ELKINS – Davis & Elkins College students Clay Messinger and Dalton Irvine are still reeling with excitement days after solving clues and finding a buried treasure on the College campus. Another conundrum just might be on the horizon if the two have their say.
“When he ripped off the red tape and we knew it was the treasure, I went insane. I started running around and screaming,” Messinger said. “It would be really cool if we kept something like this going. I have some ideas and I’d like to put something into it.”
The treasure hunt, modeled after the one initiated by New Mexico millionaire Forrest Fenn, began on August 9. Vice President for Student Affairs Scott Goddard, along with Technical Director and Adjunct Professor in Theatre Arts Eric Armstrong, put together ideas for the D&E version and asked Professor of English Dr. Bill King to write a poem that sequenced clues leading to the location of the trove. While the contents of the treasure chest were never revealed to students, they were told the prizes were items any college student would find valuable.
“I’ve always liked puzzles and riddles,” Messinger said of what intrigued him to begin the search. “I figured if it’s just setting there waiting for someone to go get it; why not?”
The poem takes a course through campus, from the entrance to Sycamore Street “where
a stone horse stands just off the busy road” to The Caboose Café “until lily pads
by a railroad track to nowhere float before your eyes.” From there, Messinger and Irvine – and other treasure seekers – were pretty sure they should head to Inspiration Point. To make certain he was on the right track, Messinger paid a visit to King.
“The line that was giving him trouble was ‘ring the green,’” King said. “So, we discussed the word ring — its denotations and forms (subject and verb). Apparently, that did it.”
What Messinger and Irvine didn’t realize was that the treasure was actually buried. At first, they used sticks to clear away grass and scratch just beneath the ground’s surface. Then they found a shovel head.
“It had no handle and it was aggravating at times,” Irvine said. “We dug holes all over the place. There were two other guys looking, but they didn’t have a shovel.”
About three hours later, they unearthed a plastic container wrapped in red tape. At first, they thought they had uncovered a pet’s burial site.
“When we opened it up, it was double,” Messinger said. “There was another plastic container wrapped in tape.”
Inside that container, they found it – a wooden box embossed with the D&E letters and filled with more than $300 worth of gift cards to local businesses and online retailers.
“The box was soaked and so were the certificates,” Messinger said. “It looked like a buried treasure that was maybe 30 years old. I really felt like a pirate.”
To celebrate their find, the two took some of their gift cards to Applebee’s for steak dinners.
“It was a great day,” Messinger said. “It was a lot of fun and that’s why I want it to continue.”
“I was thrilled that the discovery followed a conversation about poetry, language and literary analysis,” King said. “The poem is not just about treasure, but seeking truth, that’s exactly what happened.”