” treasure hunter to find. It was hidden by Forrest Fenn, an 86-year-old millionaire, former Vietnam fighter pilot, self-taught archaeologist, and successful art dealer in Santa Fe, New Mexico. If you decide to go on the hunt, you are looking for an ornate, Romanesque box is 10-by-10 inches and weighs about 40 pounds when loaded. You will also need this poem with the nine clues from “The Thrill of the Chase,” Fenn’s self-published autobiography:


As I have gone alone in there

And with my treasures bold,

I can keep my secret where,

And hint of riches new and old.

Begin it where warm waters halt

And take it in the canyon down,

Not far, but too far to walk.

Put in below the home of Brown.

From there it’s no place for the meek,

The end is drawing ever nigh;

There’ll be no paddle up your creek,

Just heavy loads and water high.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,

Look quickly down, your quest to cease

But tarry scant with marvel gaze,

Just take the chest and go in peace.

So why is it that I must go

And leave my trove for all to seek?

The answers I already know

I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak

So, hear me all and listen good,

Your effort will be worth the cold.

If you are brave and in the wood

I give you title to the gold.

Happy hunting!

It looks like 300,000 people (and counting) have done their level best to follow the clues. It has become a full-time obsession for some and caused a 54-year-old retired mechanic to lose his life. But so far, the box of gold and precious gems, thought to be worth well over a million dollars, is yet to be found.

Common things that are readily obtained by the masses are not generally considered treasure. This counts especially for internal treasure, the kind that gives lasting value at the level of our character.

At some point in our life we all probably wish God would be like the genie in the bottle and grant our wishes. Fortunately for us, He does not. But what if God spoke to you and told you He would give you anything you want? What would you ask for? Per ancient texts, that is exactly the situation in which Solomon found himself. In a classic move, he asked for wisdom (and got a ton of cash thrown in).

Solomon was renowned for his wisdom. He is credited as the author of several Biblical books and some non-biblical ones. He is not alone among the thought giants of history in his counsel to seek treasures such as wisdom, knowledge, understanding, courage, temperance, and a good name. For example, he said,

“How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her.”

Seeking non-financial treasures should not be confused as the antithesis of seeking financial (physical) treasure and one does not equal the cancellation of the other. Both are desirable because they afford us greater flexibility in life. They are also equal in their scarcity and difficulty in obtaining.

As Confucius said,

“By three methods we may learn wisdom, by reflection, which is the noblest, by imitation, which is the easiest, and by experience, which is the bitterest.”

Physical and non-physical treasure, however, are not of equal value or equal duration. It is helpful to remember that the non-physical treasures are the ones that cannot be taken away or corrupted.


Rick Burris


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