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.
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.