THE BIGGEST "2 BITS WORTH" OF GOLD TREASURE YOU WILL EVER BUY
EDITOR'S 75th ANNIVERSARY EDITION
PACKET ONE OF POUCH ELEVEN
PUBLISHED FOUR TIMES A YEAR
ONLY NEWSPAPER IN AMERICA YOU CAN OPEN IN THE WIND
Life is far too serious to be taken seriously!PAGE 2
Smallest newspaper in the world and the only 5 page one. (Not a Texas Boast)
Packet 1 of Pouch 11
This paper is not entered as 2nd class mail. It's a first class newspaper.
Published at Fort Oliver
1000 Palms, California
Four Times a Year
ON THE NEWS STANDS NOW
TWO - BITS
I just had to do it
MAILING PRICE $1.00 A YEAR
This offer expires when I do
Asbestos editions will be forwarded
in case you don't make it.
H A R R Y O L I V E R
The Desert Rat is to the desert what the man about town is to the metropolis.
The only difference is the possibility that the man about town might really be a rat.
In answer to letters from you that say you wish you were like me.
First, it is not safe until you are 65 or over — it comes with old-age-checks.
Second, I say upwards of 4,000 things every year that I can't prove, any more than you can prove you have a "Leprechuan" in your pocket. Yet what I do know about things has been whispered to me by the spirits and roaming desert critters.
Third, I don't advise anybody to depend on me for learning, best for you that can't talk to critters or spirits is to do as most folks do — just follow ruts — they will take you to "town" just as they did your daddy.
Readers ask me how's the paper doing? Meaning, of course, is the Desert Rat Scrap Book a success, Now as I see it, there is more than one fair way to live; so is there more than one kind of success.
Judging the Desert Rat Scrap Book by what it is, not by what other papers make, or try to, I think as a one-man operation I have a peacheroo.
Readers also ask if I believe in ghosts, water-witching, animal magnetism, and that indescribable element that makes people fall in love, . . . sure I do.
I believe in a meaningful life, but I know we are looking at a world that we don't understand. Our emotions or even our minds haven't caught up to our mechanical progress.
I have a great many readers from 70 to 95 years of age and I, as they, don't care much for man-made miracles such as atomic energy, television, radio, the telephone and that dog-gone electric eye — (it seems to me it could as well pick my pocket.)
We like Mother Nature's miracles, she's so very wise in her ways, however sometimes stern, but she is always kindly. We often feel the same way about the law and forces of nature. We see gentleness in her way of sprouting little shoots from the gnarled twisted, thorned desert growth, and in the moisture she has hidden in the roots for the tiny desert critters. We see kindness in the parent birds feeding their young. We see wisdom in the animals that get ready to sleep away the cold and hungry winter. And always, behind everything, there is a strong sense of nature's laws that may not be broken without punishment.
As the editor of this little paper I pledge I will stay close to Mother Nature — and never get into that mad dollar chase, . . . or let this little old paper get Modern. —Harry Oliver
☆ ☆ ☆
On reading the above my thoughts go to a possible SECOND ACT . . . with that giant electric check-maker in 'The Old Age Office' in Washington, —just suppose some one were to tinker with it, take the $' sign out of the $85.00 and put in a '9' making all the checks come out 985.00.
☆ ☆ ☆
What would I do? —I would stock up my combination atom-bomb-shelter and wine-cellar, I would say, "Let those mechanical geniusess make bigger and better atomic bombs and if they should bomb Old Fort Oliver (gee I should take that sign down).
Well for sure Posterity will dig me out. A fine specimen of a 'Bourbon Floavored Mummy.
—Your Desert Rat
Your Editor tries to be a philosopher (at times) but somehow cheerfulness always breaks in . . . someday I'll make it.
Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.
"Let's get down to "Brass Tacks."
The Mountain Men in the early days of our west, would drive a brass tack into the stock of their gun to keep count, every time they shot a Redskin.
