The May issue of Reader’s Digest has rekindled interest in treasure hunting. It has reprinted an article written by Eric Spitznagel which first appeared in The National.

“The Man Who Buried a Treasure” retells the decision by Forrest Fenn to engineer one of the biggest treasure hunts of this century.

Fenn, now 88, is a retired antiques dealer from New Mexico. He claims to have buried some of his favorite artifacts somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. He even wrote a poem, really a riddle, to provide clues to its location. His idea was that the person who found this trove could keep it. To this date, nearly nine years later, no one has.

Fenn claims the contents of the bronze lockbox are valued at between one and five million dollars. They include gold coins and nuggets, rubies, diamonds, emeralds, Chinese jade carvings and even pre-Columbian gold bracelets. His 24-line “guide” has not yet been enough to help those seeking that treasure, which still lies somewhere in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado or New Mexico.

The article includes a map of the Rockies, indicating possible, probable and impossible areas where the lockbox and its contents could be. I found it fascinating, not because I plan to go looking but because so many others have and continue to do so.

There is something about stories of buried treasure that appeals to most of us. Maybe it’s the drama of the initial act — who and why would someone do such a thing? Maybe it’s the thrill of solving a puzzle or joining the chase. Most likely, it’s the dream that something is out there that could change our lives if we just found it, like the Biblical “pearl of great price.”

We’ve all heard stories of treasure in Miami County, gold hidden down wells, in old barns or gullies. There’s one that claims robbers threw stolen gold from a train between Osawatomie and Paola in an effort to escape capture and then never returned for it. You perhaps know of others.

I “Googled” the issue and thought I had found paydirt when a 1911 story from the Osawatomie Globe came up, telling of the Bright family traveling from Miami to La Cygne to recover hidden family gold. It’s a good tale, but the “Miami” is Miami, Okla., and not our own.

The next try proved more successful, though the “treasure” was certainly smaller. From the Paola Western Spirit, April 21, 1911: “Buried beneath a chicken coop at his home, a few miles southeast of Paola, Frank Boehm found $120 in gold and silver coins last Friday. The money was lying loose in the earth. An old newspaper in which it had been wrapped had rotted away. The silver coins were somewhat discolored, but the gold was in good condition, bearing out the theory that the money had been buried but a short time. There were twenty silver dollars and five twenty-dollar gold pieces. Mr. Boehm found a silver dollar lying on the ground in the vicinity of the chicken pen. Last Friday, he found another in the same place. He then made an investigation and, beneath the soil about ten inches, he found the treasure. Mr. Boehm recently purchased the farm of Fred Libutsky.”

So, optimists among us, it’s possible that there are treasures out there just waiting to be found. Forrest Fenn claims that there are. He hopes that someone finds his trove while he’s still alive, but he’s not about to make it much easier.

Maybe the lesson for all of us is to get outside and pay attention. The clues are there if we can only decipher them.

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