Story Time: A Christmas Treasure Hunt – from a Backroad Conversation to the Front Page of the Newspaper!

This post is going to be a bit longer than my typical post of a single poem. Rather, this is a story of a Christmas treasure hunt that my best friend Jordan Fowler and I orchestrated this month. While out on a drive on Thanksgiving Day he told me that he had been thinking a lot about his childhood fantasy of digging up buried treasure and that he would love to do something like that himself; “if I can’t experience finding buried treasure for myself, I want to help somebody else feel the excitement of that experience,” was the non-verbatim jist of what he was saying.

As a very non-hypothetical person, I was immediately on board and was pushing him to go through with it. After all, he did the same thing for me earlier in the year. I had always dreamed of going to Scotland and told him I wanted to go, and he pushed hard to make it come into fruition, and our friends Devin Garbitt and Nick Johnson came with us for the best trip I’ve ever taken. Here’s a picture of us on the side of the road as soon as we got into the Highlands. Left to right: Me, Devin, Nick, and Jordan.

That sums up my friendship with Jordan though: we always push each other in the best sort of ways. We help each other become better versions of ourselves. We point out each other’s flaws and abilities when we become blind to them, keeping each other confident and in-check. He helped me achieve a dream of mine in visiting the Highlands of Scotland, and I helped him achieve a dream of his in orchestrating a treasure hunt on our home of Cape Cod.

I helped pick a great location for the treasure to be buried on Wing Island in Brewster and wrote a cryptic riddle that would help guide people there if they deciphered it properly, but without making it too obvious or telling. All he did was think of the idea to begin with, buy two treasure chests to bury a small sleigh bell in, do the actual burial (as per my virtual directions), go to several banks to seek out $500 of his personal money’s worth of golden Sacagawea coins, buy a third chest to keep the coins in for the winner, and make a $500 donation from his company to a charity of the winner’s choice; nothing special. Once the stage was set, Jordan made a post on Facebook that I shared, and the hunt was on.

Here is my riddle that we shared:

~ A Foreign Concept ~
None shall ever read my surface
quite the way they might have done,
opposed to me might bring a force
that leaves the choice to stay or run.

I am not so very hidden,
will you find me? Time will tell.
Many come to seek my solace,
half the time I serve them well.

If you find me seek beside me
a sleigh bell in a treasure chest,
a Christmas prize is no surprise
the tell tale sign of conquered quest.

Twenty paces towards a new day
rise to the occasion, please
do not forget the stage is set, so
keep your eyes beneath the trees.

Some of our friends seemed interested, but there were no crazy responses the first couple of days, aside from a few messages from friends and family with their guesses. Before we knew it, the Cape Cod Times were calling us for interviews and later that day an article went out in the paper. This quickly snowballed into Jordan doing a live radio interview, me doing a video call with a reporter from another radio network who played two different segments of our conversation on his station every hour that night, and us being inundated with messages and friend requests on Facebook. This was overwhelming for both of us, both unnerving and exhilarating. “What have we gotten ourselves into!” is how I can sum up our private conversations this past week.

After a few days and half of Cape Cod looking for it, and many people getting extremely close, the treasure was found. True to his word, Jordan gave them the winner’s chest and the next day they went to the Wild Care nonprofit on Cape Cod to make the $500 charity donation, as chosen by the winners. The follow-up story of the winners was featured on the front page of the Cape Cod Times.

Here is a picture of Jordan (right) with the winners, Jack Bicker (middle) and Chris Doyle (left). Click on the image to read about Chris and Jack’s adventurous story that deservedly landed on the front page of the paper!

Jordan and I were initially planning on releasing an additional stanza to the riddle today, 12/21/20 as it is the Winter Solstice and the first time in hundreds of years where you’ll be able to see the Christmas Star, but Chris and Jack were too quick! Here is the additional stanza that we were going to release that I haven’t shared anywhere else thus far:

Still you seek me and my treasure?
My pleasure then to shed some light:
‘tis the season of my reason
friends of mine have taken flight.