Dry Camp Blackie sat folded up like a Praying Mantis, — he looked at his shack as he mumbled to me — "Everything I get is worn out or empty" — I was thinking of grub and his old fliver, but just then a tourist came along and asked Blackie, — "Is it lonesome here in the Desert?" He answered, — "It's lonesome everywhere, my friend, but you can get back packets of Oliver's Scrap Book most any place in the Desert and they're chuck full of Quicksilver Humor," and as the somewhat bemuddled tourist left, Blackie turned to me and repeated, — "Worn out or empty covers a lot, don't it, — then back to his mumbling — "I thought I remembered the look on her face — yes, it was the same look my gray mare had for weeks after she had become a mule's mother." — Then he went on — "Some people think being lonesome and being sober is the same thing" — "Say, Harry, that Spanish food does something to your brain, let me snap out of it, and we will write something for this column, a gag or something, shall we?"
Editor's Note: — It wasn't the Spanish food because it gives one a nice warm contented feeling. Might be Quicksilver. You can get awful, awful mad at Quicksilver.
Old Mining Days in
For many years a mining company in the Rand District employed a Chinese cook, and one evening after an unusually good dinner the superintendent decided to raise his wages. The next pay day the Chinaman noted the extra money in his envelope.
"Why you pay me more?" he asked the superintendent?
"Because you have been such a good cook all these years," replied his boss.
The Chinaman thought it over, then said, "You been cheating me long time, eh?"
—Thanks to Bill King of Beaumont
In the good old days of Tonopah, Nevada, a miner was up before the Judge for Highgrading Gold. "Guilty or not guilty?" thundered the Judge. "Gosh, I dunno," said the miner. "I ain't heard the evidence yet."
Harry Oliver maintains "the prospector-miner is the greatest optomist in the world ... he is either three feet from a million dollars or a million feet from three dollars ... it doesn't matter, he just keeps on diggin'."
—The Indian Wells Independent.
Harry Oliver's DESERT RAT SCRAP BOOK PAGE 3
The old desert prospectors who search desert sands for gold want only the fun of finding it, not what the gold will bring them — but it's strange how much they know of gold. I was given this to read by an old-timer here today. Since 1492, the year Columbus discovered America, the total amount of gold produced in the whole world has been twenty-two billions and a half. But today, in gold money and gold bullion, there are only twelve billions of this vast amount accounted for. Where is the rest, the vanished ten billions? Much of it has gone into industry. Fortunes in gold leaf have been laid in the crosses and domes of churches, cathedrals and mosques.
Gold is restless and everlastingly seeks a change. It changes its form and place, and yet endures. For even the gold setting of a woman's bracelet or the gold in a man's watch may once have glittered from the walls of Solomon's Temple, or shone on the shaven heads of the priests of Isis in old Egypt, or have been snatched from some burning city of the Spanish Main to the tragic accompaniment of the shrieks of dying men and the screams of captured women.
Jake Topper, Desert Rat, journeyed to Los Angeles with hopes of selling a mine, WHICH HE DIDN'T, and ran out of money. He told his woes to an old whiskered fellow who looked like he might be a prospector and was offered a suggestion of how to get a dollar right now. The city old timer said, "all you have to do is go to the Mission and crawl up the aisle on your hands and knees and give yourself to God." The evangelist will hand you a dollar.
Jake Topper shrugged his shoulders, saying, "I've worked in a three foot drift 500 feet below ground for years, on my knees, too, but I couldn't get that low for no man's dollar."
The Pack Rat's Nest
By ALLEN J. PAPEN, Glorieta, New Mexico
I camped with an old "desert rat" prospector, one night a few years ago, near Beaty, Nevada. While sitting around the campfire that evening he told me an interesting story of a pack rat.
He said he was pocket mining, as he called it. He occupied an old rock cabin close to his work. A family of pack rats lived close by. They often raided his cabin and following the habits of their kind, generally left something to replace what they had taken.
One night he left a quartz crystal lying on the table. The next morning the crystal was gone and in its place he found a gold nugget. The next evening he placed another crystal on the table. In the morning that was gone but a second nugget had taken its place. He then placed several crystals on the table. In the morning one crystal was missing but, there was another nugget. For several days, each morning a crystal was missing and a gold nugget had taken its place.
