Joyce Bupp, farm wife

Legendary are the tales about finding lost treasure. Some of those tales are probably true; many of them, not so much.

Recently, I read of a couple in California who — a long time ago — came across a half-buried tin can while walking their property after a flood. They dug the tin up from the mud in which it was partially encased and, upon opening it, found a trove of gold coins. Apparently, the treasure trove became a “finders keepers” event of incredibly good fortune for the pair.

While many of us might dream of such luck, we’ve resigned ourselves here on the farm to the reality of enjoying treasures of considerably lesser nature — still usually unexpected, sometimes useful, and even sometimes semi-valuable.

And, while we’re often told to keep looking up through life, I’ve learned to look down most of the time while traveling the farm, roadsides and meadows.

A shiny chain I plucked recently from a pile of mud-manure near the dairy barn, where equipment is often cleaned off with the pressure washer, turned out to be one of the more useful treasures. I delivered it to The Farmer, who immediately recognized it as belonging to a manure spreader we had rented for spreading chicken litter. During the pressure-washed cleanup, it had apparently fallen loose. The found-treasure chain has since been relocated to its rightful home on the spreader.

Our neighbor Randy, departing after a brief stop to trade gardening updates, spotted a more typical farm find while heading back to his pickup. This tiny “treasure” was a lost screw ... lost from goodness-knows-what. Luckily, it wasn’t a nail, because, unfortunately, we do “pick up” those lost treasures occasionally in a tire.

Walking the field road to the meadow frequently results in the treasure-hunting retrieval of some farm-related object. Recently, I came upon a small, metal spring, with one end pulled askew. It looked too shiny and new to have been lost very long, so I pocketed it to show it to The Farmer. Unsure of what it had come loose from, he nevertheless figured he could find some use for it — sometime, somewhere.

Over the years walking the field road, I’ve retrieved cotter keys and hitchpins, nuts, bolts, washers, round-bale net wrap, lost hats, assorted tools lost from equipment, buckets tossed about by windstorms, miscellaneous pieces of wire, and surely stuff I’ve long since forgotten about.

Meadow and pond walks are more likely to turn up treasures like lost plastic fishing bobbers or torn fishing lines complete with barbed hooks (not something you want to get tangled into).

Walking along roadsides and the fields generally turns up treasure of the trashy sort: plastic fast-food cups, iced-tea jugs, drinking straws, soft-drink cans and beer bottles.

After nasty windstorms, which sometimes strew pieces of garbage from neighbors’ properties high on the hills to down across our fields, I’ve picked up bits of broken toys, battered cardboard boxes, silage plastic scraps and a slew of the ubiquitous plastic bags used by retailers everywhere, in assorted shades of white, green, gray, blue and muddy brown.

Some treasures stand out like sore thumbs, such as the occasional ones seen shining among the field grasses or crop rows. Those are inevitably worn-out, celebratory balloons, in bright colors and sporting metallic messages like “Happy Birthday,” “Happy Anniversary” or “Welcome Baby!” All those “happy” balloons might be cheery and festive at parties and celebrations, but they can be damaging — sadly, even lethal — to wildlife that becomes entangled in them.

A fairly common treasure find in our fields near the garden are large, flex-plastic plant pots, with the bottoms removed. They’re my plant protectors, set around newly planted seedlings for a few days until they’ve acclimated to the outdoors. Blustery winds and gusty thunderstorms can whip the mini-shelters right off the plants and toss them around the surrounding fields. Eventually, the scattered pots come to rest in a fencerow, a patch of weeds, sometimes even in our little stream, so I can retrieve and reuse them.

Optimistically, we could all hope to someday find a wrinkled plastic grocery bag among the roadside weeds, pick it up to take to the trash and discover a trove of gold coins within.

Yeah, probably not. I guess I’ll have to settle for the penny I found on the basement floor this morning.

Joyce Bupp is a freelance writer in York County, Pennsylvania.