A neighbor used to catch the biggest fish to ever be removed from the Wabash River, or so he claimed. While my dad and I would throw our lines in by an old covered bridge to catch blue gills and sunfish, he had a knack for coming back with catfish as long as an old “boiler tub,” (the way he measured them).

One of the nicest aspects of his catches was the fact that he was always willing to share them; but most neighbors in the area also realized that this was a generous way of “marketing” the size of his catch. When asked where he would pull out such monstrous fish, his response was always the same, “I have a secret place.”

When we lived in Central Illinois, there was a special spot where wild asparagus grew abundantly. It was underneath two trees along the fencerow in a nearby field. I discovered the scrumptious hidden garden during a walk along the field on a spring Sunday afternoon.

As I headed home with an armload of the delicious delicacy, I marked the spot in my mind and prepared to feast from my secret spot for the remainder of the spring. There was only one thing wrong with my theory. Apparently there were “intruders” out there who also felt that this was their secret spot. I’ll never forget the afternoon I walked along the field to gather asparagus only to discover that it had been retrieved by someone else. A few days later, I discovered who was “sneaking” into my garden. It was a group of people who stopped at the field about 6:30 a.m. with sacks, prepared to haul in their catch.

Mystery solved — I started getting up at 5 a.m. to head for the asparagus. There it was, luscious and fresh, ready for the creamed asparagus over toast that would be our lunch a few hours later. Imagine how I felt an hour later when the “intruders” pulled up with their sacks and headed for the asparagus while I sat on the front porch and drank my coffee. After all, it was “my” secret hiding place.

We had a “secret club house” in childhood for secret meetings, a spot that allegedly only the neighborhood gang was aware of. When I was young, we lived close to the railroad. Many of the ladies in town had secret places to retrieve wild strawberries and other berries for fresh homemade pie.

A couple of years ago I visited with an old neighbor who told me that she had buried an entire jar of change in an orchard close to their house so that her brother and sister wouldn’t “borrow” any.

One of the most shocking hiding places I’ve ever heard of is that of an elderly individual who passed away, leaving $20,000 of cash stashed in a mattress. Apparently he had a deep innate fear that the Great Depression could happen again and this time he wasn’t going to be caught without cash. Only when the mattress was being removed following an auction and someone saw a dollar bill sticking out a hole was the cash discovered. Since he hadn’t even told his closest family about the stashed cash, had that bill not shown up at the time, someone could have purchased the bargain of a lifetime at the family auction.

To my knowledge, there are no such hiding places amongst the family heirlooms left behind by my parents. However, they did leave behind one secret hiding place that means more than any amount of money that could be found. It’s the hiding place of my heart where stored memories of family love, care, and character is more than any “thing” that could ever be found.