"By gosh," he said, "I got nervous. I thought that that rat had located a cache of gold ore. One nugget a day was too slow. I tried to locate the nest from whence these nuggets came but without success."
"How long did this replacing of crystals with gold nuggets continue?" I asked him.
"I got eight of them," he said, "before the rats were scared away by my search for their nest."
One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.
It was Mark Twain who said: "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. his is the principal difference between a dog and a man."
STAKE YOUR CLAIM
I like to do business with smart people. My claim in California is not so big on top but the man told me is goes straight down for four thousand miles.
By Charlie Eightfloor
DICK WICK HALL'S
Mine Was Lost as Stockholders Look on
Dick Wick Hall, Miner, Promoter and Desert Humorist of Salome, Arizona, some thirty years ago, whose stories appeared in the Saturday Evening Post — and made Salome famous is also remembered by some of us old timers for his great gold promotion.
Dick discovered gold on three sides of a small mountain sitting out in the desert and as digging was hard and slow in the hot summer sun, he figured a way to do the job in a big way.
His way was simple, a hundred people put in a hundred dollars each (but he didn't want poop people's money), all the money to be spent for dynamite, the stockholders to be on hand, to walk in and pick up their own gold in the day set for the blast.
The day came and so did the stockholders; there was never anything like it (but maybe the A-bomb); some said there was a tiday wave went up the Colorado River sixty miles away.
After the dust settled, the stockholders went in to pick up their gold, but there was no gold — a few showed their disappointment — some talked nasty — but an alert deputy sheriff from Yuma, stepped up on a large rock — the men gathered around him, as he said — "Fellows, you have had weeks of dreams, enthusiasm and anticipation — you saw and heard the greatest blast you will ever see — and by dam, you got something to talk about the rest of your life — let's give three big cheers for Dick Wick Hall.
The chief difference between a wise man and an ignorant one is, not that the first is acquainted with regions invisible to the second, away from common sight and interest, but that he understands the common things which the second only sees.
A night watchman heard noises in the dark mine. Drawing his revolver, he went into the shaft and called:
Come out with your hands up, so I can see who you are. If you don't, I'll come in and see who you were.
MORE ABOUT DICK WICK HALL
Sent me by Collis Mayflower of Blythe
If Dick had printed on heavy paper like I do — he would of been the Desert Will Rogers of today.
"This is supposed to be a County Highway that you are trying to follow, but Tourists sometimes get lost on account of the jack rabbit tracks crossing the road and confusing them, as it is hard to tell which is rabbit tracks and which is County Road.
"We are trying to get a Bill passed at the next Legislature to make the rabbits all follow one trail and go in the same direction.
"If we can do this and get the rabbits trained to obey the law, we will soon have a much better road than any of the Super Visors ever built up this way. It will be easier to train the rabbits than it will be the Super Visors
. . . If Yuma belonged to us we wouldn't want anyone to see it until it either grew up or got some good clothes on. Yuma always looked to us like Some Thing the River left there during the flood."
Sign at Albert Schweitzer's home— "Do not step on the insects - remember you're their guests." Sent in by Death Valley Kid.
THANKS TO TOM G. MURRY
"The Death Valley Kid"
When Ed Cross and Shorty Harris found the famous Bullfrog gold mine they decided on the name because of the size and greenish color. "It was mostly a case of being sentimental about a song that was making the rounds — it went like this —
'Twenty froggies went to school
Down beside a rushy pool
Twenty little coats of green
Twenty vests all white and clean.'
The Spanish Galleon Of Salton Sea
This story comes from an account of one year in the life of Senor Don Juan Obregon. Born at San Jose del Arroyo, Lower California, Mexico in 1798.
Written down by Antonio de Fierro Blanco in the book "Journey of the Flame."
☆ ☆ ☆
To be in camp meant more or less idleness, and that brought out stories of past adventures; for all of our men had spent their lives as guards or packers for Spanish explorers, and were full to their necks with truths, chismes, and imaginations.
One of them, Tiburcio Manquerna, took me apart with much secrecy to relate a tale concerning our celebrated pilot Iturbe, who was first to sail along our California Gulf Coast, fishing vast quantities of pearls; also buying many other bushels of these jewels from natives for old clothes and wormy ship's biscuit. This hard bread was especially valued by the Indians, and brought a higher price in jewels if the biscuits were so full of maggots that they could run about the ship's deck on their own legs; since it was esteemed as fresh meat.
