Aussie Stories, 2011
The year was 1999 and I had collected some vague clues to the whereabouts of an artefact worth $A10,000, and I knew I was getting close to finding it. I felt a little like Indiana Jones, only I don’t remember his treasure hunts being around tennis courts and children’s playgrounds.
A local radio station had hidden an Australian Rules football somewhere in Melbourne and was offering ten grand to the first person to find it. Each hour they released another cryptic clue on air.
After a few unsuccessful visits to other parks, I knew I was now at the right place. Not just because most of the clues were starting to make sense, but I could now see others looking through bushes as if they too had lost some marbles.
In addition to beating the others, I had the added pressure of racing the clock. I was leaving the next day on a trip to Tasmania and knew it would be found during my week away if I didn’t find it now. A few hours were all I had in this big park to seek and rejoice.
I was working for myself at the time and somehow managed to convince my boss to let me take the time off and go treasure hunting. Being in my early 20’s and newly married, $10,000 was a lot of money - a full deposit on a small house in fact! He must have understood this.
I had cleverly put a plastic bag in my pocket so when I found the ball I could elusively get back to my car without being tackled, which people do to other people carrying a football around. I’d seen it happen all the time on the news, right before the weather forecast.
The few hours I had flew past. I never stopped for a rest. However, too soon it became time to go and pick up my wife. (NB as lovely as my wife was, I mean is, this was just more important at the time, though, not that she was less important, but . . . allow me to stop digging.)
I convinced myself I had enough time to look in one more bush, and then another, and then another AND THEN . . . nothing.
With anguish in my heart I departed for the holiday. I asked my mother to listen out for if it was found while we where away.
It took a little while for me to forget about ‘the hunt’ and enjoy the holiday, but as soon as I returned I called my mother and asked her if football was found. She said it had been - in the same park I was looking in!
I would have felt better if I’d been completely wrong, but knowing I was close just annoyed me. I asked her if they said where in the park it was. She said it was in the hedge by the lawn bowls. I had a ‘white moment’, where all the blood in your face seems to drain out, followed by a ‘red moment’ where you get all steamed up. I looked in that very hedge before I left but I thought it was too prickly so didn’t bother looking in it very hard.
It took me years to get over this. Actually, more than a decade on, I’m not sure I am over it.
These days I am participating in the worldwide geocacheing phenomenon (Google it) as a form of training for the next treasure hunt opportunity. I’ve learnt all the tricky places things can be hidden in parks and I’m now no longer afraid of prickles or throwing my arm down dark spider-web covered stumps in search of plastic containers full of trivial trinkets. The biggest thing I’ve learnt in my training? The more valued the treasure, the more effort that is needed to find it, and the more rewarding it is when you do.