Skip to content

Good fortune, bad beer, and doing the right thing

I’ll never forget it. It was a warm fall morning and I was on my way to South School.

I’ll never forget it. It was a warm fall morning and I was on my way to South School. Grade Three, and I was sauntering along kicking a bent-up tin I found on the street near my house in Parkvale, just to see if I could keep it going all the way to school.

I drilled a nice one right up to the telephone pole at the crosswalk at 45 street and 48 avenue, and when I looked down to set up my next shot, I noticed a piece of paper laying in the grass at the base of the telephone pole. It was some colored paper, and when I bent over and picked it up, I soon saw that it was very special colored paper, the kind of which I was only vaguely familiar.

It was a $20 bill and a $10 bill, folded in half together, and I immediately forgot about my kicking can. It’s one of those crystal clear memories, holding that money, thinking I’d hit the jackpot, thinking “baseball mitt or new bike?” It was a lot of moola in those days, enough for a really nice first baseman’s trapper and then some – and pretty close to enough for a new bike!

The first thing I wanted to do was shove the windfall into my pocket and hike straight to Horsley’s Hardware on Gaetz Avenue where I had window-shopped many amazing bikes and ball gloves. But either I’d been raised a certain way, or I had a moment of pious weakness depending on your point of view, because what I actually did do was run straight to Mr. Pettibone’s Principal’s office to report my miraculous discovery and hand in the money.

To make a very long story short, the $30 cash was turned into the RCMP — as if the police didn’t have better things to do. True, I scored some substantial brownie points from the school and my Mom and Dad, but the trade-off came with some incredulous “Are you crazy?” and “Finders keepers!” admonishment from my mates and peers.

I must admit I was leaning towards the sentiments of my friends, especially since the police said I would have to wait six months and if no one claimed the money, then and only then would it “legally” be mine. And you know what six months is to a 9-year-old kid with an allowance of, like, 50 cents a week. Pure torture, especially since I made a point to drop by Horsley’s Hardware every Saturday just to check things out.

Everybody must have stories like that about finding things. Stories that maybe made a small zig or zag in the road of life’s journey, events that maybe made a person a little better for it all. Or perhaps a little worse.

I remember, much later, as a typically rebellious teenager, finding something in the long grass on a cold spring Saturday while exploring in the bush near Waskasoo Creek. Three stubby brown bottles of Pilsner beer were laying there in the melting snow. Frozen solid.

I hid them where nobody would find them, and then, when the time was right a few weekends later, I gathered some friends and we had a “bush party”. Finally digging out my exclusive find, revealing the 3 dirty bottles with the flourish of a Master Magician’s reveal — the greatest discovery, since, well since finding 30 big bucks.

The “Big Find” went straight down hill from there. That frozen beer – no telling how long it had been there – tasted like stagnant slough water strained through dirty socks. And every one of us ended up with what my Grandma used to call the “green apple two step”, commonly known as the “runs”.

Let’s just say I lived on the Pepto Bismol for about a week, and ever since have carefully avoided any beer that has had the remotest chance of being formerly frozen.

But there was a much happier ending years earlier. After the six months that seemed to take approximately two and a half years, I claimed my found fortune, and being a spoiled child I was eventually the proud owner of both a Cooper baseball mitt, and a new ten speed Raleigh bicycle.

Mom and Dad “helped out” of course, but I did contribute $30 and about 5 future years of promissory allowance (mostly unpaid).

Thing is, the stories of unexpected discoveries are as different as we are human.

A few years back, an attractive, smart 30-something person I worked with told me about her “find”. She was camping with her fiancé and another couple at a popular spot when the day after meeting a bunch of other campers at a big bonfire party, they found a man’s wallet on the ground.

They couldn’t locate the owner, so they turned the wallet into the camp office. But this is the interesting part: she told me, rather matter-of-factly, that before they turned it in, they took the $80 that was in the wallet.

“Kind of like a reward for finding his I.D. and credit cards,” she said.

Now this was an experienced, well-paid person with a good job, and I couldn’t stop myself from staring at her with a holier-than-thou expression of disbelief.

“What?” she said, obviously indignant. “You would have done exactly the same thing, wouldn’t you?”

I didn’t say anything. But I was thinking: “I knew the answer to that one in Grade 3.”

If you have any stories about finding something special, I love to hear them. Please send your Big Find story to

Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate.