As a young child, many of us dreamed of uncovering a pirate chest of gold while digging in the backyard sandbox.
Today, young people realize this dream by staying inside and playing video games where their dreams are fulfilled, which isn’t the same thing ... but I digress.
As an adult, those dreams fade a bit, although I cling to my baseball card collection with a similar zeal and misguided belief of striking it rich.
Each week, while watching the History channel, I get to relive dreams of plunder past while watching “The Curse of Oak Island.”
For the uninitiated, this is a story of a close-knit family named the Laginas. Rick and Marty are brothers who, along with their nephews (Peter and David Fornetti) and business partner Craig Tester, search an island in Nova Scotia called Oak Island for treasure. There is at least one local tie in that Peter Fornetti is a graduate of Marquette University. The family lives in Traverse City, Michigan and owns a winery there called Mari Vineyards, but it is merely a sidenote to the exploration of Oak Island and the pursuit of gold.
The family enterprise owns a significant portion of the Canadian island, and has sunk untold millions into the attempt at finding the supposed treasure. Through the discovery attempts, history is being rewritten as evidence exists of visitors to the island long before the recorded history that we know, including ties to the Knights Templar and even a buried man from the Middle East. The island has long been rumored to hold the treasure from the Ark of the Covenant, although found treasures date back to the 1600s and are more likely pirate plunder than religious relics of old.
In the eight years of running on television, the family’s net worth has increased exponentially. Rick, who started off as a mail carrier (retired), had his net worth quadruple during the run of the show and it wasn’t from the spoils found in the money pit. Jack Begley, the show’s producer and son of Craig Tester, has parlayed the family pursuit for riches into a television empire with several show offshoots including “The Search for Civil War Gold.” But this newfound family wealth has also come at a cost. Craig’s other son Drake, who appeared in earlier shows, died at age 16 in 2017 from a seizure disorder. The show spared the viewer none of the grief and anguish exploring the father’s despair and ultimately dedicating one of the holes from the “fellowship of the dig” to Drake.
For aficionados of family businesses, this is an interesting diversion and deep dive into family unity in spite of great odds. For the viewer, the history is interesting if not the treasure that seems so close but yet so far.
For a man-child reliving dreams of treasure hunts in the backyard, the show is must-see television.
Ultimately it shows the real treasure to be won in a family business is the esprit de corps, the love of family whether successful or not and the trust of one to the other.
While I keep expecting a pot of gold to be found with that next shovel load, I will continue to faithfully watch if for nothing else than the history revealed and the humanity shown in a real “family” show.