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All that glitters is the possibility

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The Baron de Castin, after whom our town is named, stashed six trunks of gold somewhere on this peninsula – according to legend. It could be anywhere, since more then 300 years have passed since the baron was traipsing around this wooded region on the Penobscot River in Maine.

And that's what I told Jim when he came to dig the leach field for our septic system. I said the same thing to Wade when he dug the foundation hole. I say the same thing to myself whenever I scratch the surface of the plow layer with my tractor.

"I'll split the gold with you, if you happen to uncover it with the excavator," I told them. It seemed like a pretty good incentive for paying attention to detail while removing topsoil, the dollar being at such a low ebb against the euro. "The baron's gold" has a very nice cachet. Treasure in the leach field! In the onion patch! Every walk in the woods another chance to strike it rich!

The legend of the baron's gold gained credence 100 years ago when a couple of woodcutters found some 17th-century gold coins washing out of a bank over on Johnson Point in the Northern Bay of the Bagaduce River. Something glittered at them as they were skidding trees to the river. It was the real thing, and old – but the coins had been minted a few years after the baron had returned to his native France. So it must have been his daughter's gold. Close enough.

It makes it tempting to turn over every rock that looks as if it might have been left as a marker, or that has 300 years' worth of topsoil surrounding it. Glacial erratics start to look like signs saying "Dig Here."

The fields and woods of Castine are littered with historical artifacts, since human habitation and warfare in these parts date back 400 years. When I move dirt from piles of solid fill to our garden, I inevitably come up with bits of old china, glass, rusty machinery, and even intact patent medicine bottles. And every so often you see someone making a concerted effort to find treasure rather than just stumble upon it.


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