The Lost Treasure of Perkins MacGhee

Emmy held Grandpa’s hand as they walked up the hill to Pilchner Park. When they arrived at the top of the bluff, Emmy stood on the bottom wooden rail of the fence to get a better view.

“Did I thank you for the ice cream, Grandpa?” Eight-year-old Emmy asked while staring down at the Kinmundy River.

“Yes, you did and you are most welcome,” Grandpa answered wiping the sweat from his forehead.

“Do you know anymore stories about Perkins MacGhee?” she asked waving at one of the tugboats.

Grandpa rubbed the wiry, gray stubble of his beard and tilted his head. “I might know another story.”

“Tell me, Grandpa!” Emmy squealed jumping off the fence and facing him.

Grandpa sat on the bench facing the river and tried to remember the first story he told her about the legendary fur trapper and explorer who had given the river its name. He chuckled as he recalled the story about the ghost who would appear out of the mist. “I can remember a story my father told me a long time ago about a lost treasure.”

Emmy sat on the bench facing her grandfather. She put her hands under her knees and gazed into his eyes. “You have to tell me.”

“You remember MacGhee was a giant of a man. Several inches over six feet tall with long flowing hair under a hat made from beaver hides and had a full bushy beard. He dressed in animal skins and spoke in a strange language, right?”

Emmy nodded as her eyes sparkled.

“Well, the story is that MacGhee was exploring high in the mountains of… uh… Michigan in the middle of winter. The snow was coming down so fast he couldn’t see his hands in front of his face.”

“Did he have a sled? I like to slide down Windsor Hill if there’s enough snow.”

“I don’t think he had a sled, but he managed to find a cave high up near the top of the mountain. He stepped inside to get out of the snow. There was a stone ledge so he set his backpack down and decided to make the cave his camp until the snow stopped.”

“I like to go camping. It’s fun to sleep in a tent and I don’t get scared,” she said proudly.

Grandpa smiled recalling the time Emmy camped in the backyard.

“When the snow stopped, MacGhee gathered some firewood, started a fire at the mouth of the cave and made his supper.”

“What did he eat? Did he make soup or SpagettiOs?”

“I think he made a rabbit stew with potatoes and carrots and a wild onion,” Grandpa answered. He stared at a hawk flying overhead for a moment. “He ended up staying in the cave the whole winter because there was so much snow. He would trap rabbits and once even shot a…”

“Don’t tell me he shot a baby deer, Grandpa!” Emmy interrupted waving her hands.

“It wasn’t a deer. It was a vicious wolverine.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s sorta like a small bear that is mean to other animals. Anyway, MacGhee survived on the animals and berries he found just outside the cave.” Grandpa nodded several times. “He ate lots of blueberries and found an apple tree with yellow apples.”

“I would rather eat spaghetti with meatballs unless they’re made with those bear things.”

“He probably ran out of pasta,” Grandpa said with a laugh. “Finally, it stopped snowing enough for the sun to come out. MacGhee decided to explore deeper into the cave and guess what he found.”

“What?”

“He found more gold and silver than he could dream of. Right there in plain sight.”

“What did he do with it?”

“He used his hammer to get all of the gold and silver and put it into his backpack. Then he waited until it was spring and was going to go down the mountain back to his house in town.”

“Grandpa! I thought he didn’t have a house because he lived in a canoe.”

“Right you are!” Grandpa pointed at her while nodding. “I meant the shelter made of trees where he stored his canoe when he wasn’t using it. So, he was getting ready to break camp. He stuffed everything into his backpack and took one last look around the cave. Just as he was ready to walk out he heard something rustling near the back of the cave.”

“What was it?”

Grandpa stood up, spread his arms wide and made a growling noise. “It was a huge black bear just waking up.”

Emmy giggled, rolled her eyes and then asked, “Didn’t he know about the bear?”

Grandpa rubbed his jaw. “No, he couldn’t see it because it was in a corner where the light didn’t reach. He stood still for a moment. The huge bear stood up and filled the entire cave it was so big. MacGhee knew the bear would be hungry after sleeping all winter but he wasn’t afraid. The bear yawned and stretched his arms for a moment. Then it spotted MacGhee.”

Emmy leaned back against the bench and wrapped her arms around her chest.

“MacGhee and the bear were only a few feet apart but neither one moved for a long time. MacGhee stared into the bear’s eyes and slowly… as slow as really cold pancake syrup… began to turn away. The bear sniffed the backpack and detected the smell of the food MacGhee had packed.”

“I thought it was full of gold and silver?”

“Yes, but there was room for just enough food to get back down to… his canoe.”

“Okay, go on.”

“Once the bear realized there was food in the backpack, he raised a paw that was bigger than that rock over there.” Grandpa pointed to a decorative stone about the size of a basketball.

“What did MacGhee do?”

“Well, the bear ripped the backpack away and tried to take a bite. MacGhee turned to face the bear and grabbed his trusty rifle.”

“Did they really have guns back then? You told me this was like four hundred years ago in the first story.”

“He had a homemade gun.”

Emmy tilted her head back and forth as she ran a finger through her ponytail. “Okay, I suppose he could have made a gun.”

“MacGhee only had a second to save his life, so he pulled the trigger and shot the bear in the stomach. The bear roared and MacGhee fired again. The cave started shaking because the gun and the bear made so much noise it caused an earthquake. The cave began to collapse.” Grandpa waved his arms and stomped his feet. “Parts of the ceiling came down in huge chunks. MacGhee turned and ran for the opening just as the entire cave collapsed.”

“Did he get the backpack?”

Grandpa stood still. Then he shook his head. “All the snow on the mountain began to come down.”

“There was an avalanche, huh?”

“Yes. MacGhee curled up into a ball and rolled all the way down the mountain along with all the snow and trees and rocks. When he hit the bottom he had to dig his way out of six, no, twenty feet of snow. He popped his head through the snow, took a deep breath and looked up.” Grandpa stared into the sky.

“What did he see?” Emmy asked standing up next to Grandpa.

“All he could see was an ocean of white. The snow and avalanche had obliterated… uh… changed the entire mountain. There weren’t any trees or rocks or anything left. All he could see was a sheet of white without any trace of a cave.”

“So, the avalanche completely covered the cave with the dead bear inside, huh?”

“Yep! There was no trace of the cave or the bear.”

“Or the gold and silver.”

Grandpa nodded. “The snow didn’t melt that summer, and more snow fell in the winter. In fact, there has been snow on that mountain ever since. It just keeps getting deeper and deeper. No matter how hard MacGhee, or anyone tried, they could never find the cave again.”

“So, that’s why it’s a lost treasure, huh, Grandpa?” She took his hand and they started walking down the hill.

“Until this very day there is a cave filled with gold and silver…”

“And a humongous dead bear,” she added. “That’s a pretty good story, Grandpa, but…”

Grandpa stopped suddenly, let go of Emmy’s hand, put his hands on his knees and faced her. His eyes were wide open. “There’s more. You see that mountain is where people go skiing now and sometimes when there are too many people trying to ski, the people stop and swear they can hear something roaring from deep under the snow near the top of the mountain. They claim they can hear scraping noises like something trying to escape. They say it sounds like a bear is getting closer and closer to the top of the snow.”

Emmy stared up at Grandpa. “Are you making that up?”

“You have to decide for yourself.” Grandpa put an arm around her shoulders and squeezed as they began walking again. “It’s just another of the legends of Perkins MacGhee.”

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