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Sun Feb 7, 2021, 06:16 PM

Our Grandson's Message In A Bottle -True Story

Last edited Mon Feb 8, 2021, 12:19 PM - Edit history (1)

I noticed a posting from yesterday by DU'er AmyStrange about “Girl Discovers Secret Door in her Bedroom and Opens It” where the girl found some hidden treasure with a little help from her dad. Cute story (thank you for posting!) and it reminded us of a similar experience we had with our 7-year-old Grandson, Ian and the really good day he had on the lake. Not wanting to hijack that thread with this story as a reply, we decided to post it separately. My “Mr. Not” has no formal training as a writer but he’s the better word monger of the two of us. It’s about time this story was written down for posterity instead of just living in our memories. So, I’m handing the keyboard over to him. He’s wordy. You have been warned!

In 2007 we were long-term-leasing a waterfront home in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area of N. Texas. The house was situated on a 1600 acre in-town recreation lake and was full of all kinds of boats for the weekend. We had planned a summer day full of wakeboarding, tubing and swimming in our son’s new Ski Nautique (way too expensive) wake boat. Sandwiches, chips and drinks (enough for 6 adults and 1 kid) were packed along with plenty of towels, SPF30, several different lip balms, our floating water weenies and a collection of carefully chosen music CD’s for the day.

We had been out there for a couple of hours riding around taking turns Wakeboarding when we decided it was time for a rest break and for our picnic lunch waiting in the ice chest. Our eldest son (Ian’s Dad) was driving the boat and pulled up, stopping out into the middle of the lake in the calmer water close to the damn. Sandwiches were handed out and drinks passed around. Suntan lotion was re-applied and the music was turned up. Some stayed in the boat. Some were floating on life jackets or water weenies next to the boat – and all enjoying the day, laughing, talking, eating and listening to good jams in our open-air living room.

At one point during an unexpected lull in the festivities our Grandson noticed something floating in the water about 30 feet away from the boat. My son turned the stereo off since this new discovery required our undivided attention. From my vantage point in the water it looked like a bottle with a cork in it bobbing up and down, drifting slowly toward the damn. Ian was already on it and jumped right in (life jacket on of course) to swim over and retrieve it. When he got it back to the boat, we discovered it was an old amber colored wine bottle with what looked like some kind of hand written message or rolled-up paper inside. Hmmm, we all wondered aloud, how often does one find a message in a bottle?

Everyone back in the boat by now to witness the find, we were excited to discover what was inside the bottle. We did not have a corkscrew on the boat but eventually got the cork out. When we did, out came a tightly rolled up piece of paper with a little red ribbon tied around the waist. As we unfurled it, you could tell the paper was really old and that whatever the note said with all this writing, had been put to paper long ago. The map was fairly large and had turned a sort of light tea colored brown with age. The edges of the paper were frayed looking too as if it had been partially burned at some point in its unknown and possibly even checkered past. As we gazed on it now though completely opened up, we realized what this find truly was. This was NOT a message in a bottle in the traditional sense. No, this was different. What we were looking at was the rarely if ever seen in history “Treasure Map In A Bottle”. Wow!

We knew this to be true because the words “Treasure Map” had been written at the top. Below those two important words was a hand drawn diagram of a small island situated on a much larger body of water somewhere, with numerous written instructions to guide the holder of the map to something. There was also a large X written in the middle of the paper with an arrow pointing to it marked “Treasure”. At first, we couldn’t figure out which body of water this might be until Ian’s Dad realized that this was actually a map of the lake we were on that very day. Ian thought about that new information and pointed out that the island on the map could be the small island we had passed earlier that morning and which was now only 5 minutes away by boat. (Again, what are the odds?)

We quickly finished lunch and headed for the island as fast as the boat would go, except for that one turn-around to retrieve that “luckily still floating” hat. Ian had carefully studied the map by this time and directed his Dad toward the southern shore where the map showed it was safest to land. Rocks and danger signs had been drawn on the map all around the island except for this one route. Whoever had drawn this all those years ago had been very meticulous in their detail. There was an awful lot to consider.

