No one deliberately leaves behind a mound of gold pieces, but losing a battle in war probably forced soldiers some 1,300 years ago to do just that. Burying the gold treasure signified the contempt the victors had for the losers. This summer, archeologist excavated the buried treasure found in an English field: gold jewelry, sword holders, helmets, other military hardware – enough for many soldiers. Each piece portrayed intricate detail. Many had jewels. It all stayed underground until a metal detector sensed its presence.
Sometimes folks leave treasures behind deliberately, sometimes accidentally, and for whatever reason the goods remain there for someone else to claim. In recent years, personal stashes left behind initiated the reality show “Storage Wars.”
When the auctioneer breaks the lock, the buyers quickly assess the unit, “This one is neatly stacked and carefully wrapped … looks like good stuff.” “This is not worth even a dollar.” “I think I see a bargain in that corner.”
Whether treasured pictures, expensive collections, clothes, furniture or just plain junk, someone cared enough to rent a locker, fill a truck and tuck everything into the locker – and then failed to reclaim it.
Incomprehensible, until I almost let it happen to me last week.
On Monday, despite my best intentions, I completely forgot to stop by the Union County Fairgrounds to pick up the quilts and pictures we had entered in the fair. My husband asked me about the pictures the minute I walked in the door.
Very early the next morning, I called the Union County Extension Office to see if I could correct my forgetfulness. They gave me one more chance that afternoon to go to the fair and scoop up my work. I made sure I remembered. I taped reminders onto my computer screen and steering wheel.
I was not the only one who failed to show. I saw an older family heirloom quilt, other pictures, plants and crafts. It was not as much as in previous years, according to Union County Extension agent Liz McKay, but still there were many unclaimed items.
And it wasn’t just the show items I had not collected. I also had not collected my checks for winning a ribbon or two. When I stopped by the Union County Extension Office to ask for the checks, I talked with McKay and Glenda Sutherlin. They said having just one night for pick-ups compelled a lot more exhibitors to come to the fair grounds to claim their items than in previous years. In the past, with more nights scheduled for pick-ups, more people forgot. Items sat for weeks and then months. They finally threw away boxes of left-behind items.
I asked Glenda about other checks like the ones I held in my hand. Each boldly declared “void if not cashed in 30 days.” She said she still had plenty of checks left, but in a couple of weeks they go back to the issuer. The checks are not mailed.
I only collected enough cash to buy a couple of yards of fabric or to have some pictures developed, but still cash is cash. Those who won a ribbon won cash. When that stack of unclaimed checks disappears, not even a metal detector will find them in the future.
Only the first prize winners in canning have a reprieve. Their pick-up time comes after their canned goods are judged at the district competition.
At the News-Times we have a similar problem. Pictures submitted for ads, weddings, engagements, anniversaries, school and community events accumulate unclaimed in file folders for years.
For years, we added to the files in the news room. We ran out of space. Last winter, I began filling trash barrels with pictures of people wearing clothes and hair styles no longer fashionable. Fortunately, in this digital era, original photographs are usually sent via email and the originals remain with the senders. We receive an electronic copy, save it to our computer, publish it, and then periodically delete printed photos. That’s the usual story. However, we still receive some print photos. We have a couple of small folders of printed pictures waiting for owners to claim them.
We do not keep pictures forever. We are not like the dry cleaners I talked with several years ago. He had kept a bride’s dress for 15 or 20 years thinking that someday, someone would remember and come to claim it. No one ever did.
Ultimately, we all leave everything behind for someone else to sort through, keep, sell or toss in the trash. But until then, whether it’s your forgotten pictures, your fair exhibit or your dry cleaning, I’d suggest you tie a string on your finger, stick a note on your computer and go get it.