My grandfather’s brother, Uncle “Red” was a real character back in the day in Greenwood, Mississippi. He ran a Phillips gas station for over 30 years right in the middle of Greenwood. He was a big, jolly red-haired Irish fellow, and everybody knew him.
When we were kids, he’d come by to eat my grandmother’s cooking on the way home, still wearing his red striped white work shirt with the “Phillips 66” logo on the pocket. We loved him, because he told stories. And all of the stories he told were about the same thing: his treasure.
We’d listen wide-eyed as he told us a wild story about his buried treasure, and how its location was only revealed on nights that the moon was full. Unfortunately I was very young and can’t remember all of the details – I just remember that the story was always the same – and the part about the moon, perhaps because it was the most outlandish element of the tale.
Uncle Red died suddenly while I was in college in the late 1980s. I can remember my grandfather telling me that he was found sleeping in his car outside his station. His feet had swollen up and he couldn’t get out of the car. He was rushed to the hospital and died very quickly. He was a big man, and apparently didn’t take very good care of himself. I don’t know the exact cause of death. He was in his early 60’s.
Red owned the service station, show horses, and a big red Cadillac. He also owned lots of land. He used to take us fishing in a big pond on one of his properties in the hills of nearby Carroll County just north of the town of Carrollton.
A few weeks after Uncle Red’s funeral, my grandfather gave me a jar half full of old coins that he had found while cleaning out Red’s office at the service station. I still have them today. And then my grandfather told me that as he handled his brother’s affairs, it had strangely become apparent that Red had no bank accounts. Everything he owned had been paid for in cash. My grandfather had went so far as to attempt to find overseas accounts. Nothing. Everything Red had owned was paid for. His service station was very profitable, but other than the couple of hundred bucks Red had in his wallet when he died, there was no money anywhere. Uncle Red lived in a run down family home, which was reduced to little more than a shack by the time he died. He had no one he was really close to. He had no wife or immediate family other than my grandfather and us.
A few years later I’m driving somewhere, my mind is wandering and I suddenly hear Uncle Red’s voice in my head telling me the treasure story. I laugh aloud as I realize the obvious – that the treasure story is very likely at least partially true. Uncle Red was just the kind of person you would imagine burying treasure. He was a hermit. Eccentric. Debt free. He was a hoarder. And he wasn’t going to put his money in “no damn bank.” Heck he was practically a Leprechaun.
I always said I would research where all of Red’s properties were located in Mississippi, and track them all down and hunt them effortlessly with my metal detector. Twenty some-odd years have passed, and like a lot of things, I never got around to it. And I really don’t think I ever will.
We hear about caches being found all the time. Every rural community seems to have folklore that includes a rumored family or person that buried treasure, or perhaps the buried gold of a bandit or a pirate. A lot of these stories are clearly based on fact. In a lot of instances, the cache has been recovered and secreted away long ago by someone not wanting to draw attention. But in many instances, the treasure still lies there, waiting to be recovered.
I think there are a lot more actual “Treasure” caches still out there than we realize. All it takes are a few simple elements: A miserly hoarder that dies alone. A thief that stashed his loot and being shot or hung before he could get back to it. A kid that buries his savings and forgets the location.
Maybe one day…
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From old 1870s scanned map of Mississippi