Senor Iturbe, being explorer for our King and pearler on his own account, first loaded his fifty-ton ship with a sufficiently great fortune in pearls and then sailed past San Felipe; but found no Colorado River mouth, as later our padres, Kino and Ugarte, in their ship Triumph of the Cross, mapping this gulf. Instead of a river mouth, Iturbe saw a vast sea extending far inland, and with high mountains on each side. Iturbe was certain he had found the Straights of Anian, long sought, often found, and as often again lost, and by which he could pass his ship from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. Iturbe sailed on and on up this vast sea, but slowly, as there was little wind and intense heat. A month he spent aground on a sandbar, when a great cloudburst, rushing down from high mountains, filled a part of this inland sea with its debris and created such vast waves that his vessel became unmanageable. Two months he passed on land where the water ended, attempting to locate any continuation of this supposed Straits of Anian, and seeing from the highest mountain-top a vast body of water winding toward the northease, but the entrance to which he could not find.
Then other weeks he occupied in drying flesh from antelope and wild sheep, since they were nearly out of provisions. Still dreaming that each of his crew would be ennobled (Hijosdalgos) by the King for his great discovery, and that he might ask what he would, since there was fame and fortune for any discoverer of these Straits, Senor Iturbe sailed south, only to find arid sand where he had entered this inland sea from the Gulf of Cortes, as now they call our Vermillion Sea.
Cursing the sorcerer who had lured then into his trap, he attempted again to sail around this landlocked ocean, looking for an entrance to the Vermillion Sea, or perhaps to that continuation of the Straits of Anian he had seen from a mountain-top. His voyage ended when his ship grounded, and the water, receding as if by enchantment, stranded them on soft and boggy ground from which with difficulty they escaped alive. They left their ship and its vast treasure of pearls upright as though sailing, but with its keel buried in sand.
All this Manquerna told me fluently, as of a story often heard or oft repeated, and later I learned from Don Firmin Sanhudo that in 1615, Iturbe had made such a pearling trip and lost his vessel. Now came Manquerna's personal narrative, and he almost wept lest I doubt his truth.
"As a boy," said Manquerna, "I went from Sinaloa to drive mules for Juan Bautista de Anza, whom the King had sent to discover a land route from Sonora to Alta California. After we had with difficulty traveled through Pimaria Alta, we came to sandy wastes and crossed a great river with still more sterile deserts beyond it. Being the lightest in weight, I was sent to the right of our course, on our best remaining mule, seeking a road to the ocean.
"Traveling by night because of the heat, I stumbled upon an ancient ship, and in its hold so many pearls as is beyond imagination. Fevered by this wealth, I abandoned my comrades, and, riding toward the ocean as far as my mule could carry me, I climbed the precipitous western mountains on foot. Fed by Indians, I at last reached San Luis Rey Mission. Since then I have spent my life searching for this ship. Help me, or speak to Don Firmin Sanhudo, for me, and a half of what we find shall be yours."
I was polite, and promised such aid as I could give, but warned Don Firmin: since a man is but a boy grown up. If he abandons his comrades in a pathless, waterless desert before his beard grows, he will do the same later when his hair is gray.
Scottys Straight Story
From George Palmer Putnam's Book -- DEATH VALLEY and its Country
Once a newspaperman went to the Castle.
"Scotty," he said, "Mr. Hearst has told me to write your straight story. From the beginning to date. No matter how long it takes, I'm to dig up the facts."
"Okay," said Scotty. "I'll help you. Don't just get the stuff from me. You go to these people who know me. Get the dope from them and then come back."
Scotty gave his visitor half a dozen names. They were men of Reno, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago.
Weeks later the writer returned.
"See 'em all?" Scotty asked.
The writer nodded. "Every one of them. They all talked, too, very cooperative."
"That's fine," said Scotty. "Between 'em they know all about me."
"The trouble is," the reporter went on, "each one told me an altogether different story."
