Thursday, January 22, 2009

Golden Thirst

Knock, knock? Is anyone there? I've been out of pocket so long, I wonder if anyone still visits my blog? Well, I'm back for a few days and I wanted to sneak in a short story for you. This one isn't considered one of my best by any standard, but it's a fun story. It is inspired by a true legend, but not a true story. I wrote this a few years ago after examining an old map from Col. MacKinzie's Army journals during the 1800's. Someday I'll have enough time to sit and properly edit this story, (its a nightmare grammatically and structurally) but I think it will work to add to your meaningless entertainment in the mean time! This will be a two part story, and I'll try to post the second half on Monday. Please enjoy....


Two treasure hunters meandered through the parched West Texas landscape, leaving holes, broken branches, and winding trails as their calling card. For two days, they trekked across cotton fields and pastureland proving beyond shadow of doubt that “X” never marks the spot.

When they first started their journey they were proud of their idea to use horses instead of all terrain vehicles. However, after experiencing the punishing heat of the merciless summer sun and the dry winds, they were less romantic with their quest. Even so, horses were the best choice. There were too many fences to cut and ravines to cross, not to mention the thick tangle of mesquite trees growing unabated in the pastures to make vehicles practical.

Tony Blanchard, an historian from Sul-Ross University in Alpine, Texas, had discovered an old map at an estate sale some ten years before. At the time, it was nothing more than a curiosity and he framed it and hung it on his office wall, as a conversation piece. It worked. Students and staff would file into his office to see the treasure map of the conquistadors; word of mouth was great advertisement. Then one day, while reading the field journal of Captain Randolph Marcy, who had mapped the roads and trails from El Paso to California in the mid 1800’s, he noticed that Marcy’s maps and the treasure map corresponded. Was his map authentic?

He took it to an anthropologist from New Mexico State University, whose hobby was collecting and studying old maps, for his opinion. After a brief inspection, they concluded that the map was an original drawn by a Spanish monk who worked out of a mission in Ysleta, Texas in the late 1700’s. The monk busied himself by copying the maps of travelers stopping at his mission on their way from Mexico City to Santa Fe or California.

The next step was to determine if the map actually revealed a hidden stash of gold in remote West Texas, miles from any significant location. He pinpointed the proposed search area and called a local historian, Jim, and asked if he had ever heard any good stories of lost gold. Remarkably, Jim had heard several versions of the same legend; his story fit into the map.

In the days before white man started frequenting the Indian country of West Texas, a Spanish trader hired a member of the Jumano Indian tribe to guide him to the Llano Estacado, or present day high plains in the Texas panhandle, to meet with a Spanish outpost located around the Palo Duro Canyon, near Amarillo. They climbed onto to cap rock near Post, Texas and encountered a Comanche raiding party leading some pack mules across the plains toward Tahoka Lake. Not wanting to waste an opportunity to trade tobacco for some mules, they spent the afternoon dickering over several small items to trade.

The Comanches, notorious for bragging of their exploits, told how they attacked a Spanish convoy and captured the mules, which they intended to eat. Upon inspection, the trader discovered that the mules were loaded with gold. He traded all his supplies, including wine and muskets, to the Comanches for the gold, plus five of the ten pack mules. The Comanches needed no gold so they eagerly traded. The Spaniard and his guide reversed course and descended back into the broken country below the Cap Rock, with a destination of San Antonio, making camp against the soaring cliffs.

Early the next morning, the two were hit by a small hunting party of Kiowas and the mules scattered. The Jumano, who proudly sported an ornate and decorative musket, fled into the canyons and caves along the Cap Rock and disappeared. The Spaniard, holding onto one of the mules, fled east, and managed to evade detection. He hid in the midst of an enormous herd of buffalo around Green Springs and wandered along with them until he reoriented himself and found the Comanche war trail to Mexico. His route led him along to the Colorado River where he found an area known as Seven Wells. From there, he wound his way west until the Kiowas relocated him. The Spaniard shot several warriors and fled to Beals Creek, eventually backtracking to a hiding place near the Wildhorse Creek in some low lying hills, south of present day Westbrook. He piled rocks over his dying mule and marked the spot by tying his golden ring to a tree with his bandana. Slowly, he retreated across the West Texas desert until he found the mission at Ysleta, where he told his story to the monk. It was recorded it into history.

