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Searching for George proves wicked challenge
by Beth Boswell Jacks

You know how Presidents are. From the mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam, they gad about. Sadly, the travels and travails are wearing. I've seen them change from new and slick to old and wrinkled. They fold. They fade. Blemished and soiled, they're spent. I've even seen them trashed on the streets.

Yeah, they used to be worth something.

Just look at George (if you can track him down, which some folks dearly love to do). Trackers – "Georgers," they're called – go to great lengths to follow President George's meanderings, and it's not always easy, believe me. I know because I am now eligible to be a Georger . . . or Georgette, if I prefer.

And it all came about when I made a fascinating discovery the other day.

I opened my purse to pay for a pack of chewing gum, took out a dollar bill (with President George Washington's picture, of course) and was immediately intrigued.

The bill was neatly stamped around the border with red and blue ink; the tiny words read: "Do your dollar bills travel more than you? See where I've been; track where I go! Go to: Wheresgeorge.com.

So I did.

Wheresgeorge.com is apparently a huge hobby for thousands of people. Who would have guessed? The site has been featured in USA Today, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, on National Public Radio and CNN, and even on Howard Stern's trash talk. It's legit and, I think, harmless.

And where exactly had my very own George been?

When I clicked into Wheresgeorge.com and entered my stamped dollar bill's serial number, I discovered this bill has traveled 713 miles since it was registered at the site 148 days ago in Haysville, Kansas – an average of 4.8 miles per day. The Kansas "launcher" (PepperMike) recorded this information: "I left George at Cahokia Mounds State Park in Collinsville, Illinois."

I'm sure the bill changed hands several times, but the next reporting on the web site was from a woman in St. Louis who said she'd received the bill as change for gas.

Surfing around the Wheresgeorge.com site, I discovered some of these folks have registered hundreds of dollar bills. One guy, Wattsburg Gary, indisputably the king of trackers, has listed almost 400,000 bills. Really. That's straight and unvarnished fact from their trusty stats.

I figure serious Georgers must spend hours on their 'puters, tracking bucks and getting kicks from all the sitings. They have maps and numbers and links and a computer full of Wheresgeorge toys, and they even have an Encyclopaedia Georgtannica to define terms like "Georgeaholic" (one who is hopelessly addicted to finding George), "McGeorge" (a bill received at McDonald's), "James Bond Bill" (a bill that has 007 in its serial number), and oh so much more.

The site creators, who say they built Wheresgeorge.com because "nobody else had done it" and because they realize a modest income from online ads and a handful of Wheresgeorge trinkets, advise: "Spend your Wheresgeorge bills in locations likely to turn around your bills to other people who will be more likely to be curious and come to the site. Convenience stores, arcades, fast food restaurants, toll booths, and the like seem to be good locations. If your bills end up back at a bank, it could be months before they make it out again."

And, of course, you must be sure the site info is legibly printed on the bill. The site honchos recommend purchasing a small stamp; it’s tidier that way.

But whoa. Is all this okey dokey with the government?

Unfortunately, says the Encyclopaedia Georgetannica, a well-known Georger got into trouble with his bank for depositing marked bills, which led to the Secret Service's investigation of Wheresgeorge.com in 2000. (This guy was also a Jeopardy contestant in September 2002, but that's another story.)

Aw, heck. I'll be reckless and try to spend my dollar bill. If the Secret Service comes after me, I'll stick the bill in the jail vending machine. That's bound to send my George zipping off somewhere exciting and less confining.

Y'all write.


Editor of USADEEPSOUTH, Beth Boswell Jacks is the author of 3 books (Grit, Guts, and Baseball and Snippets I and II) and is also a weekly columnist for a number of Southern newspapers. Readers and editors may contact her at bethjacks@hotmail.com

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