Which is the way it is. And, I think, likely evermore shall be.
George Palmer Putnam
Brewery Gulch Philosophy
A boy and his dog. Did you ever notice that mellow misty-eyed look a fellow gets as he watches a boy striding down the street with a happy adoring dog romping at his side? Does he live again another day when he and his old dog romped and played the same way? Is he visualising that night long ago when his mother, standing over a cringing boy with his dog hidden under the covers, trying to be gentle as she says, "But Son, you dog hasn't been bathed or cleaned, and besides is neither a sanitory or healthful bed companion." While the boy wonders if mother doesn't know how nice and warm that furry body is to stick your cold feet against, and why can't mother understand that wonderful feeling a guy gets when he cuddles to such a woolly lovable companion.
Is there a birth of loving-loyalty at that time which years, knowledge and comprehension can never drown? Just look at a man's reaction about his dog.
If a neighbor causes his wife anguish, the guy gets sore. He doesn't like to see his wife upset that way, besides it interferes with his evening's rest.
Let another neighbor speak harshly to one of his children, and he's mad enough to fight.
But Oh, Brother! Just kick his dog!
New Model Cockroaches
A friend in Berkeley has just sent me six radioactive phosphorus sprayed Cockroaches. Thus treated makes them teaceable with my geiger counter and easy to see at night. "Craziest bugs I ever lived with," — they're up on the roof — I put my geiger counter up there so I can sleep — they ride it — run around it and keep it ticking all night long.
Which reminds me of a story by Evan Esar that will never get old.
A doctor approached a patient in a mental institution, slapped him on the back, and said, "Well, old man, you're all right. You can run along and write your folks that you'll be back home in two weeks as good as new."
Delighted with the news, the patient sat down to write his letter. He finished it and sealed it, but when he was licking the stamp it slipped through his fingers to the floor, lighted on the back of a passing cockroach, and stuck. The patient didn't see the cockroach. What he did see was his escaped postage stamp zigzagging aimlessly across the floor to the wall, following a crooked track up the wall, and then disappearing through a crack in the ceiling. In depressed silence he tore up the letter that he had just written, and said:
"Two weeks! Hell! I won't be out of here in two years."
Your editor just wonders if there is some kind of connection with the gift of these six cockroaches to me and the story above.
PAGE 4 This Page is Dedicated to the World's Greatest Optimist - - The Desert Prospector
HARRY OLIVER'S DESERT RAT SCRAP BOOK
Sidewalks of Silver
..John Hilton, the son-of-a-gun, has just taken out an option to dig Treasure on an Almada Rancho, in SONORA, MEXICO. So from the SONORA SKETCH BOOK (page 80) I quote:
The story is more than a legend. It happened! The founder of the present Almada family, in Alamns, was ready for the wedding of his oldest daughter. A sudden rain had wet the streets and, though the sun was shining again, the bride-to-be complained that she would wet her lovely shoes, walking across to the church. Her father called the servants and, with a grand gesture, told them to lay a path of silver bars across the street so the wedding parade could get to the church dry-shod. It wasn't a planned display of wealth, merely a spontaneous gesture that could have happened no place else but Alamos.
Your editor thinks the Treasue ought to be there. John wrote the book. John says Charles Dickerson of Padua Hills Theater (DID FIND IT) he wrote and produced a play based on this one paragraph.
More about Pegleg Smith
Your Editor is happy to print this letter from W. T. Russell of Grass Valley, California.
I have been particularly interested in your Peg Leg Smith stories. I have been reading everything I could get hold of about Peg Leg for the past sixty years. I am an old broken down prospector, born on the Mother Lode, El Dorado County in 1875. Spent the most of my life here. I never knew Peg Leg, he passed away a little before my time. But I did know his son Joe, and his grand children, played, danced and worked with the grand children 50-60 years ago, all dead now I think. I tried to get in contact with one that was supposed to be living near Los Angeles, a few years ago but failed.
