This is the latest installment from Christmas Jelly, our latest short story collection. We’re serving one serving per day. Enjoy today’s story!
I open the old wooden box and pour out a small pile of old coins, dog tags, buttons, bullets, medallions, and other metal objects.
It’s my dad’s treasure chest. These items found by my dad with his metal detector.
Sometime in the mid-1960’s dad went on one of his new hobby kicks. This new interest—metal detectors and buried treasure—stayed with him for the rest of his life.
My memories of going with him treasure hunt are filled with cold winter windy days at fairgrounds from Natchitoches to Jennings. The hopeful beep from his metal detector would make my heart jump as I began to dig and scrape for that rare lost coin I knew had been dropped on the Ferris wheel back in 1948.
Instead, I would unearth another coke can pull tab or the hundredth wad of aluminum foil. We would find coins—mostly pennies and nickels someone probably didn’t bother to look for. Most times the coins were weathered, not worth much more than face value.
Sometimes we’d find an older dime or quarter. Coins of this denomination minted before 1964 had ninety percent silver as compared to today’s coins, which are primarily copper and nickel.
I loved how this old silver, although it looked as dark as other coins, shone. A quick washing and rub on your jeans revealed dazzling shininess.
The beauty was already there, just buried under thirty years of grime.
Daddy’s fascination with buried treasure puzzled me. He dug and probed for years at old home places rumored to have long-forgotten buried treasure. He never found that Mason jar full of gold coins or the rusted box of Spanish silver.
He did find plenty of plow points, coke caps, bent nails, and rusty bedsprings, but he never found riches.
The contradiction was how Daddy cared little about material wealth, yet loved to treasure hunt. I don’t think he was as interested in finding riches as he was in the adventure of the hunt.
The real treasure Daddy enjoyed unearthing was young people. He touched hundreds of lives of teens and children. He especially had an ageless easygoing way with teens. They sensed that he cared. His occupation was with the Highway Department, but his lifetime calling was mentoring and teaching young people.
Clayton Iles best liked finding buried treasure in unlikely places. Young people with little shine were the ones he’d work with, love on, and help grow in the Lord.
It was as if he was kneeling down looking at that dirty and neglected coin. After examining it and cleaning it off, there was shining silver where no one else had given a second look.
Recently I received a letter from Emily, a young person he mentored.
“Bro. Clayton was one of the most important people in my life. I just wanted to tell you again what he meant to me and how much he was used to change my life. He would come get me every Sunday morning and night, and every Wednesday night in his van to bring me and loads more to church.
He brought me to Port Barre on a mission trip in July of 1996 and that is where I was saved. I had been through some hard times and gotten into some trouble and your dad never gave up on me.
I loved him very much… when he died I felt like I lost a grandfather and friend. I just thought you would like to know his memory is still around very strongly.”
Maybe, Daddy never found the material treasure he hunted. But he found, over and over, something much more valuable and precious—the uncountable treasure of touching another person’s soul with the love of God.
May each of us, as we enjoy this Christmas season, remember the words of Jesus,
But I tell you, do not lay up treasures on earth. Rather lay up treasures in heaven . . .
. . . and may we remember that these heavenly treasures are investing in the souls of others.
Crooked Bayou Gumbo
1 pint Savoie’s Roux
1 quart water per tablespoon roux
2 large onions
1 bell pepper
½ stalk celery
3 large Fryers
1 lb. pork sausage
1 T Louisiana Red Hot
1 bunch green onions
In a large pot, mix water and roux. Roux will be hard to measure; just let it heap up on a spoon. Stir as you bring it to a rolling boil. Chop up the onions, bell pepper and stalk celery. Drop this in boiling roux and let it boil, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes.
Cut up Fryers and drop in. After about 30 minutes, add pork sausage diced in ½ inch slices. Add salt, black pepper, red pepper, and Louisiana Red Hot to taste.
Stir occasionally. Chop 1- bunch green onions. Add these about the time the chicken is getting tender. Cook until meat will fall off bone when you pull on it with a fork. Remove skins, bones, and etc. to make gumbo easier to serve. You can do this by removing chicken and letting it cool just enough to handle.
Then put meat back in a reheat gumbo.
Add file` if you like when serving.