Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Treasure Hunters

Caribbean Treasure Hunters (audio transcript, 1981)

Well this all took place some time in the fifties. Fifty five maybe? I was 8 or 9 at the time. At that time we were living not too far out of Salem, Massachusetts. And I guess you know that whole area has a sort of association with witches and the like - lot of nonsense obviously, just some poor women all in the wrong place at the wrong time. Anyway, the other thing that whole area has, Boston in particular, is a history with pirates. It was a major trading port y'see, so a natural place for all sorts of interesting characters and ne'er do wells to turn up. And ever since I was little, you would hear this old one and that old one talking about where they'd heard buried treasure was and how to find it. From Misery Island off Salem up to Long Island itself that whole coastline was a pirates paradise. So they said. I was never really one for pirates, Cowboys were more my thing, but my dad, he'd been obsessed since he was a boy himself. My grandfather had dazzled him with all sorts of tall tales when he was little, Henry Morgan, Edward Teach, Anne Bonny, all the greats. Well when something catches a real hold of you that young, sometimes it holds on forever. That's how it was with my dad. He learned to sail, spent weeks on end looking over old maps and sea lanes. In fact, he even proposed to my mom in the Captain Kidd restaurant on Redondo Beach. I know, how romantic?

Lots of folks believed Kidd had buried his treasure elsewhere though, there were all sorts of stories about the Oak Island Gold...the money pit? No? It's an island off Nova Scotia. The buried treasure is apparently down at the bottom of a sinkhole protected by all these traps. The stories go way back centuries. Plenty of people had been looking, most of the island was like swiss cheese all the holes that had been dug over the years. But my dad reckoned he had a lead no one else had explored. Sure.

These treasure hunters, there's a whole network of them, it's like a club or something, all of them sending one another clues and information on the promise of being cut into the deal whenever something gets found. Lots of fakers and conmen in amongst that, and I daresay my dad must have fallen foul of some of these people over the years. We had so many treasure maps in our house I used to wonder why we didn't live in a palace. Anyway, he'd taken up with some English guy, and they had ben writing letters to one another, he would read bits of the English guys letters out at the dinner table in a sort of Lavender Hill Mob voice. This guy claimed he had a machine that would be able to get safely down into the money pit and check if there was really any treasure there at all. Well my mom was near at the end of her rope with dad's treasure hunting and how much it was costing us, and she warned him that if he went after this, if he spent money on some crazy machine, that she and I would be out the door for good.

The next day, it was he and I that were out the door, really early before mom woke. I was real upset at first, worried I wouldn't see her again, worried we'd get lost. I think I was happy he took me along, I just didn't want to stay away for ever. And even at that age, I knew my dad wasn't as reliable as my mom. I probably had more sense than he did. Well I mean, clearly I did, he'd just kidnapped me to go looking for treasure. He kept telling me we'd be going back, he really believed we were heading off to get rich and that when we went back home to mom with all this treasure, everything would be forgiven.

We met the guy somewhere before the Canadian border, he had sailed over from England with this massive crate. I think the deal was that dad had the location and the English guy had the machine, so a sort of fifty fifty thing? Anyway, while he and dad went out to discuss the specifics, I was left in a motel with the crate. Any kid would have looked. Any kid. So I did, I pulled at the front of the crate until there was enough of a gap. I think I was expecting it would be some sort of digger, but it wasn't, it was a robot. I know how that sounds. But that's what I saw. And what's more, it saw me. It's eyes lit up in the dark of the crate and then, it started talking. It had a funny voice, kind of rusty sounding? It asked me to let it out. I said I couldn't or I'd get into trouble. It asked me where it was, and I told it that it was heading for Canada to look for pirate treasure...that sounds weird when you say it out loud...anyway, it asked if it was Kidd's treasure. When I said yes, it started trying to get out of the crate, saying that we shouldn't disturb what Kidd had hidden, that it wasn't treasure at all. I was starting to get real scared, and that's when my dad and the other guy came back. They were in a real hurry, and ran out to the guys truck with the crate, with the robot still trying to get out. My dad didn't even look back when they drove off. The police turned up right after that, my mom had them tailing us. Didn't take too long to get back home to her, she just hugged me for hours. We never saw dad again. I hope he found what he was looking for, and that it was as dangerous as the robot said it was.

A wee fictional diversion from my kids book, Tin Jimmy, set in and around Inverclyde and involving lost of different local myths, legends and monsters, including Captain Kidd, you can read more of Tin Jimmy on the Stramashed blog

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