Chris and Jack were ecstatic and even filmed themselves when they won, a moment they described as being “like a movie”. When the metal detector beeped over the chest and they looked at each other with the matched hopeful gaze of “Did you hear that too?” And sure enough, they found it, and had to wade through the surge of high tide to get back to their car. Chris’s wonderfully positive energy on our phone call after he won made the entire journey worth it for me, but that was just the icing on the cake of the positives that came out of this experience.

Jordan and I received so many public comments and private messages of pictures and stories about people who were wracking their brains with their friends and family to decipher our riddle, and who were getting outside searching all over Cape Cod for it. Some said it got them to places they had never ever explored before, even if it wasn’t the place where the treasure was hidden. A spark of excitement and joy and an escape from the treacherous year we’ve all had was our goal of this whole treasure hunt, and we are beyond grateful for the magnitude of joy it brought to hundreds of people; somehow. it was nice to finally be able to give back to a community that has given us both so much, even if in a ridiculous way.

You know what’s funny about all of this? The riddle is the first individual poem I’ve ever gotten published online or in print before, aside from my poetry books. This is so funny because it is my only poem that I didn’t title. Jordan picked the name “A Foreign Concept”, which just goes to show that I couldn’t have gotten it published without him. My grandfather called me and left a voicemail saying he turned the radio on in the morning, with no knowledge of this, and heard our story being talked about, then picked up the morning paper and saw us on the third page – he even saved me a copy. A few days later, he saw my name and the title of my Troika trilogy on the front page of the Cape Cod Times. It’s pretty special for me to have been able to share such a surreal experience with him.

When we spoke to the first reporter from the Cape Cod Times, which we did on separate phone calls, he asked each of us if this is something we plan to do again, and we both undoubtedly said yes. Jordan and I simultaneously mentioned the idea of starting up a nonprofit doing exactly this; having local businesses sponsor treasure hunts that we orchestrate on their behalf for the local community. Half of the funds go to the winner, and the other half go to a charity of the winner’s choice, and if the treasure is not found, then the whole sum goes to a charity of the sponsor’s choice.

We wracked our brains for name ideas for the organization, when Jordan mentioned how everyone kept referring to us as “The Brewster Boys”. In his interview with the first reporter, Jordan referred to us as just a couple of “Brewster Boys”, and I guess the name resonated with everyone. The name was easy, and so Jordan and I started The Brewster Boys, Inc. nonprofit organization. Seeing how much fun people seemed to have with it, we wanted to bring that momentum into the new year and jumped right on making that happen!

The below image is a wonderful logo that Jordan’s talented younger sister Emily made for us, the background being the mountains of the highlands as seen behind us in the first picture. Click on the image to check our Facebook page!

As a writer who has written three novels and more than 500 poems, it was really special to have an entire community, the one I grew up in, wracking their brains to decipher the meaning behind something that I had written. Every poem I write is a riddle to some extend, whether I am subtly conveying a deeper meaning or referencing my own earlier works. It may have been just a silly riddle I wrote up in ten minutes, but it seemed to have captivated (or infuriated) its readers. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be writing riddles for treasure hunts fulltime. Come to think of it, there were cryptic riddles in my first novel; that only just dawned on me as I’m writing this. It’s curious to think that I am writing with the intent to publish my own stream of consciousness. Perhaps I am tired. Or excited. Or experiencing writer’s block, or whatever its antonym is. Evidently, I digress.

If you are new to this story, I hope you found it interesting. If you have been following this story, I hope it brought you some deeper insight into how it came into fruition. With a friend like Jordan Fowler, one minute you’re eating turkey and the next you are plotting out a treasure hunt; that’s just how it is.

Please follow our nonprofit The Brewster Boys, Inc. on Facebook to support the cause and keep up-to-date on our future treasure hunts. Have a happy Winter Solstice, a very merry Christmas, and a blessed new year. Please also stay tuned for the new year, as I will be starting a monthly newsletter called “The Fantasist” about my writing and writing process!

Sign up for my upcoming newsletter “The Fantasist Monthly” here.

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