Buried Treasure

Dailene Martin Bobbitt

In October my father Dale Martin, passed away, seven months shy of his one hundred birthday. My grandson Cooper who is four had never faced death prior to Dad’s passing, and we weren’t sure how he would handle it. Our sweet boy amazed us when he got his first glimpse of Dad lying in the casket. He looked at his mother and questioned, “Is Grandpa Dale in a treasure chest?” I had never thought of the similarities prior and therefore never thought of the person inside as soon to be buried treasure. The childish observation touched my heart and put a new light on death, family and the elderly for me.

Dad was indeed a treasure. He loved to tell stories and jokes. He also loved to sing old songs from his childhood. My grandson’s favorite Grandpa Dale songs, are The Old Family Toothbrush, The Old Oaken Bucket, and Rosie O’Grady.

As to telling stories, if Dad could find an audience, which was easy for him, he loved to tell tales about growing up in Palmyra among other things. People were drawn to his comical and vivid descriptions of his life. His favorite line was, “We were so poor our mice ate out.” Yes, they were poor. He was from a family of ten. Seven boys and one girl, plus my grandparents, George and Daisy Voyles Martin. Pa and Ma to the family. Dad was second to the youngest, born in 1920.

I loved to hear the tales of his youth. After all, it was back in the horse and buggy days. The following are a few of my favorites. They are stories which not only I, but other family members treasure.

Dad and his twin brothers, Earl and Carl, who were three years older than him, played together often. To poor for store bought toys they improvised. Dad recalled that the three used an old buggy chassis as a go-cart, which they rode down their Uncle Sammy Voyles’ hill.  Wanting to make the ride more exciting, one day Dad and Carl hollered jackknife it to Earl who was the driver. They wanted him to turn the contraption into the alley, which was behind their uncle’s general store. It was definitely thrilling as Earl quickly and sharply turned. Their dare-devilish fun resulted, however, in my father being thrown off and the wheel of the buggy running over his face. He would later laugh and say that the injury caused him to have, what he called, goo-goo lips. As an adult, he jokingly told people that it also was why he was so silly. 

According to Dad, he and some of his brothers, along with their Voyles cousins, would put on impromptu shows in front of Palmyra's largest general store, Martin, Huff and Co. They used a wagon bed as their stage. Singing a solo, Dad said he would first shinny up one of the stores front porch poles and loudly and, I’m sure slightly off key sing, I Wish I Were Single Again. He was only seven years old at the time. Apparently he was not shy as a child and remained so his entire life.

Stories in my lifetime include once on Pikes Peak we pointed out to him the members of a famous gospel singing group who had also made the journey to the top. He didn’t know them or their music, but walked right up and put out his hand acting as if he were their biggest fan. I wanted to crawl behind a rock I was so embarrassed. He was good at embarrassing us.

When we were children Dad did the cooking at our house and would put cake coloring in the mashed potatoes when one of our friends came for Sunday dinner. They thought he was really funny.

In the family cookbook we put together, his yummy offerings were hummingbird tongue on toast and pigtail gravy.

I personally have collected and noted a large number of his stories through the years, however, I wonder now how many others failed to get written down. What gems of wisdom or family facts have been lost? How many somber faced relatives in the old black and white photos will forever remain nameless, because I failed to ask him who they were.

Yes, Dad was and his stories and songs are treasures to us. Graveyards are full of buried treasures however. Not until after our loved ones are gone do many of us realize the precious gems we no longer have with us.   

Through a child’s eyes, my eyes were opened, and I became even more thankful for the many hours that I spent with my father through the years and that I had collected his stories. Oh, if we could only all see our families in the same light. Therefore treasure your moms, dads, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts and uncles, while you still have them with you. Spend quality time in their company, ask questions, listen to their stories and write them down. Their stories are our stories after all.       

Cooper, for the first time, spent the night with us recently. When I laid down with my sweet grandson trying to get him to sleep he said, “Tell me some Grandpa Dale stories.” Thankfully I had written then down. At four, my grandson will most likely never remember his great grandfather, but he will know his stories.

Life is much too short. Too quickly our loved ones grow old or are suddenly taken from us. Then it is too late. Pan for gold today (ask questions, discover your family history and stories) and treasure the gems you have (your loved ones). Then safely store their memories in your heart and on paper, before they too become buried treasures.


Dailene  Martin Bobbitt is the newest member of Writers Bloc and enjoys writing poetry, gospel songs, children’s books, memoirs, history and fiction. Her work has appeared in Good Old days Magazine and Country Discoveries. She has self published five local history books: Bicentennial Scrapbook of New Albany, Indiana, Scrapbook of Palmyra, Indiana Area 1900-1950, Doctoring and Old Home Remedies, Scrapbook of Beck’s Mill and Scrapbook of Palmyra Vol. 2.


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