“What the . . .?” he exclaimed in a muted voice as he crouched down in the crawl space of his two hundred and thirty year old Massachusetts home. He’d been laying mouse traps under the house and was almost finished when the cuff on his right trouser leg got caught on something sticking up from the dirt.
Shaking his trouser free, he noticed that whatever caught his pants was man-made and not just a root or rock. Keeping his flashlight focused on it, he moved back closer for a better look. ‘Damn,’ he thought, ‘it looks like an old metal case of some sort.’
Using a trowel in his right hand to carefully clear the dirt away from it, he kept his flashlight in his left hand and was able to dig enough away in just a few minutes to reveal one complete side of the case.
Age had darkened the brass material, but as he used his fingers to clear away some remaining dirt on the side of the case, the ornate designs of the maker became evident. ‘This is something very special,’ he thought as he continued to clear the dirt from around the rest of the casing. As he got closer and focused his flashlight on one corner, a name appeared. It read ‘Rufus King’.
Something in the back of his mind was triggered by that name, but he just couldn’t put his finger on it as he gently pulled the old case from the ground, brushed some more dirt from it, and placed it in the bag with the mouse traps. A smile crept across his face as he crawled towards the access door. ‘My wife’s going to go nuts over this,’ he grinned. ‘She just loves this old stuff!’
“Warren!” she yelled, “How many times do I have to tell you to dust yourself off before coming into my house? And take off that ridiculous red hat, too. He lost the election fair and square, okay?”
He just stood there in the kitchen, his hands behind his back, a great big smile on his face.
“You’re up to something, aren’t you?” she said, calming down a bit. “What do you have behind your back, Warren? C’mon, show me.”
Holding the old case out in front of him, he just said, “Am I forgiven?”
“Oh, my Lord, Warren, that’s an old tobacco case. Here, let me hold it, please,” she asked.
Taking it into her hands, she marveled at the intricate scrolling on the cover. Then she saw the name. “Warren, this belonged to Rufus King!” she shrieked.
He didn’t want to admit he couldn’t remember who that was so he just replied, “I know, I know. Isn’t that exciting!”
“He was one of our delegates to the Constitutional Convention way back in 1787 and he was one of the signers! This is his tobacco box, Warren! This is so exciting!” she gasped. “This is a collector’s item and incredibly valuable!”
He moved behind his wife, put his hands on her shoulder and excitedly said, “Well, open it, then!”
Which she did, finding a bundle of old letters wrapped in a silk ribbon. Carefully removing the ribbon, she laid each letter out on the table and then ordered them by date. After a few minutes, her husband wondered, “What are they about, honey?”
“Well, as far as I can tell these are correspondence between Mr. King and various other members of the Convention. And they’re all dated after the signing. And they all deal with what would later become the Amendments. Basically, these are serious discussions about how to protect personal rights of citizens through an amendment process,” she explained. “And this one here deals with the consensus of the beliefs about the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms. You know, gun rights!”
“Oh, really,” her husband pondered. “In simple words, anything surprising?”
“Way beyond surprising, dear. If this ever gets out, it will change everything about gun rights in this country. Here, just look at this sentence. It’s underlined!” she said, her voice quivering.
“Listen, why don’t you call your friend at the Museum and have him come over for a look at these. I’ll just stay here in the kitchen and read these while you make the phone call,” he urged. “Go ahead, this is important!”
She nodded, grabbed her sweater from behind the chair, and headed for the hallway and their home phone. And as she did, her husband sat down and read and reread the underlined sentence. As he heard his wife talking on the phone, he took out his lighter and lit the corner of the letter and held it until it disappeared in smoke and ash.
He wasn’t going to be the one to upset the whole apple cart. Not him, not now.