Pandemic Treasure Hunt
Marcia McGreevy Lewis
Copyright 2021 by Marcia McGreevy Lewis
Letting off steam during the pandemic can
astonishing treasures as I discovered when taking a
car trip. The treasure hunt delivered two
were getting stir-crazy. It had been one long year! My boyfriend and
I took walks and marveled at the pots of cherry red geraniums,
sprightly yellow daisies and plum-purple pansies. We went on so many
walks that we searched for diversion in hidden street ends, even
and playing card
games had lost their luster. Cooking was repetitive, so we ordered
out too much.
blues, right, but I
retired with a specific agenda to travel. The world is vast, and I
have a limited number of years left. I had launched a concerted
effort to visit all the places I’d been longing to see, did the
research, made the plans and purchased the tickets. Stop right there.
COVID-19 meant that I returned the tickets, changed the plans and
the last person who should complain. I have a loving relationship,
close family, friends in my pod, a carefully managed retirement plan
and food on the table. I gather through Facetime with family and
through Zoom with the groups with whom I used to gather in person. I
meet with a few friends who are comfortable with distanced walking.
is fine, but every way I shot the arrow, I missed the target. I had
anticipated a life of adventure, and the pandemic undermined those
are many homeless, jobless, hungry people. The virus
has claimed well over 500,000 lives in our country alone. Some of my
friends have life-long effects from the virus, and their lives have
changed forever. My daughter worries that her children’s
friends suffer from depression and have even attempted suicide.
had no right to be angry. Do I dare admit that I was? I know. I was
an ingrate, but I needed to wallow a bit, own my resentment,
slap myself around, create new plans and rise from the mire. I needed
to examine how I could heal in this world that was struggling
fiercely to heal itself. My
impact on restoring that world was frustratingly limited, so I needed
to fix just myself.
examined what makes my life worthwhile. What came to mind was giving
to others, so I gave what I can where I could. I
cooked my daughter’s family breakfasts and drove my
grandchildren to appointments and practices. That worked. When
we uplift others, we all rise.
spirits were still gravely in need of uplifting. I knew the antidote,
but international travel is still risky. I asked myself what I could
do to heal in the meantime. Then I witnessed a minor explosion. My
beau got so steamed up with the TV news that he jumped up from the
couch, grabbed the vacuum and started cleaning rugs at mach speed. It
became crystal clear that we needed to let off more steam. After
examining our limited options, we determined to plan a road trip.
pack some fun into the escapade, we made this trip a treasure hunt.
We would find a new hunting location for my hunter/boyfriend. He had
heard about great duck hunting in Othello, WA, and had yearned for
years to find this treasure. This wasn’t going to be an easy
task because the location is obscure, and rifle-toting men are sure
to monitor the grounds.
stop my hunter, so we planned the trip. We wanted to take a side trip
stop to Tekoa, Washington, because my dad grew up there. It would be
fun to see this tiny berg that is part of my family history, and we
could stop en
to see my cherished sister in Spokane, Washington.
set out in warm spring weather, driving east from Seattle to Spokane,
through three distinct ecological zones. Lofty firs, cedars with
their velvet fronds, azure lakes and snow-capped peaks abandoned us
as we hit sagebrush country in the flatlands mid-state. There the air
smelled of a mixture of cow manure and the metallic aroma of heavy
earth. Arid stretches intermingled with emerald green fields when
farmers had access to water. Giant circles of healthy grain crops
revealed the exact areas the sprinklers covered.
Nelson CDs serenaded us as we chatted our way east. Car trips are
great opportunities to explore fun topics: tell me more about your
childhood, how would you spend it if you were to win a million
dollars and what’s your favorite movie of all time? Six hours
and lots of trail mix later (we were on the trail, right?), we
reached Spokane where the brown/grey, stately basalt cliffs and
fragrant pines beckoned us.
sister welcomed us as much as face masks and elbow bumps allowed. We
dined with her outside, socially distanced and Clorox-bleached, on a
mild evening. A gentle wind blew, and the Spokane Falls rippled below
us. We exchanged isolation tales and admitted that we’re
getting cabin fever--as the pre-trip maniacal vacuuming attests.
next day we headed south toward the almost-forgotten town of Tekoa in
southeast Washington. To reach it, we drove through the rolling hills
of the expansive Palouse, 19,000 square miles of lush, fertile soil.
