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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: May 10, 2017

Surprising Finds

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

As we prepare to move back to Wisconsin in 2018, I have been hard at work downsizing. That means digging through old boxes, drawers and closets and making lots of painful decisions to part with things. In the course of this thorough review of my belongings, I found several keepsakes that were special to me specifically because I found them.

Nearly everyone has a story about finding something unexpected, surprising or unusual. (In fact, this is an awesome conversation starter with both people you know well, and those you have just met.) Because I spend a lot of time walking, most of my finds occurred outside, but people find unusual things inside, in public places, as well.

The most surprising thing I ever found was a grave marker on my parent's property when I was very young. That got me thinking about other unusual things found by people in my family. I asked family members what they thought was the most significant thing they ever found. Not surprisingly, since we grew up playing outdoors so much, all my siblings made their unusual finds outside. My youngest sister found a beautiful Native American arrowhead near Peshtigo Harbor " a wonderful find. My daughter also found an arrowhead, but she found hers on the shore of a river here in Oklahoma. My husband found a man's gold and onyx ring, run over by cars and smashed, outside a business. He told the business owner of the find in case anyone was looking for it; but no one was. He had the ring repaired and still has it today.

My other sister found a World War II campaign hat in the ditch by our house. One of my cousins also had a "ditch" find, a book that was, well, inappropriate. That's as kindly as I can put it. (A lot of people are concerned about "porn" on the internet, but let me assure you, such things have been around since the beginning of time, in various media. This find was way back in the very early 60's.) But probably the strangest find in our family was my brother's discovery of a month-old body in the Menominee River. That story is so interesting, I will feature his essay on this grisly experience in the column next week.

But this rumination gave me an idea for disposing of a large collection of coins I had, found during the ruthless downsizing project. Most of them were foreign currency I had kept from travels when I was younger " coins and a couple of bills from Mexico, the Bahamas, and the United Kingdom. I could have taken them to a bank that does currency exchanges, or kept them, but instead I decided to try and give someone else the fun of an unexpected find.

So I poured the money into a cup and put it in my car where I'd remember it was there. As I ran errands the last few weeks, I took one or two of the coins or bills with me, and left them in places for other people to find. I really hope most of them are found by children who will be excited by the unusual currency, but maybe one or two of them will be found by adults who appreciate the unexpected as well.

I was careful not to put them anywhere a person would be distracted and at risk of injury, like on streets or other high-traffic areas, but I left them in public places, in plain sight. I like thinking about someone noticing the coin or bill, picking it up, and wondering how a shilling from England found its way to the bike rack at the YMCA. Or maybe someone will find the nickel from the Bahamas I left near the entrance to my grocery story. The Bahamian nickels have scalloped edges and beautiful engraving on them " they are so nice, in fact, I had one made into a necklace for myself. Maybe someone who finds it will wonder, like I did, why we don't have any money so pretty.

Quite a few people have hobbies which are, at their core, looking for unexpected, surprising or unusual things. Amateur fossil hunters, antique lovers, rummage sale addicts and metal detector operators come right to mind, but there are others. One of my childhood friends had found a small "dump" area south of Peshtigo near the river, and we spent a fun day as kids digging through it looking for interesting things (but we found lots of rusty junk.)

But it's just as fun, or more, to find something when you aren't even looking for it. It is our human nature, as the primitive hunter-gatherers we once were, to always be looking around. I wish you the fun of the find!



You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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