We pulled up on the beach in-line with the big tree as shown, got out of the boat and began to try and follow the specific instructions to reach the X marked on the spot. Let’s see, “from the water’s edge walk exactly 42 paces due North toward the large tree” (76 of Ian’s kid sized paces) “then walk 25 paces due East until you find the large white and gray rock on the ground”. Next, “turn and walk 13 more paces due South to the old log half buried in the sand”. After this final instruction there was a cryptic final sentence at the very bottom of the map which was written in all capital letters. Ian had read it out loud when he first noticed it earlier. It said “THIS IS WHERE YOU WILL FIND WHAT YOU ARE SEARCHING FOR”.

After carefully following the instructions over the next few minutes, we had finally arrived at the half-buried log shown on the map. Our Grandson got there first and since he had been the one to find the bottle, it was only fair that he should be the one to dig and try to see what might be buried down there. He found a proper stick and began digging the sand away from under the edge of that big ole log.

For some reason, the digging was relatively easy and after a couple of minutes, we heard the distinct “thud” of stick hitting metal at the bottom of the hole. Buried, about a foot down was a gray rusted metal box the size of a small loaf of bread. It also had a small padlock fastened through the hasp on the front of it. We couldn’t open it yet but when Ian shook the box for the first time, you could hear the rattling of coin and jingle inside. If it’s possible, his smile grew even bigger as he stood there looking around at all the adults.

His mom brushed off the sand from the box and went back to the boat to see if we had any tools to help remove the padlock. Luckily, I had my small set of bolt cutters in our boat toolbox that day (you never know when you might need em) and proceeded to cut off that lock. When we finally got it off and with all of us standing there waiting for the big reveal, it was finally time to open the box. We were standing in the bright sun and as the lid started to come up you could see the glint of precious metals and gemstones inside. Eureka! It was literally chocked-full of treasure!

There were over 100 coins of different denominations and sizes and from different countries around the world (especially Mexico and Canada). In addition to the coins, there were several different pieces of jewelry and loose colored gemstones throughout. Necklaces made with what looked like gold or silver chains of different types with dangling small charms or a cross. Finger rings and earrings and a bracelet. There were several items that looked like Military Service Medals made of gold or silver metal with colored ribbons attached. There were also several different colors of cat’s eye marbles along with a very old but strangely, “not rusted” 2-blade bone handled pocket knife.

These last items were a surprise. We speculated that in the old days, maybe pocket knives and marbles were more valuable than they are today. At the time, Ian and the rest of the observers thought that made sense. Later, Ian confided to me that he thought that the knife could have been placed there by the owner for a totally different reason. He surmised that the owner may have wanted to have a weapon inside the box in case he was ever made to divulge the location and was forced to dig up the treasure. He would have that knife secretly hidden inside so he could turn the tables on his captors - and win the day. We both thought that made a lot of sense and must have been the owners true reason for including the knife.

When we inventoried all the treasure later in the day, it ended up being quite a haul. We never came up with an accurate dollar figure as to value but felt it must be worth a large sum of money to whoever buried it. Questions arose. Why would they bury it here? How many years, decades or even centuries had this been here in that spot? Who were they? Were they pirates maybe? Are pirates real, Grandpa? How long had that bottle been floating around in the water and more importantly, why had they never returned to get the treasure? In short, it was a baffling mystery without any clear answers - as these things turn out to be sometimes.

We finished up on the island, treasure in hand and headed back out for the rest of our boating day. Toward the end of the day and almost a full tank of gas later, Ian finally passed out from that well known “too-much-kid-fun-exhaustion” factor. Sound asleep for the ride back to our dock, the box full of treasure sat next to his leg with his hand on top. We missed out on snapping a picture of that moment but it was indelibly etched into all our brains and our hearts forever.

