Hiding Gold….

My wife is a treasure hunter too. Every Friday and Saturday, while the weather is decent she heads out with her girlfriend. The two of them cheerfully focused on finding valuable goodies. I’m talking about garage sales, estate sales, yard sales and the like. She loves doing this and I have to admit that she often brings back something that even I am interested in. Kathy collects dolls in particular and also, just about anything else. Although much of the material she buys ends up in her booth in an antique shop, some comes home to live with us…and our home is much more interesting because of it.

True West, December 1979

A couple of weeks ago she brought back a stack of old True West magazines. True West is a magazine that celebrates the old west of cowboys, indians, horses and outlaws. The magazine got going in the 1950’s when America was riveted to black & white western melodramas on TV and pulp western novels were regularly published. This was a time when “heading west” still represented part of the American Dream.

Many of the early stories in True West were interviews with old timers who really fought indians and shot buffalo on the open range. The stack Kathy brought back is from the 1970’s. Stunning cover art and intoxicating stories that get a reader thinking about adventure.

As I pursue Forrest’s treasure chest I deem it necessary to read everything I can about the west… particularly anything about New Mexico. So, as I was thumbing through the December 1979 issue I found a story about hiding gold in New Mexico. The title of the story is Queer Caches In The Old West. It was penned by the legendary poet and pulp writer, S. Omar Barker.

It appears that Forrest is not the first to hide his gold out there. (if in fact it actually is in New Mexico rather than some bear cave in Colorado as some would have it) In fact, its nearly a tradition to hide gold if you are from New Mexico and are blessed with any gold to hide.

It seems that the early miners out there predated banks. So the only safe place to stash any gold you might have unearthed was to hide it. While some chose to squirrel away their treasure in the mattress or under the floorboards, others were cunning, even devious in selecting a hiding spot.

One common trick was to head to the town cemetery and bury the gold in an unused spot. Then place a common wooden grave marker over the spot with some made-up name and final words. No one would dig up a grave…would they?

One of my favorite hiding spots from that story was the place selected by a saloon keeper in Elizabethtown, NM. I think that’s a ghost town a little north of Eagles Nest on the Enchanted Circle Scenic Highway. His gold was not discovered until he was long gone and his saloon keeping successor decided to toss out a particularly ratty looking stuffed mountain lion from the tavern. It was awful heavy so he ripped it open and walla…the previous barkeep’s gold.

Which reminds me, has anyone looked closely at that record stuffed Brown trout at Cooper’s El Vado Ranch near Tierra Amarilla? It looks kinda lumpy to me…


6 thoughts on “Hiding Gold….

  1. Let’s start with the chest… The Newsweek article talks about when he was stationed overseas and would fly to the likes of Pompeii. Chests similar to this were found in the ashes. They would hold things of value like woman’s jewelry. Locks ensured their security. The archeological digs found that, despite the disaster, many of the chests still preserved their contents. There were examples of locking reinforced chests that had iron and bronze fittings very similar to the one he hides. In the article they note that he states that he was only thrown of Pompeii three times”, now how cool is that? A city where people died to get in and he gets booted out! That’s funny, It doesn’t matter who you are…..

    I think Pompeii or Herculaneum is where Forrest saw these types of chests, realized that they could keep something valuable safe for a very long time. Since the chest he picked is very beautiful and cost like $20,000, I don’t think he would like to see it damaged even if found. I’ll bet he buried it unlocked with the key inside. When looking at the pictures of it and measuring the diameter of the coins which is a known value we can get an idea of it’s size. Comparing the coin to the key we get ~50mm for the key, comparing the key to the box, we get 200mm x 200mm x 100mm. A rough calculation therefore is about 8″x”8″x4″, so it’s a pretty small box to hide in an area the size of “the mountains North of Santa Fe”

    To put that in perspective, just New Mexico is 121,700 square miles or 4.129039 to the 17th power, square feet. You could cover the state with 1.835129 to the 17 power of 8×8 inch boxes. That’s
    183,512,900,000,000,000 treasure chests…. an astronomical number. A needle in a haystack would have much better chance. On a good night, I’m not sure there are that many stars in the sky.

    You really have to appreciate somebody’s resolve that says they are going to find this chest. What are the odds that somebody could read that poem and says, “I know exactly where that 64 square inch spot is”

    I’m presently working on a formula to calculate the number of Brown trout in “the Mountains North of Santa Fe”………… If I divide that into the above number and multiply by 2 perhaps I’ll have another clue?

    I’d check ground zero at Trinity site but the fish there are all Blue…….


    • Bill-
      Forrest has stated that the chest is unlocked and the key is inside for the reasons you mention…
      We also know the chest dimensions to be 10x10x5 inches..bigger than you assumed..so that leaves a whole lot less territory to search in…
      Nice comment…thanks..

  2. Thanks very much, that was the answer I was looking for without having to bother him again. i’ll redo my calculations to account for the error.

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