Mason Jars

I came highly recommended, both Spinney and the Cap’n had vouched for me. Even so, I was viewed warily by Mr. Allen. He and his wife were famously reclusive, living in an old rundown house not too far out of the Center. Mr. Allen indicated the spades and pitchfork I’d be using, but I still wasn’t clear on what I’d be doing. My boss for the afternoon was the sort to whom even how much you took to the dump weekly was a national secret.
Taking me into the garden, he indicated that I should start digging a row parallel with the vegetable garden’s edge. ” A bit late to be planting now, isn’t it Mr. Allen?”. “Dig carefully; there should be a row of sealed Mason jars about a foot down.” I began digging, wondering what it was all about. In a few minutes, my shovel found the first jar, eventually the second and third. Mr. Allen stooped and carried them away before I got much of a look at them. Taking them over to the picnic table, he began to attempt to undo the corrosion of what must have been a substantial time in the ground. The sounds of frustration and disappointment grew louder. I stopped and walked over to the table. Spread out were piles of coins spilling from rotted paper wrappers and decomposed paper notes. On one note, you could still faintly make out “I.O.U – Buster.”

Spinney had confided that Asa Allen was probably the last of the mattress stuffers – survivors of the Great Depression who so distrusted banks that they did hide cash in their bedding. In this case, it was hidden in jars a foot down in the garden. The glass jars had survived, but metal bands and tops had corroded. The rotted notes were the surprise: “Who was Buster?” I asked. “My no-good son, he’s been gone to Florida these last ten years.” We continued to dig and retrieved twenty jars with the same result. It turned out that Allen’s desperately needed the money for medical bills. “What are the chances that you can call Buster and get the money?” ” The only thing my son cares about is the bottle of booze he has in his hand.”
With me, that day was Douglas, my wife’s smart, but mildly annoying nephew. To keep him occupied while Mr. Allen and I dug up the remaining jars, Douglas started an inventory of what we were recovering. Mr. Allen was so distracted that he failed to protest Douglas’ handling what had to be the family fortune.
About an hour later, Douglas suddenly started capering around. I told him to shut up; this situation was serious. We desperately hoped that the last few jars on the lined paper map would turn up with Benjamins and Grants intact. Douglas kept on capering about, and we kept on telling him to shut up and go sit down. After about another half hour, we had recovered all the jars, thoroughly plundered.
About then, we noticed that Douglas was excitedly waving a book in front of us and pointing to a pile of silver coins. “You’re Rich, Rich!” he hollered. Asa Allen snatched the book from him, but Douglas grabbed it back to indicate that this particular silver dollar was worth fifty dollars.
Eventually, we began to seriously inventory coins against listings in the book.
Several days later, we piled into the car for a ride to a Boston coin dealer. Allen’s made out OK. There was no great fortune, but the check they received was enough to cover the medical emergency. Douglas received a reward, I had my blisters, and the Allen’s started a savings account.
The Cap’n and Spinney both agreed that Douglas and I made a great team. I don’t know about that.

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