So there I was, standing in the entryway to the
house. My father set down his bags and spread his arms to emphasize the
house we would be living in for the next month. My brother and I
groaned. Our father is a history buff and is always dragging us to
historical “vacations.” This one happened to be in the Sierra foothills
in the California gold country.
After settling in, I ran off to explore. I was in the basement when Dad
followed with a brochure in his hand.
“You know there’s a historical house somewhere around here. We can go
gold panning too. Do you want to check it out before dinner?”
I shrugged. There wasn’t really anything else to do around here.
On the way to the historical house, dad told us the story behind the
house. The house dated from the 1800s and had been occupied by a man who
had lived there with his wife and children. He came to California to
find gold and spent years searching for a way to strike it rich. One day
he claimed to have found gold. He buried it somewhere and planned to
retrieve it later. But, other people wanted the gold and threatened him.
He refused to give it up and was killed. To this day his gold is
The historical center was a small building with a big white sign that
said, “Welcome to the Pinewood Historical Center!” A lady who
volunteered there told us that it was a preserved house from the 1800s.
We climbed the rickety stairs to explore the rooms. I came upon a room
that looked like it belonged to a little girl. The room was mostly bare
except for a small bed, a chest of drawers, and a table. The only thing
on the bed was a doll. There was no DO NOT TOUCH sign, so I assumed it
was okay to pick up the doll. It had rosy cheeks, bright blue eyes,
stringy blond curls and was wearing a blue satin dress. I turned the
doll over in my hands thoughtfully. The gold digger’s story was still in
my mind as I absentmindedly pulled at a ripped piece of cloth on the
doll’s dress. Something fell out. I dropped the doll in surprise and
bent to pick up a yellowed piece of paper. It had a crudely drawn
pattern of squares with an X marked in one them. I wasn’t sure what it
meant, but it looked interesting enough that I pulled out my phone and
snapped a picture. Then I put the paper back inside the doll’s dress.
Days passed and soon I forgot all about the picture. Then, about a week
later, I was exploring near the historical house and I came upon an
abandoned well at the back of the property. The outside wall of the well
had an arrangement of stones that seemed vaguely familiar. Suddenly, I
remembered the picture I had taken. I whipped out my phone and examined
the picture. The patterns appeared to be similar. I studied the picture
and then the stones on the well and figured that there were at least ten
stones that could match the one marked X in the picture. I walked around
the well gently, trying to push each of the ten stones in turn.
Eventually one gave way and popped out. I reached my hand inside and
discovered an old folded paper with a map drawn on it. I stared at the
map in amazement. “Could it be the map to the hidden gold?” I wondered.
As I studied the map, I realized it showed the house and the well and a
path leading from the well into the woods that ended in a spot marked
with a circle. The map had distances marked in feet and a direction
marker saying “N.” Using my phone for navigation, I followed the path
shown in the map, counting the distance as I went. Finally I ended up in
a clearing in the woods. Around me were trees, bushes and rocks. I could
see nothing out of the ordinary. Then I carefully studied the scene
around me, observing each minute detail. I noticed a large rock that had
something carved on it on one side. I went closer and dusted the side of
the rock with my hands. I uncovered the faint marking that showed an
arrow pointing downwards. My heart raced. I ran back to the Pinewood
Historical Center. I breathlessly told the lady what I had discovered,
starting with the paper in the doll upstairs. The lady was intrigued by
my story. I handed her the map and she promised to follow up with the
The next day, the park rangers dug under the rock. The whole town was
buzzing with the news. Two days later, the story was released.
But, the thing was, it wasn’t gold buried underneath. It was a small
metal box with this letter inside.
I hope that you will not be upset to hear the
truth: I never actually found gold. I looked for years and was ashamed
to come home empty-handed. So I made up the story about burying it. But,
that only caused me more trouble because now some men are after me. They
want the gold. I fear they will kill me if I don’t give them what they
want. I gave dear little Katrina a map and told her to hide it. I hope
someday you will find this letter and also a way to forgive me. I just
want to let you know, dear family, that even if I die, the only thing
that matters to me in my life is all of you. I love you, sweet Margaret,
my dear wife, and Katrina and Billy. I must go now. The men are coming.
I shook my head and smiled sadly. I knew that finally, after 150 years,
the truth was now revealed.