X: Buried Treasure

This has been a great week for my snakes.  Cottontail and Peter were burrowing in the back yard when Peter came across something hard.  What was it?  They dug around it and after a while figured out that it was some kind of metal thing.  Of course they couldn’t lift it, but Cottontail came to get me and I lifted it out of the ground.  It was an old brass box, about the size of a cell phone but thicker.  I pried the box open and found nine gold coins inside. 

The coins were all the same.  They looked like this (front and back).  Every American coin has a date on it saying when it was made, and these were made in 1854, 165 years ago.  In 1854 there was nothing but sand dunes where my house is now.  But I don’t know when the coins were buried there, or who buried them, or why.  I guess we’ll never know that. 

When the coins were made they were worth a dollar each.  But coins like these are hard to find now, so I thought they would be worth more.  I took them downtown to Susie’s Rare Coin Shop, and I was right – Susie offered me $500 each for them!  So I sold the coins to Susie for $4500 (500 times 9 is 4500), and let her have the box too, as a present. 

So now the question was: whose money was this?  We had a big meeting to discuss it.

  • Some of the snakes thought it should all belong to Peter, because he found the coins.
  • Some thought it belonged to Cottontail and Peter together, because they were digging together.
  • Some said all 14 snakes should share the money as a group, and use it for things they could all enjoy.
  • Some thought each snake should get a share of the money for herself (or himself) alone; others agreed but thought I should get a share too. $4500 divided among 14 snakes and one uncle comes to $300 each.
  • And some thought I should get it all, because the coins were found on my land, and they were there long before I had any snakes.

We talked it over but we could not agree.  So I made the decision.  I would take one share for myself, because it was my land.  So I took out $300, and later used the money to buy 11 heraldry books: three in German, two each in Dutch and Italian, and one each in Portuguese, Serbian, Danish and Greek.  I was very happy with my share.

That left $4200, which is a lot of money for 14 snakes who don’t even have pockets.  I decided they could use the money only for things they could all agree about.  The first thing was easy: they wanted to give one fourth of the money to a snake charity.  They thought the best one was the Snake Rescue Fund, which finds good homes for pet snakes people leave in the park, but who can’t manage by themselves.  So I gave the Snake Rescue Fund $1050, which left $3150.

Some of the tropical snakes wanted me to build a heated clubhouse in the back yard.  Others did not want to give up hunting land to have a clubhouse, but understood the need for a warm place in the winter (and it can get cold here in the summer too).  So we agreed that I would spread out electric blankets under the stairs, and in one of my storerooms; these blankets would have controls a snake could work with her nose.  I bought two really nice soft electric blankets for $50 each ($100 total), which brought us down to $3050.

The small snakes asked for a runway so they could get up and down the stairs more easily.  So I had a narrow runway built for them out of wood, covered with bathroom tile so they wouldn’t get splinters.  This cost $450 − $300 for wood and paint and tiles and nails and glue, and sandpaper to make it smooth, and $150 to the builder for her work.  Now we had $2500 left.

Then Aretha suggested a statue of Roscoe for the back yard.  Everyone was very pleased with this idea, even Diego and Shasta who never knew Roscoe, but appreciated how much everyone who knew him loved him.  So I got a local artist to make a statue of Roscoe out of California redwood, which stands up well in wet weather.  She worked from a photograph of him.  I paid $1000 for the statute, and it looks great.

Now we had $1500 left.  We had spent two thirds of the money in less than a week.  The snakes started arguing over how to spend the rest, but I said wait, we don’t have to spend every dollar now, we can save some for later.  This was a new idea for my snakes, who were not used to the idea of saving for later, but they agreed.  So now my snakes are the richest animals in the neighborhood, because together they have $1500, and none of the other animals have any money at all.