He stood on the mound with shovel in hand. The hot wind did nothing to cool him down – nothing could – but it was enough to stir the dust into a cloud that nearly obscured his silhouette against the setting sun. He knew he was close, that somewhere beneath his feet rested the treasure, buried for years in the hard clay, waiting to be discovered. Yet as he gazed into the hole, he couldn’t shake the voice inside his head saying, “He’s digging in the wrong place.”
It started with a spot.
The field had been leveled, and the new sprinkler hose was ready to install. In just a few days the dusty, unused field would be transformed into a lush, green lawn. But the wet spot bothered me because it could only mean one thing: there was a leak and I would have to find it.
How hard could that be? Sprinkler pipes are usually about a foot or so beneath the surface, and the wet soil marked the place. All I would have to do is dig down a little, patch the pipe, and get back to work. The way I figured it, I would have time to fix the pipe, put the new sprinkler system in place, and still have time to catch a ballgame on TV. So I dug.
The pipe wasn’t there.
So I dug some more.
Nothing. I turned on the water to see where it was coming from, and it oozed through the soil like crude oil bubbling to the surface. But it was hard to locate its source. So I dug a bigger hole.
Nothing. Except rocks. River rocks to be exact, the kind that send shock waves through your body when you stike them. Eventually I realized I was playing a game of 3-dimensional chess: I had no idea where the pipe was north and south, east and west; and no idea how deep it was. Water being what it is, it follows the path of least resistance; and in clay, that path is a twisted one.
Falling back on what I could remember from Search and Rescue techniques, I began an expanding circle, except in three dimensions – more of an expanding sphere.
I turned the water on again. Now it came from my left. Then again. It came from the right.
And the hole got bigger.
At 3 feet, I hit cement.
Many years ago, someone broke up his driveway and used it as a “foundation” for the field. Apparently the driveway had a curb, because a three foot section was down there too.
More water. More misdirection. By now, my foot-deep hole had expanded to a four foot cavern. Spelunkers could have organized expeditions in the void I had created. For sure, the ancient spirits were having their way with me.
After two days of fruitless searching, I was just about ready to toss in the shovel when I gave the water one more shot. And suddenly, unexpectedly, a spray of water shot into the sky!
Like a precious treasure from ancient times, the white PVC pipe lay exposed after years of silent refuge. I let out a deranged cackle and raised my shovel to the sky in triumph.
The pipe got patched, and as I stood there basking in the glow of victory on the mound of dirt, rocks and cement, a fleeting thought crossed my mind before I retired for the night.
Tomorrow I would have to put it all back.