We Were Going to be Rich
“Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” is a television show most of us have seen at least once. Face it I’d settle for just rich…who cares about being famous! Besides if you were rich don’t you think the fewer people who knew about it, the better?
But most of us have at least wondered what it would be like to be rich. It’s only human nature. I know I did. However, in my case, there was the distinct possibility it could happen.
It was common knowledge natural gas, oil and even diamond fields had been discovered in the Ozark Mountains and that’s where my Grandmother lived…on forty acres of prime mountain top property. But these were facts we as children didn’t know…until our Grandfather “inadvertently” let it slip.
Grandfather was a notorious prankster and was not one to pass up such a grand opportunity to fan the flames of our fertile young imaginations. We should have been wary of any such information he passed on to us from past experience. But the lure of instant riches and their possibilities were too much for us and once again, we were to become “stooges” in Grandfather’s latest prank.
Pamphlets of the well known Arkansas diamond field tourist attraction mysteriously began appearing in conspicuous places where we were sure to find them. Magazine articles of oil and natural gas exploration in Arkansas were also left lying around. Next, talk of government geological surveyors being seen in the area became a major topic of conversation around our dinner table.
“I bet those guvmint folks have found sumptin up round here” grandfather innocently drawled in his gravelly country accent. “We’ve always known they was stuff up in these here mountains the guvmint was always trying to swindle us poor mountain folk out of” he continued. “As a matter of fact I saw a few of’em down in the bottoms last week snooping around. It won’t be long now before them Washington tax people come round trying to get you all’s money!”
What did he mean by “our money”? Our attention immediately focused on Grandfather. “Well, ya’ll know this here land belongs to your Grandma. Her daddy left it to her. I got no claim to it at all” he explained. “But she told me she was going to divide it up twixt all her grandchildren”.
Well, this was an unexpected piece of information. We we’re going to be rich! Excitedly we deluged Grandma with a thousand questions aimed at how much money we each would get. A hint of an amusing smile played across her face and she shifted our questions back to Grandfather. Our wise old Grandmother saw no need to spoil the fun we were having.
“Well, that would depend on how much stuff they found up here” Grandfather said. “But I hear tell of a feller up on the ridge over yonder who got millions for his little two acre spread”! Hello…we had forty acres to split between us four grandchildren!
That night we fitfully slept with dreams of untold riches filling our heads. The next day we grandchildren entertained each other with stories about what we would do with our fortune. Big houses, horses, expensive toys topped the list of all things we would naturally buy.
However, Grandfather wasn’t quite finished with us just yet. A close friend of his had been recruited to finalize this little hoax.
About noon Grandfather’s friend came knocking at our door as we were having lunch. Country folk never let strangers leave hungry so of course he was invited to share our meal. Grandfather introduced himself and us to this “stranger” as he sat down at the table.
The man identified himself as an agent of the United States Internal Revenue Service and he was there to find out who owned the property on this mountain top and how much acreage there was. Grandfather pointed to us and said “That’s the owners’ right there! And they got forty acres between’em”!
“Well, now…that makes my job a whole lot easier” he exclaimed! The “agent” took a pencil and paper from his pocket and rapidly began calculating imaginary figures with an exaggerated, extravagant flair. “Let’s see now” the man mused. “That comes to, um, exactly a million dollars you each owe Uncle Sam”!
We were in a pickle…of course we didn’t have that kind of money. And according to this “government official”, if we couldn’t pay, we we’re all going to be thrown in jail!
At this news, tears began to flow. Grandfather came to our defense. “Now, ya’ll just wait a darn minute here. These kids can’t pay that”!
The fake agent then said, “Well, there might be a way they won’t have to pay”. “How’s that”, grandfather asked. “It would depend on whether they own the mineral rights to this property”, said the agent.
“Grandma, go fetch the deed to this property” Grandfather hollered. Off she went and returned with the papers. Grandfather donned his spectacles and scrutinized the document. “It says here this property used to belong to the rail road.”
“Well, that’s a horse of a different color”, the agent cried out! “They couldn’t own the mineral rights then, so they don’t owe anything. But that also means their property isn’t worth anything to the United States Government or them”. That was fine by us; at least we weren’t going to jail.
The agent left and things calmed down. Grandfather quietly chuckled to himself as he left the table, leaving us wondering what he found so amusing. We didn’t find out until years later.
By the way, anybody know what “mineral rights” are?