Seek What You Treasure
“Some may call this junk…me, I call them treasures”- Belethor
January 19th, 1902.
Blistering January winds whipped through the barren trees, nipping at the cheeks and nose of a Wisconsin man. He turned his back to the gust, waited until it passed, and continued deeper into the woods. The sun was struggling through the thick, gray clouds. The man looked to the sky, shook his head, and huffed. Thin whips of steam from his breath rose around him. He doubted the temperature would reach 25 degrees that day. Frank Duchateau pulled his wool hat firmly down over his ears, tucked his hands into his pockets, and moved onward.
Half an hour later, Frank reached the thick and decaying fallen tree that was the rendezvous point they had set. He sat quietly on the log and waited. The cold winds bit at his face, bringing hot tears to his eyes. As he sat, his legs and arms, which were tucked tightly to his chest for warmth, grew uncomfortably stiff.
But Frank was used to it, and he reveled in it.
Frank was called the “The Collector” of Wisconsin. Frank told everyone the nickname was ridiculous (“What kind of grown man needs a nickname?”), but his close friends knew he enjoyed the prestige. He spent weekends,early mornings, holidays, and rainy days in search of Native American artifacts to add to his collection. His hobby started at an early age. Frank and his father, Abelard, traveled along the riverbanks of Door County finding lost treasures. Their most common “treasures” were small arrowheads, but once they unearthed a small mortar and pestle, an incredibly lucky find, and one that fueled Frank’s passion for collecting.
Suddenly, a deep voice rang through the trees, shattering the morning air. “Frank! Long time no see!”
At first, it was impossible to tell which direction the noise came from. As Frank scanned for the voice’s owner, the echo bounced around the forest, disturbing the birds and sending a squirrel scurrying up the tall oak next to him. But it did not take him long to see his old friend, who was waving jovially as he approached from the left.
A.G. Holmes cheerfully greeted him.
Frank smiled politely at Holmes, whom he knew from City Hall. “Always a pleasure to get away from the city,” Frank responded. Having recently started his new position as City Alderman of Green Bay, Frank rarely got time off. He stood up slowly, stretched out his cold legs, and the two set off for the Red Banks.
“I have a good feeling about today!” A.G. said, as he did every time the two searched the forests. Frank nodded, glad that his coworker was in a good mood, but Frank knew better than to believe that every trek would bring them important finds. Nonetheless, he was hopeful to add something interesting to his collection.
As they hiked carefully through the snow and ice, Frank and A.G talked freely about their lives. The talk of the town was the sudden popularity of a relatively new invention — the automobile. A.G. eagerly told Frank that President Teddy Roosevelt had ridden in one just weeks ago! Frank dismissed this, claiming that they were just a fad, and nothing could replace the reliability of the horse and carriage.
In just a few years, Frank would become president of the Green Bay Automobile Club, but that’s another tale.
That morning, Frank and A.G. had met on a local hunting ground just outside of Green Bay, and to get to the Red Banks on foot, it took about two hours. Frank owned a plot of land on the Red Banks and knew the fastest way there.
As they walked and talked, Frank and his friend were silently scanning the cold ground, hoping to come across something new along the way. The further they were from the hunting ground, the less hopeful Frank grew. Snow covered most of the ground, and what could be seen was mostly dead foliage and exposed solid rock.
By the time they reached the Banks, even A.G. seemed less confident. They walked along the shore of the bay, searching for artifacts. After forty-five minutes and not even a broken arrowhead to show for it, Frank was contemplating turning around and trying again another day.
A.G. gasped, scurried across the rocky shore to a dark stone and inspected it. Only seconds later, A.G. stood up, dejected, and returned to Frank’s side. “Just a regular rock.”
Frank, who was cold and slightly annoyed at their lack of success, simply shrugged his shoulders and turned toward the trees, hiding his frustration from his friend. As he did, Frank noticed an oddly shaped object protruding from the hard soil where the forest met the shore. He narrowed his eyes, skeptical, and slowly approached it.
Almost immediately, he knew he had found something incredible. It was octagonal, dirty, and bronze. A.G., who was following closely behind him, exclaimed loudly, “Frank! What is it?”
“I’m not sure,” the Collector said quietly as brushed it lightly with his fingertips. The object, whatever it was, was covered with fine French inscriptions. Frank gingerly pulled it from the soil and recognized it was a small, but incredibly intricate sundial which had been abandoned on the beach some time ago.
It was a treasure, and one unlike any he had found before.
Frank and A.G. immediately set off for the hunting grounds, quickly but carefully, immensely aware of the piece of history Frank was carrying in his hands. It was an excruciatingly long trek home. The sun was well into the sky now, still unable to break through the blanket of clouds. When they finally reached their original meet up place, it was well into the afternoon. Still excited about their incredible find, the two talked excitedly all the way into town.
Frank, who had expected nothing unordinary about that January morning, had just discovered his greatest treasure.
This story is based on the real events of Frank Duchateau finding the Duchateau Sundial.