The mystery of the message in a bottle remained just that until about 2 years later when I was confronted by the now savvier and much more worldly 9-year-old Ian. The unusual events of that day which were not even questioned at age 7 became nagging questions at age 9.

Ian: Grandpa, do you remember that Treasure Chest we found on the lake that time?

Grandpa: Sure.

Ian: Was that real or did you and Dad just make it all up?

Grandpa: Buddy, I thought you might ask me that someday so I’ll tell you the secret. It was all made up just for you, just for that day and just for your fun. We planned everything ahead of time and had it all set up early that morning so you could have that experience. Are you disappointed?

Ian: No, Grandpa it was really cool. I still have the Map and everything else that was in the box. I’m going to keep it till I get old.

Grandpa: That’s great Buddy. Maybe someday if you’re lucky enough to have a really great Grandson or Granddaughter just like you, you could do something fun like that for them.

As he thought about what I had said, I noticed the little contemplative grin he gets on his face sometimes, thinking about his very distant future as a Grandpa. In hindsight, that smile was almost as big as the one he had the day he found that box full of treasure.

He was 7 when he found the bottle in the water, 9 when he learned the real story and has now turned 19 as of this writing. Ian’s mom still has the Treasure Map and the pocket knife stored away but the rest has gone where all cheap costume jewelry and shiny metal trinkets eventually go, into the garage sale.

Our takeaway from that day is simple and only requires some pre-planning and effort: It is to actively work at creating fun and lasting memories with your kids and Grandkids - and to enjoy them while you can. They only stay puppies for a short time!

That memory has stayed with both of us from that one magical summer day on the lake. We hope it stuck with Ian too. We think it did. We still smile about it to this day, remembering - and on occasion, trying to stifle the lumps in our throats thinking about that bright, earnest little boy and the inevitable passage of time.

6 replies, 633 views

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Arrow 6 replies Author Time Post
Reply Our Grandson's Message In A Bottle -True Story (Original post)
LazySusanNot Feb 2021 OP
EarnestPutz Feb 2021 #1
LazySusanNot Feb 2021 #2
intrepidity Feb 2021 #3
LazySusanNot Feb 2021 #5
abqtommy Feb 2021 #4
LazySusanNot Feb 2021 #6

Response to LazySusanNot (Original post)

Sun Feb 7, 2021, 06:35 PM

1. Damn. I'm going to have to up my game as the "fun" grampa after reading this. A high bar....

....indeed as I'm already feeling that this Covid isolation has cramped my style for far too long.

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Response to EarnestPutz (Reply #1)

Sun Feb 7, 2021, 06:50 PM

2. He's a good kid and worthy, we thought, of the effort

Last edited Sun Feb 7, 2021, 10:06 PM - Edit history (1)

Lots of planning and fun for the adults too. Uh, Covid yes. Cramping all Grandmas and Grandpas styles. Arrgghh

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Response to LazySusanNot (Original post)

Sun Feb 7, 2021, 07:20 PM

3. I thought for sure you would find it, but then re-bury it

for the next kid to find, and each new finder added to the treasure box!

Nice story, thanks for sharing!

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Response to intrepidity (Reply #3)

Sun Feb 7, 2021, 08:24 PM

5. Great idea.

Like a gift that keeps on giving. We didn't think of it at the time and have moved out of the state since. If our Grandson thinks of resurrecting this as a tradition later on, we would love to help him come up with some creative ideas. It was fun.
Thanks for responding!

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Response to LazySusanNot (Original post)

Sun Feb 7, 2021, 08:16 PM

4. This is the best op I've read today and in all the time I've been here at DU. Thanks!

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Response to abqtommy (Reply #4)

Sun Feb 7, 2021, 08:42 PM

6. You're too kind

Last edited Mon Feb 8, 2021, 12:18 AM - Edit history (1)

We miss that little guy and are still telling stories about him years later. LOL
Thank you for the encouragement!

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