Grandma Campbell's Gold (one)

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Children Stories  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Poor old Grandma Campbell suffered a loss

Submitted: September 14, 2016

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Submitted: September 14, 2016

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Widow, Grandma Campbell still lived half way up Finlayson’s Road in the small slabwood house that she had helped her husband build when they first arrived in Otepopo circa 1901.  Her only company was a black cat, Elijah and her house-cow, Polly. Except that is for the weekend and school-off-days when Elizabeth came to stay with her.

Elizabeth’s family lived in the township and because times were tough, they had difficulty making ends meet, so the arrangement was that the ten year old girl would stay with the widow whenever she could, mainly for company, and also to partake in Grandma Campbell’s farm-grown vittles. The pair became great friends despite their age considerable gap.

The one special thing that Elizabeth liked above all else was being allowed to wear the old woman’s gold heart-shaped locket and chain. It seemed to glow on her skin and she felt rich with it around her neck.

North Otago has always been drought-prone and the drought of ’32 was particularly severe for Grandma Campbell because the small creek, Jimmy’s Creek she called it, that ran close to the house had dried up and the tank for collected rainwater from her roof was also bone dry!

It too her about two hours to take Polly down to the main road, down the hill to the railway line where there were gates to provide access across the line. The main road had not yet been tarred so there was never much traffic, it was common for livestock to be driven along the road. She crossed the narrower road that led to Frame’s Crossing, passed through another gate into a narrow paddock where there was a rough animal track that meandered down the steep bank to the river where the cow took her fill.

Grandma Campbell made this trek every second day, even though it was hard on her elderly frame. It was a Godsend and she was grateful to Elizabeth whenever she was visiting because she took Polly down to the river, allowing the elderly woman to rest.

One fateful day, when Elizabeth returned from watering Polly, she realized that she had lost the gold heart-shaped locket that Grandma Campbell had fastened around her neck. Elizabeth and Grandma Campbell were heartbroken! She had explained that the chain and locket was a fifth birthday gift from her mother and inside was a small lock of her five year old hair.

They spent days retracing Elizabeth’s steps, with each day ending in tears for Elizabeth! Kind Grandma Campbell, immensely sad at her loss, but never blaming the child.

Eighty three years on, by the miracle of modern transport and considerable good fortune, two girls from England were visiting their grandparents whose home sat perched on a river flat above the Waianakarua River. The girls were curious of their new surroundings and ventured down the steep bank to look for rabbits on the flat beside the river and to wonder at their apparent loneliness and complete freedom.

Hoping to see some baby rabbits they stopped where a burrow was partly excavated and peeped down the hole. One of them disturbed the heap of soil that the rabbit had scratched out.

There glinting the sunlight was a piece of gold chain! The elder of the pair took possession of the chain with the attached heart-shaped locket and they ran back to the house to show off their find.

After the excitement and dreams of riches had died down, Granddad cleaned the gold heart-shaped locket and opened it to reveal that a lock of hair was intact and there were initials - MJ on the outside of the locket.

The girls were full of questions and Granddad had no answers, but the youngest granddaughter thought they should try to find the owner to give it back – because she might be sad at the loss.

Granddad explained that the gold heart-shaped locket and chain was probably very old, but because he had prepared many a treasure hunt for them back home, he thought they could try to follow the clues to find out more. He did have an idea so took the girls up to the township to talk to an old identity, Albert, who he knew well. Granddad asked if he could remember Grandma Campbell’s maiden name. Straight off Albert remembered her Christian name, Mary, because he too, as Granddad remembered hearing, had taken turns to water Polly the cow down at the river. Remembering the maiden name was more of a stretch, Jacob maybe, he thought, but not exactly Jacob.

M.J. matched the initials on the locket so Granddad reckoned they were on the right track at least and the girls were still keen to solve the mystery of the ownership of Grandma Campbell’s gold.

The treasure hunt will continue.

 


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