“There is no way to verify that the story even happened. Moreover, that it happened here,” Tony argued with Jim, the historian, while pressing a finger onto a small mark on the photo copied map.

“Well,” Jim countered, “in the 1930’s, some hunters found an ornate muzzle loader, wrapped in oil cloth, in a cave just north of Gail, Texas, on the Koonesman Ranch.” He looked around his office, moving stacks of papers and folders. “Oh, I remember, I have the newspaper article in this file.” He filtered through his cabinet and pulled out a red folder. “See, these fellows had their picture made with it. It says here that the rifle was from the late 18th century, and of Spanish origin. Not only that, but the trail that the Spaniard took was one of the same used by Colonel Mackenzie during the Indian Wars in the 1850’s. See?” He pulled out a photocopied map. “The trail runs right past Greene Springs, outside of Snyder, and crosses over the Colorado River and continues toward El Paso. From there, he could have followed the River to Seven Wells. Col. Mackenzie’s route crosses right through the area. It is all possible.”

“So, why haven’t you gone to find the gold?”

“Who says I haven't?” Jim’s eyes sparkled. “There was supposed to be a map made of the burial site, somewhere south of Westbrook. If we had the map, we might have better luck. However, the map doesn’t exist. Therefore, neither does the gold.”

Tune in later for the conclusion, when Tony starts digging for lost gold...


gzusfreek said...

mmm. . . treasure maps, gold, Indians, West Texas. Makings of intrigue, action, and intelligent action! Good story, Travis! Can't wait to see Tony dig for gold. I know he's thirsty for it, and I'm thirsty for more! Good to see you!

Tracy said...

Hey Travis, glad you're back! So what, have you been taking lessons in leaving us hanging from Avily? I agree w/ Kathleen, good story. When's the rest coming?

Travis said...

Thanks for coming by, girls. You'll see the rest of this on Monday, if I can make it work.

And thanks for being patient... Things will settle down for me very soon, and I will return to normal. You know, disrupting everyone's blogs with random, and meaningless comments!

Gwen Stewart said...

Ah, Travis. I've never been to Texas but the rhythm of the West is all around you: in your words, the way they flow, the description...I feel like I'm right there. And I want to go there for real (I've always wanted to visit Texas).

Hope you're doing well. Can't wait for the next installment!

Travis said...

Gwen, you will see the Great State of Texas on your book signing tour. I'll be sure to stop by and say hello, even if I'm in Amarillo and you are in Houston...It'll take a while, but I'll make the drive! I'm looking forward to it... Just don't make us wait too long.

When I wrote this story, I should have made it a much longer version, but as you will see in the second half, there is a purpose to the story. I wanted it to be an important message, and I wanted the reader to get the message quickly. I doubt I will ever go back to lengthen this tale, but it desperately needs to be stretched out a little longer.

jim magill said...

Travis, This story sounds like it was born the day you and I went searching for gold south of Westbrook Texas. Could this be? It sounds really famaliar. haha
Next time I see you I will tell you about the gold on Scenic Mt. near Big Spring. Jim (Deacon) Magill

Travis said...

Ah, Deacon! Yes, you are right. This is the same gold hunt that you and I went on years ago. What a great memory! Everytime I think of those treasure hunting days, I have to smile. I can't believe you have more treasure hunting stories that you haven't shared with me. I can find some vacation time that I could invest into yet another hunt...It kindof reminds me of the old days!

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Hi Travis!

I left a comment here a couple of days ago, but I guess I fouled up technologically somehow, because I don't see it.

I really like this. I think it would make a great opening to an Indiana-Jones-style movie adventure.

Alison Bryant said...

If Gwen's future book signing plays out like the scenario you painted, when you leave Houston you should go up from San Antone. You'll make Amarillo by morning.

By chance, did you change a character name? For some reason one was different in my memory.