Saturday, May 15, 2010

Max’s Anagram Bonanza

(Final version for May 19 edition of The Weekly Paper)

As our search for hidden treasure continued around the parched Clarksville ranch, we didn’t unearth any notables that first day, or the next. Soon, it was going to be time to hightail it back to the Wood River Valley and I didn’t want to return empty-handed. We were low on water and beer anyway, so for the last evening, my friends and I returned to the hoppin’ Red House bar.

Aaron picked up an old menu from the dusty table at the entrance. Why they had menus, I had no clue, because they only served burgers and beer. The atmosphere of the place could have used a “Sorry, we’re open” sign, too. Why, Dugout Dick’s caves in Salmon offered a more comfortable ambiance than here. Suddenly, I noticed on the reverse of Aaron’s menu some familiar handwriting – the same quirky handwriting style from the puzzling map we had quizzed over for days. At the bottom of the Red House bar menu, barely legible, was scrawled in green ink smudges: “Look in Arson Crick –signed Clark.” That was our answer! As usual, Clark was speaking to us through cipher and now he had left us another beyond-the-grave clue. From our long cryptic talks together, Clark knew that I had acquired a taste for snappy anagrams, as well as spicy hamburgers, in my worldly travels. I’m sure he chuckled as he calculated that I would eventually come across his clue at the Red House, Nevada bar. “Look in Arson Crick” was an anagram for “Look in Rock Cairns!”

After re-supplying some liquid provisions, we sped back to Clarksville and held my metal detector against the heart of first cairn we approached. When I set the sensor to silver, the gauge went haywire, so I flicked it off and we carefully stripped the balanced rocks down to their foundations. Inside each jagged cairn, Clark, or some cooper, had sealed hundreds of uncirculated Liberty Dollars into dozens of cork casks. We were going to need to hire a couple of Nevadan pantechnicons to safely extract this shimmering coinage before transporting it northward. I rang Amy, who was petsitting Bud and Tweet; and with a silver smile, explained I was going to be a few days late and that I had a grand secret. I then asked if she could make arrangements for an overnight field trip for the schoolchildren. Amy and I wanted to show them a mating ritual, in part to celebrate my newfound wealth. This was the perfect time of year to see the male sage grouse strut their stuff near Trapezoid Lake, then afterward, we would all ambulate over to Chalk Cave, where, although I had some definitive ideas about how to transform my newfound wealth into dynamic action with that land near the new airport, I was curious to ask the children that I had taught all year for their constructive ideas. This special cave would make the ideal backdrop.

About the author: Jim Banholzer enjoys fiction, and sometimes is astounded when discovering that some of the characters there, grow to become more three-dimensional than many real people do.

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