Peg Leg Smith drifted to El Dorodo county in the early days of the Gold Rush. Took part in an Indian War in El Dorado Co., in 1852. He finally settled down on a small ravine in the north side of El Dorado Co., a branch of Beer Creek. The ravine goes by the name of Peg Leg to this day. He died there in the early '60's and was buried in an unmarked grave at American flat, El Dorado Co., a few miles from where he had been living. He left a crude map of the lost mine, that he had drawn, his son Joe, thinking it of no value, burned it. In after years he regreted it. Then he would remark, "If I only had that may today I could get $1000 for it."
His son Joe was born at Taos, New Mexico, some time in the 1830's. I think his mother was either a Crow Indian or a Mexican. He died in El Dorado Co. sometime in the late 1890's.
I have always had faith in the existence of the mine. If I were 20 years younger, I would not hesitate to spend a few months looking for it. I can see nothing unlikely about it. It was simply a rich pocket that eroded and was scattered on the hill side, it often happens.
And as to the gold being black that was because the gold had been beded in manganese. Some time after Peg Leg stumbled on it, it was covered up by one of your sand storms. It has been covered and uncovered several times no doubt.
The Indian was lucky enough to happen along when it was uncovered.
—W. T. RUSSELL
ALL THE TIME BROKE
The scene was set in a gambling hall in Tonopah. Each night, seated at the same table of chance, is a Chinaman and each night a Salvation Army lass makes her rounds, seeking donations for the cause. Each night also, the sectarian approaches the Oriental and in a soft voice, asks, "Will you give a gift for Jesus Christ?"
The Chinaman was a good gambler and was usually winning, so when the damsel requested money the man from China would nonchalantly toss her a five dollar gold piece.
One night, however, the Chinaman's luck had abandoned him and he was in a surly mood. As usual the Salvation miss entered. She made the rounds of all the tables, and finally came to the table of the Oriental. Again in her soft voice she asked, "Will you give a gift for Jesus Christ?"
The Chinaman gave a disgusted look and blurted, "Wat's a molla that Jee Clie alla time bloke?"
—Excerpts from Chas. Lockwood's Scrapbook
CALICO GHOST TOWN
13 Miles East of Barstow
Calico in the 1880's was the largest silver mining Camp in the southwest. Almost obliterated by time, it is now being restored by Knott's Berry Farm. An ideal outing for the rockhound, and camping groups.
THE JAMES BOYS
From J. FRANK DOBIE'S "CORONADO'S CHILDREN"
The best book about any American outlaw that has been written, "The Rise and Fall of Jesse James," by Robertus Love, has a great deal in it about Frank James, but it has not one word about the two million dollar loot he helped bury in the Wichitas and then could not find. To get that incident in the history of the famous Missouri brothers one must go to Pete Givers.
Just how and where the James gang came by their $2,000,000 is not quite clear. Some say they took it from a Mexican transport crossing Oklahoma on the way to Saint Louis; others say that it was an accumulation from various bank and train robberies. The James gang robbed not to live; they lived to rob, and they robbed on a magnificent scale. Anyway, they stored $2,000,000 in the earth somewhere along the old road between Fort Sill and the Keeche Hills to the northeast, intending to leave it there until peaceful days should come in which to spend it.
The peaceful days never came. After having been hunted for nearly twenty years, "poor Jesse" was laid in his grave, as the ballad runs, by a "dirty little coward" named Bob Ford. All his companions but Frank were in their graves too or behind bars. Frank was still on the dodge. But Frank "came in," gave himself up, was tried, and acquitted.
Thereupon, as the Wichitas have the history, he set out to recover the long buried loot. He had left the region a hunting ground for Indians; he found it homesteaded, fenced, plowed. He could not locate the spot. He knew that it was alongside the old Western Cattle Trail leading to Dodge City; he knew in a general way where it was; but despite his tenacious memory and eagle eye, the bit of earth concealing $2,000,000 looked no different from ten thousand other pieces of earth.
Frank James bought a little farm so that he might have a strategic base from which to search. He would ride daily from his farm to Cache Creek over the piece of trail he once traversed at the head of the most daring band of robbers known to American history. He always covered the distance at a flying gallop, hoping that when he got to the scene of the secreted treasure the doors of memory would flash open. But daily the doors of memory remained locked. Riding thus, he wore out six horses before he galloped away from the Wichitas forever.
