The portly Colonel I reported to, while on active duty in the US Army, often bragged about his wife’s riches and heirlooms. One Monday morning after formation I stepped into the Colonel’s office. His face was buried in his hands. His back turned towards the door. Here was a man who provided counsel to the elite of the Army, who had the power and the command of an officer. He appeared ready to weep.
“Sir,” I asked, “Are you OK?”
The Colonel spun his chair around. Clutched in his hands was a mesh of baby pearls woven into a hideous necklace. This ancient piece could easily pass as a beaded adult bib.
“You see this?” he growled. “This family treasure is insured for $300,000.00. My house was broken into over the weekend and everything of value was taken but THIS…THIS horrid thing. It was wadded up and tossed in a corner!”
From across his desk he passed me the Sunday classified ads. A sale was circled in yellow and read, ‘Must sell! Priceless family heirloom pearl necklace.’ The ad listed the Colonel’s home address.
“I don’t get it, Sir. At least the crooks didn’t take this necklace. Its worth a fortune.”
The Colonel raised an eyebrow and said, “Are you stupid? Why do you think I ran the ad? I’ve tried to sell this thing for years! Nobody wants it!!”
I was now clear on why he was so hurt.
“Sir,” I said. “You could have just thrown it away after you discovered your house had been broken into.”
The Colonel glared at me and pulled a white chocolate candy bar from his desk. “Baillie,” he said, “I’m am shocked and saddened by what you just suggested. That would be dishonest. I’m an officer and a gentleman, not a crooked fellow like you. Dismissed.”
I saw the necklace again two years later at a heavily attended neighborhood picnic at the Colonel’s house. It was displayed on a remote guest bathroom shelf with a sign that read, ‘Priceless heirloom. Do not touch.’