Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Playing to Win

I took a road trip to Kansas a couple weeks ago to visit a college roommate. I didn't go alone; with me I had another good friend of mine. She actually did all the driving; to and from Kansas. While my tiny naps may certify me as a lousy co-pilot, when I'm awake I can - and will - seek out the best hole in the wall stops to make the trip more adventurous. Or longer. However you want to look at it. 

At about hour seven of our car time, we discussed what we would do with money if we ever won the lottery. 

Pay off homes and farms, buy cattle, buy land, quit jobs, start businesses - the list went on and on. 

"Do you play the lottery?" I asked. 
"Heck no. I have better things to do with my money."
"Yeah, I know. Me too," I said. 

We continued to discuss a potential business plans, all with money neither of us have. 

"Let's do this. Let's win the lottery and split it even."


"So you'll buy the ticket tomorrow?"
"I'm not buying the ticket; You buy the first one and I'll do week two."

Funny thing about the lottery: You have to play to win. 

I then had a thought. The "jackpot" I'd heard about when I was just a young girl, from a local farmer. With a little more time and effort, there possibly was a way to hit gold... 
When the Hoover family settled the great land in the early 1800's, it was restless, wild and free. They came from North Carolina, and hadn’t seen the likes of these gently rolling green pastures in some time.

The land provided fertile soil for row crops that would, eventually, go to their grist mill they hadn't yet established.  Plenty of grass and sweet clover was abundant for the stock they would soon acquire. Perhaps best of all, the mighty Greens Fork River flowed just west of the new found land. There was so much promise nestled into the unbroken ground.

They decided that this piece of heaven, just two miles south of Greens Fork (a town not yet established), was ideal. 
And they began to build.
They found exactly the area they wanted to establish their homestead; a place where they could see the River should it rise, where they could build a cellar along the trickling stream to keep food cold and dry and where rolling hills provided a beautiful view of the sunset.

The Hoovers began building their progressive two-story log home in 1811. Much strong timber was available along the east side of the property.  Timber and long days of toil. That was just the beginning.
For some time, the Hoovers worked incredibly hard creating the life they had imagined.
Until the day word arrived at the Hoover Homestead: Indians were coming to regain their land.
Henry Hoover knew these warnings meant great trouble.  Should they stay, protecting his family certainly wasn't going to be easy. Defending this once-promised land was going to take some real strategic planning. Could it be that dropping everything he had now, for the sake of ultimately his family’s safety, was the best he could do? What about those dreams along the banks of the Greens Fork River?
Through a few nights of careful consideration and endless prayers for guidance, that is exactly what he did. He stopped building that home. He packed up his family. He left all of the material things he had acquired over the years and on his voyage from North Carolina - knowing that if they ever made it back to this area, these things would be either torched or taken by the Natives.
The morning Henry Hoover left he did three things: said a prayer under the
old tree he’d developed a great appreciation for, tucked a list of his family tree between the great timbers of the half-complete log home, and made one last, fundamental trip to the flowing Greens Fork River.

To the River he took with him all the coins, money, jewelry and small items he owned worth any value. He was determined to hide these things so that no one would ever find them - no matter how long the Natives intended to stay. Somehow, Henry knew in his heavy heart that he'd be back. He just needed a safe bank in which to keep these valuables; when he returned to rebuild, he'd need every bit.
He walked with great hesitation down the weedy path that had already formed in the short time they'd settled there. The grass was wet with dew and the summer sun was starting to get warm already. The river would certainly feel good once he got there.

Henry hit the big old oak tree on the edge of the woods - a fine place to start, he thought. He took 12 paces north from that old tree; one pace for each year after 1800. At that place, he took 24 paces directly east, to a large rock his boys had enjoyed playing on while their momma collected the cool river water for use at the homestead. From the rock, Henry took 30 paces north east - closer to that beloved River, who's cool water provided so much promise just days ago. 
He continued to mark his paces, writing down the exact path that  took him to the deep, dark hole he would dig; the one in which he was burying his entire life savings. 
Beads of sweat running down his face, he looked around. He'd found the place where the money was to go. There was a beautiful sunbeam coming through the breaks in the trees that pointed directly to the spot he knew he needed to dig.
And he dug feverishly. 
He touched the goods one final time before covering them with that black fertile  soil. Strange, he thought, how everything he had worked for his entire life was staying along the prosperous banks of the Greens Fork River, while he was about to leave every one of them all behind; once-promised land, included.
The Hoover family was in Ohio before sundown.

It would be two years before the Natives left the area and the Hoovers returned to that piece of heaven just east of the Greens Fork River. But much had changed in that short time. 
The cabin they had begun to build was burned to the ground. Only a dirt patch, what was once the floor, remained. The small stream that had run just barely east of the cabin was more productive. Water was actually moving in it over the small drop of rocks. 

On their much anticipated trek back home, Henry noticed that the Greens Fork River was up, too.

They had been back to their beloved homestead for two days before Henry woke ready to find his treasure along the banks of the Greens Fork River. From under his wagon seat he pulled the map that he'd kept hidden for the years he was away. 
And just like in years before, he cut down the weedy path. The grass was wet with dew and the summer sun was starting to get warm already.

He found the noble tree and started his journey to regain his life savings.
But the trail seemed different. There were so many limbs down from severe storms that had crippled the trees. 

The grand rock was there, though. His boys would sure be glad to see that once the dust settled in their lives. 
The further he went through his list of eight stops and turns to get to the treasure, the more uneasy he felt. The route just didn't seem right.
It wasn't familiar to him.
At stop number six Henry broke down. 
He hit water.  Where there had once been soil.

Over the time he and his family had fled the area to run from the Natives, the River had grown exceptionally.
With out regard to anyone else, The River had selfishly changed it's path.
There was now water rushing in the area where he'd left everything that was
promising his future. What was once black, fertile soil was now river bottom and rock.

Simply put, his treasure has washed away. 
Henry sat on the steady, large rock for some time that morning reflecting on the ever-changing path his own life had taken, mostly in the last five years. Marriage, travel, children. He fretted over the lost money and valuables that he had banked on getting him started in east central Indiana. He realized this beautiful piece of land was going to be more of a struggle than he initially intended. But understand: He wanted it badly enough.
He jumped off the large rock and headed back down the path, incredibly thankful that he’d never told his wife, Elizabeth, about the foolish act of burying his valuables. There are some secrets worth keeping in your back pocket. 
To this day, nearly two hundred years later, that treasure has never been found along the beautiful banks of the mighty Greens Fork River. There is a good chance sometime during the spring of 1813 (or 1899, or 1907 or 1911 or maybe even 2008)  a swelled river washed all the coins and money somewhere into the Ohio River. Where Henry Hoover hid his life’s treasure, is a secret that man took to his grave.

But, with the exception of the thought of spending $1.00 on a lottery ticket, I'm an eternal optimist. 
I'm still hoping that one day I'll be playing in that old River with my niece and nephew and Marlee will drag me to a small trunk full of gold and my life will be forever changed.
Until then, I’ll just keep planning this life, banking on the lottery or something shiny catching my eye the next time I cross the River on my way to work. 
Of course, at this point I'm not sure which is tougher for me to bite the bullet and just do: walk into a gas station and blow my hard-earned money on a lottery ticket or invest in a pair of waders and a metal detector.

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