Tully Brothers Treasure Hunt II

Part Two: Treasure Found!

In 2019 two nephews loaded up their truck and backpacks and headed out to the Popo Agie Wilderness in Wyoming. Armed with their puzzle maps and the fruit of countless hours of deliberation over the clues and markings on the puzzles, they headed off to the presumed location of the treasure marked on the map. As they then discovered once on site, even having a location indicated on a topo map is not sufficient information to find a buried treasure. The wilderness is too big and the map is too imprecise.  They were to learn after returning empty-handed that once standing on site they needed to use the riddle printed on the map and clues in it describing the natural geography to find the specific rock under which the treasure was concealed.  

Then in 2021, one of those two young men and his wife soloed into the Popo Agie to make a second run at the treasure. By now they understood the need for the riddle. Once on site they used the jigsaw map riddle and after an exhausting hunt located the large rock that we had engraved with our deceased mother’s name, “Gini”. Once standing at that rock it was difficult to see the chamber under the rock in which the treasure was hidden. But after finding the treasure in an obscure chamber fashioned under this car-sized boulder, they rushed to the top of a nearby mountain and had sufficient cell connection to text me that they had found the treasure. If ever simple text could display emotion that text message did.  It took the pair several days to hike out of the wilderness and communicate to their cousins that their 25-year search was over… or was it? 

Under the rock they discovered a 18” square Tupperware container packed full of gear. It didn’t look like much of a treasure. Inside they found a bottle of whiskey, one of our favorite fly-fishing reels, a nice knife, the July 14, 1997, issue of Newsweek Magazine announcing the first Mars Pathfinder’s rover landing, a letter from me to my “once small” kids expressing my love and hope for their lives, and several other mementos. Total value: under $100. To have worked so long for such a meager treasure must have been disappointing. However, included among these items was a mysterious key. There was no explanation for this key inside the treasure box or in the materials we had previously shared with them over the years. It was a new mystery they had to solve. Why is this key here? Also included in the box was a slip of paper with a decryption code matrix on it … also with no explanation. A second and third mystery that would need to be solved before the “real” treasure was found. 

They then understood they must travel to Santa Fe, NM and perhaps the key was to ...

After traveling back home to Illinois these two called their cousins to reveal they had found the treasure and that they needed help figuring out the two new mysteries. After some deliberation they remembered the 13 pairs of codes written on the face of each puzzle. They quickly assembled those 26 characters and used the coded matrix to decode those characters. The decoded phrase was Santa Fe First National Bank”. They then understood they must travel to Santa Fe, NM and perhaps the key was to a safe deposit box. After visiting the bank and opening the indicated safe deposit box, they discovered paperwork indicating a money market account in their names with over $25,000 in it that had been growing in value since it was established in 1996.  

That summer of 2021 our families had a large reunion and celebrated the conclusion of this 25-year adventure. The money market account was cashed out and distributed among the cousins as described in the rules. The 25-year-old bottle of whiskey tasted terrible. The fly-fishing reel, knife, and other mementos are part of our cherished family history.  

It remains the hope of the older Tully Brothers, now the patriarchs, that the real treasure was found: that each young adult, many now with young families of their own, discovered that the most important treasure is “family”. All the world’s gold and silver pales in value to the love of our families and that this treasure must be kept close, cultivated, and treated with care.