September 29, 2004
After being totally knocked out by the Arabia Museum in Kansas City yesterday (although it???s an unfortunate name, conjuring up the wrong imagery, considering it???s actually a steamboat named The Arabia, full of 1857 Western cargo), I bought a book from the giftshop on the arduous efforts to excavate the boat. ???Treasure In A Cornfield,??? is the name of the book and it???s written by Greg Hawley, a member of the family that literally dug up the goods. I read much of it on the plane ride home.
Of course Greg, his brother Dave (who I met) and his dad were all crazy, getting consumed by the goal of digging up hidden treasure. They have an air-conditioning business and pooled all of their money, along with some close friends, and came up with some $250,000, to do the whole project. Of course, they spent that just getting down to the boat and then the money really started to flow, out, not in. Which in the water sense was a good thing, but in a metaphorical sense, money being water, it was a very bad thing. The fuel bill for the multiple pumps to suck the water table down, was running at $650 a day! They mortgaged their homes, worked around the clock, missed family dinners, strained their relationships with their wives. Ticked off old friends. Let???s just say I can totally relate, having dug up a sunken ship in a very similar manner.
Greg, the author, relates how at one point when everything looked bleak and he was working around the clock and everything was going south, he told his wife, ???Don???t worry honey, the bank can only take our house once.??? Ha. I wish I had that line back in the beginning of our True West journey, although, if I had used it I may not have lived long enough to write this.
The Arabia dig and resulting museum is really an extraordinary tale and legacy and when I met Dave Hawley I asked him if the culmination of the project had vindicated him and set him free and he said, ???Oh, no, we???ve found three other boats and we start digging next week on one of them.??? As my kids would say, ???Insane in the membrane.??? And that goes for me too. It???s amazing where passion for history can take you.
Or as my mother puts it, ???At least it keeps all of you off the streets.???
???If you can't accept losing, you can't win.???
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