Canola was growing in undulating waves of brilliant yellow blooms.
Recently plowed fields created stripes of chocolate brown contrast on
the vast, rippling hillsides. We stopped to talk with a farmer at his
tidy farm. He told us his family has farmed there for generations and
relies on Washing ton State University for guidance.
wind-blown Palouse hills that include parts of the John Wayne Trail
drew my great grandparents there in the 1880s. They farmed winter
wheat and alternated it with lentils and canola. Later my ancestors
turned over their farms to others so they could create businesses—a
Studebaker dealership, a hardware store and a John Deere Plow
dealership. We wanted to uncover the buried bones of these
steel grain elevators anchored the small towns we passed through just
as statues of their forbearers affixed the larger towns to the land.
When we arrived in Tekoa, my childhood memories harkened back to
riding on combines at our farms. Other framers ran them then as they
do today. My dad’s dying words were, “Whatever you do,
don’t sell the farms.” And we haven’t, Dad.
2010 census lists Tekoa’s population at 778, so we smiled when
a local told us that the population is now 800. The town reflects
that “growth.” It does boast an art-deco theatre and the
Slippery Gulch Festival in spring, though.
popped into the antique shop and chatted with the owner who asked my
dad’s name and left to roam the abbreviated version of a main
street. After we spotted the used car lot with finned Cadillacs and
once-hot rods, we realized that the antique store dealer was running
after us. He had a book in his hands, and that’s where we found
book was a history of the town and contained a section devoted to my
family. It even listed my name and those of my siblings. Then the
antique dealer pointed out each deserted or repurposed building of my
family’s former businesses. As we left, I thanked the dealer
warmly and planned to order the book. That wasn’t the treasure
we sought, but it was gold.
we headed two hours farther south to the Palouse Falls which drop an
impressive 180 feet. On a short hike above the falls we came across
furious water plunging through canyon walls. We returned to Spokane
for the night and set off the next morning in search of the original
goal of our treasure hunt.
partner has hunted ducks since childhood, traveling considerable
distances to find fields that attract fowl. He often gets up before
dawn to lie in duck blinds in freezing weather. That dedication
deserves a reward. We needed to find the fresh hunting grounds he had
hunting locations are inaccessible for good reason. They need to be
far enough from civilization that hunters don’t mistake ducks
for people, so we had a tricky time finding the grounds. When we did,
the signs were clear: “No trespassing.” An additional
sign: “No second chance” was ominous.
signs would have discouraged a normal person, but my hunter/boyfriend
drove right up to the guard house and jumped out of the car. When the
caregiver lumbered out in a tattered blue shirt and steel-toed boots,
I cowered in the car. I expected to stare down the barrel of a
shotgun or at least have an indented rear end when we got a swift
kick from a boot.
beau offered his hand, and Merv, who was not clenching a gun,
introduced himself, and took it. We appeared to be getting more than
a second chance when these two had a friendly chat. Now for the
coveted treasure--Merv was glad we’d come and invited us to
reserve space for a hunting expedition.
even offered to drive us around the property. My elated partner took
him up on it, and my quaking subsided--gradually. Merv pointed out
numerous corn “ponds”--massive stretches of lanky corn
swaying in the breeze to attract ducks. He also showed us camouflaged
duck blinds that looked like blackberry vines. It turned out that
this treasure was a lodge
guests who fish or hunt. We thanked Merv warmly and planned to
we have cooked up this expedition if we weren’t about to cause
havoc with a vacuum cleaner? Probably not, but it rejuvenated our
spirits. My anger has disappeared, and healing has begun. Adventure
was as close as our parked car. I
have more energy to give to taking care of others now because the
caregiver has taken care of herself. We all find our own ways of
letting off pandemic steam. Sometimes that leads to remarkable
McGreevy Lewis lives in Seattle and is a retired feature writer for a
major Washington newspaper. She was the Director of Communications at
an independent school where she founded the school’s magazine.
Reach her on Facebook, Instagram: marcialewis25, Twitter:
@McGreevyLewis and linkedin: Marcia Lewis
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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