Banker's Advice: Use A Vault For Your Money

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Patricia Myers loves banks. She trusts them. That's where she keeps all of her money. That's even where she works as a customer service representative for the Wells Fargo Bank branch in Payson.

But none of this faith or affection for financial institutions is hereditary, as evidenced by Myers' gleeful retelling of her maternal grandmother's epic life in the early days of Gila County.

Let's let Myers tell the story, starting at the beginning.

"My grandmother, Bessie May Williams, was born in the early 1890s, someplace back east; I'm assuming North Carolina, because that's where Grandpa came from," Myers begins.

"Sometime before 1914, they decided they were going to come West and they headed out in a Conestoga wagon, along with a milk cow and some chickens and a few essentials. They stopped in Texas for just a short while, long enough to have their first child, and then moved on to New Mexico, where they had the rest of their six children.

"Apparently, Grandpa liked to drink a bit, and he would go on binges every few months. He was a cattle rancher, and had a ranch that was pretty large. Well, one night he went into town with the deed to the ranch to have it recorded, so nobody could take the land from him. But the deed office wasn't open, so he went over to this little gambling hall where he proceeded to play cards and drink.

"At one point, Grandpa thought he was holding a winning hand. He put the deed on the table and lost the ranch. Grandma was so mad that she loaded up the wagon with all the children and left, without Grandpa. She never spoke to him again. That was it. She didn't divorce him, she just left him.

"Grandma and the kids stopped in Tonto Basin, and they lived there for a number of years as the kids attended the little red schoolhouse there. Eventually, though, when the children were high-school age, they moved to a little home in Globe. And that is where she buried the money."

The money?

"Yes, the money. No one knows exactly how much it was or where it came from, but it my mother and her siblings estimate that it was about $10,000 that probably came from the sale of land and other items, and from her own savings.

"Grandma was very frugal, and she didn't believe in banks because of the Depression. So she put the money in a coffee can there were five or six rolls (of bills) as big around as a silver dollar and buried it in her back yard without telling a soul.

"Nobody knew about the money until Grandma passed away, about 20 years ago, when she was in her late 80s. Included in her last will and testament was an actual treasure map, with all the details of how to find the money: '... Go down to where the old fountain was, take three steps down, two steps over, and you'll find an iris plant growing over the spot where the money is buried.'

"Well, there were about 10,000 iris plants by then, but we chose one toward the middle of the spot and we found the can. But it was very, very deteriorated by then. It had rusted through, and the elements had gotten into it, and all of the money was just a grayish mush. It looked like mud.

"Not thinking, we just threw it away only to find out years later that the federal government could have taken that mush and figured out, for a fee, approximately how much money was there.

"Grandma was different. She was real pioneer stock. She really believed in staying really close to the land and not to abuse it, so you could live off it if you needed to. She taught me how to go out into the desert of Globe or the San Carlos area and survive without anything, including the clothes on my back, if I had to."

All of those lessons stuck, Myers says proudly.

But then, so did the lesson about buried coffee cans full of cash.

"Take it from me," says Myers. "Vaults are better."

Name: Patricia Myers

Occupation: Customer service representative

Employer: Wells Fargo Bank

Age: 43

Birthplace: Tucson, Arizona

Personal motto: Strive to see the positive side.

Inspiration: Desmond Walker, my fiancee, always steers me in the right direction!

Greatest feat: Raising 5 children.

My favorite hobby or leisure activity is ... Cooking and gardening.

The three words that describe me best are ... Bubbly, positive and up.

I don't want to brag, but ... My family is the greatest!

The person in history I'd most like to meet is ... Leonardo DaVinci

Luxury defined: A full picnic basket with a line in the water.

Dream vacation spot: Epcot Center, Florida.

Why Payson?: The perfect climate and the pine/juniper-scented air.

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