PENNY GARDEN
by Garimpo

n a hot Oklahoma summer day in 1965 when you can see the heat waves in the air, I'm sitting in the car in front of the funeral home in Hartshorne, OK………..

My wife's grand-mother had passed away and the family was inside for her "last viewing"……….. 

Having recently spent 30 months on a paid Government vacation in the Orient in a little out of the way place later know as "Nam" and more recently working for a major fire department I had already in my young life seen many "last viewings", didn't care for any more, little did I realize that for the next 20 years I would see many more……….

The funeral home being one block from the "main drag" with just a vacant lot separating it from the railroad tracks didn't have much going on until I heard the whistle……..

The old Southern Express as it was called by the locals came a huffing and puffing into this little town and actually stopped right in front of me on the other side of the vacant lot………

Two men got off and two got on…….later found out this was a daily occurrence……called a crew change………..

Setting in the car, no shade, I'm about to sweat down but then one of the guys that got off the train has a strange looking machine in his hand while the other one has a spade (sharp shooter) some call it……..

The guy with the strange little machine is walking slowly and swinging this thing back and forth……about every step or two he would stop and point with his toe and the other guy would start to dig……..even stranger was the noise the machine was making…….beep…..beep……..

The guy doing the digging never dug more than a inch or so down then he would stand up and hand to other guy something that came out of the ground………

You have to remember during all this commotion grand-ma's last viewing is going according to plan…….since she's already passed over chilly waters on the way to the happy hunting grounds( she was 50% Cherokee) and I being inquisitive (wife says nosey) …..

I'm already across the empty lot talking to these two strange people because in about 15 minutes they had a hand full of old silver coins and buffalo nickels and Indian head pennies……..

Seems this lot for years had been used by traveling circus's, they rode the trains and when they got to a town, they just off loaded their equipment and the circus was in business……..usually three to five days………

Remember this was 1965 and the circus had quite using this lot for at least 20 years since they were then using trucks so they could reach more small towns that weren't on the RR tracks………

They only hunted for about an hour…….then one with the metal detector had his two front pockets bulging with coins………then before they left they said they bought the detector from a man in Oklahoma City……….where I lived……..

We got Granny on her final journey and I couldn't wait to get home………..

You can't begin to think what I was thinking of……….took the whole month to find someone that sold metal detectors………finally found him…….bought my first detector……a Goldak TR…….$110.00 for the one that had a speaker and head phone jack……….

Now it's been a month and a half since I met the train crew and I'm finally on my way back to get rich……..

Only one obstacle in my way……..the city had paved the vacant lot for parking........ 

I remembered the words of a famous man: The Secret of Success is Constancy of Purpose. Bill Southern

So went to the "new" circus lot in another part of town and did pretty good at least got the attention….of an old timer sitting on his front porch whittling out wood ducks with his pocket knife…….

Couldn't take my eyes off of the old man because about every two minutes or so he would let loose with a solid stream of tabaccy juicy……..he was really fascinated with the detector and what it could do…….a lot of distraction with a lot of questions but then he started telling me about when he was a kid……..before 1900………

Then he invited me to sit in the shade with him while he continued to whittle and spit………and talk……..

He knew my father-in-law and said just a mile in front of his house is a mountain that used to have a house on the top ………….when he was 5 years old or so he lived there with his parents……..

One day his Mom and Dad were plowing and raking the garden down for planting………..he didn't wait……..

Seems like he had a Prince Albert tobacco can that was half full of Indian Head pennies…………..so he planted the pennies…………one at a time……….at different intervals in the soft dirt……….

When Dad found out what he had done he got his britches whipped but………..they never found the pennies…….

Next day I borrowed my father-in-laws water jug he used in the coal mines and headed up that mountain………the old wagon road that was there 65 or 70 years before wasn't even visible………so up through the almost vertical rocks and rattle snake and copper head haven I went………….

Hunted and hunted………finally found the old caved in cellar…………full of old Ball jars with their lead lids………..some intact……….most broken………

Found what looked like the abobe foundation and what I thought would be the garden………a large area that at one time had a fence around it but the fence post had long ago rotted away and the barbed wire was everywhere mixed in with the waist high weeds…………… detected around a few spots that were more or less open………….no pennies…………..then a good signal………my only digging tool was a coin trowel so after about a foot I gave up and headed for the house………….

Next day with a good big shovel I headed back up that mountain………long hot climb……….found the spot where the good signal was and started to do some serious digging…………..

Common sense would say that the signal wasn't by any means a penny signal but what else could it be……….maybe a stage coach robbers loot………….one actually happened about five miles from there and the money was never found………..so now here is my second chance to be rich……….

Have you ever dug down three feet or so and seen what an iron rimed wagon wheel looks like? …….it ain't pretty……….

That was 42 years ago and I haven't been back………..figured those pennies would be worth the climb now. 

Google coordinates: 34°51'32.61"N, 95°30'26.69"W

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