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Davis Journal

X marks the spot

May 06, 2022 12:20PM ● By Peri Kinder

He might not have a parrot or an eye patch, but my dad has found more buried treasure than any pirate. Inside his mild-mannered dad costume lurks the heart of Captain Jack Sparrow, ready to tackle any adventure with dashing flair and comic grace.

On a blustery day in April, he took a pickaxe and hammer to help his great-grandkids find fossilized shells and pieces of quartz on the side of a mountain near his home in Central Utah. He was excited about every discovery, and everywhere he looked, he saw treasure.

He pointed to the west and said, “That mountain is full of blue agate.” He pointed down and leaned in to whisper, “We’re standing on the biggest gold mine in the state.” He pointed east to where dinosaur bones hide in the hills and pointed south to Native American sites where he’s examined petroglyphs and rock paintings. 

I’ve explored with dad many times, usually only finding spiders, cacti and the occasional rattlesnake. He can stick his hand in a hole in a rock and pull out gemstones, old coins and a jackalope skull. 

Dad’s always had a sense of adventure. If he could make a living exploring ghost towns and spelunking in caves for lost treasure, ala Indiana Jones, he’d be the happiest man on earth. 

With his keen, scientific mind, he built model airplanes and assembled rockets that exploded in mid-air, not always on purpose. He’d ignite a mini-cannon on The Fourth of July that freaked out the neighbors, cracked a basement window and set off car alarms. We’d run inside and hide like the Feds were after us. They probably were.

For him, life has been one big treasure hunt. He often takes his metal detector to parks and always shows up when a road is being dug or a house demolished. You never know what he’ll find; sometimes a rare penny, sometimes radioactive marbles. 

He once discovered a class ring and used his Hercule Poirot-level detective skills to return it to the family of the man who’d lost it decades earlier. 

Even with his work, he stood on the leading edge of discovery. In the ‘60s, he helped build the first communications system for Air Force One. Later, he created cameras that flew on the space shuttle, were installed in telescopes and helped aerial refueling tankers. 

A camera he designed took the first pictures of the Titanic at the bottom of the ocean. 

Never one to pass up a good conspiracy theory, dad talks about his close encounters with UFOs, ghosts, the Illuminati and home teachers. He also plays the accordion, although how can you tell if someone does that well?

He’s a master woodworker, making toys, banjos, ukuleles and violins that he donates to teens. He cuts and polishes the stones he finds to make necklaces, and he’s been known to set a trap or two for Santa Claus. He’d frighten us with scary stories before bedtime, stories he insisted were true, which made it worse. 

If dad had the chance to take a rocket ship to the moon, he’d already be packed. He’d love to fly in a fighter jet or visit the space station. He’d gladly sail the seven seas under the Jolly Roger and swashbuckle through hidden caves looking for gold doubloons and diamonds the size of cantaloupes.

But through all of his adventures, misadventures, escapades, quests, deeds and feats of reckless abandon, dad knows the biggest treasure is the one in his own backyard.