Thus the treasures of the Wichitas unfold themselves in legend. There is a great government treasure lost to view in the sands and waters of Cache Creek. There is the treasure of Cut Throat Gap — a name that was not bestowed without reason.
Many people on hearing that diamonds have been found in meteorites, imagine that the meteorites are sought as a source of gems. However, no diamond of gem quality has ever been found in any meteorite. Though comparatively numerous in the Barringer meteorite, the diamonds so far discovered have all been of the carbonado variety which consists of microscopic crystals embedded in a matrix of graphite carbon. They are very unattractive in appearance; but are so hard that they scratch carborundum and readily cut grooves in grinding stones made of that material. They have no value.
H. H. Nininger, Flagstaff, Ariz.
from OLD FORT OLIVER
Thousand Palms, California
Come in. This is old Fort Oliver — home of this paper — stronghold of the secessionists — tabernacle of the Desert Liars Club and exploitation headquarters for the West's most colorful ghost, Pegleg Smith. Here on this old desk is my Peg Leg Scrap Book. For 35 years I have gathered items about the old rascal, many of the stories I have garnished a bit, as I gave them again to the press. But with others I have been able to coax the old Ghost over to the spot that I picked for his monument in Borrego (Desert Ghost Herding, Blackie calls it.)
Twenty years ago, I planted 60 weathered wooden peg legs in likely spots to keep the famous Peg Leg Smith Lost Gold Legend on the front pages of the newspapers of the Southwest. (Most of them were found, and the Newspapers loved it.)
Today Peg Leg Smith is the best known Ghost in the West. Phillip A. Bailey's book "Golden Mirage" (1948) tells many stories of Peg Leg Smith for you that would know all the tales, but I have picked for this packet one of the oldest printings I could find. Here is George Wharton James in his "The Colorado Desert" (in two volumes 1906) quoting from the Los Angeles Herald of a much earlier date. It's best you start with the story as it was 60 years ago.
"This is the puzzling question which has caused many a fortune hunter to search the desert. Somewhere near three buttes that rise from the burning sands the gold lies easy of access. Wealth waits for the man who can find the spot where seventy years ago a party of weary and thirsty trappers camped over night.
"The story of the lost mine has been told many times, but it has remained for one who is interested in the older West, to sift the facts, and this is the first authentic story ever pieced together;
T'was in the Year of 1836...
"In the year 1836 a man named Smith, and known as "Pegleg" Smith because he had lost one of his natural legs, with a party of trappers came from St. Louis to the head of the Colorado River. They followed down that stream to the mouth of the Gila River and then struck off across the desert. From Yuma their course was in a southwesterly direction, across a wide stretch of desert, utterly devoid of vegetation, and with no sign of water or life of any kind. They traveled for three days toward some low hills, but as they pressed on they appeared to recede and be always about the same distance from them. At nightfall on the fourth day, however, they made their camp at the very base of the southernmost of the hills.
"In the dim, fading light they could faintly discern the tops of three small buttes to the northward, toward which a deep canyon led. They were nearly out of water, so one of their number was sent to explore the canyon to see if by any chance a spring of water was there.
"Before long he had climbed to the top of one of the buttes, but had not found a drop of moisture. While at the top of the hill, however, he discovered many loose pieces of black metal, with here and there pieces of some metal showing on the surface of them. He gathered several of the pieces, having the impression that the yellow metal was copper in its native state.
"The trappers camped at the base of the hill that night, and in the morning, by the clear light, they described a high mountain to the northwest. Their supply of water was almost gone, and they felt that their only hope was in reaching this high mountain before what remained of the water had been entirely consumed and they perished from thirst on the burning sands of the desert. The man who had picked up the pieces of black metal on the hilltop gave no thought to them, and the one thought was to reach the mountainside and find water.
"That night they came to the mountain, which all day had seemed just a short way off, and found a spring of cool, clear water. They were saved, and they thought of little else. The mountain was named 'Smith Mountain,' in honor of Pegleg, who was the first to discover it, and it bears that name to-day.
"At Temecula, where the trappers first stopped, they were told the pieces of black metal found on the three buttes were gold, but the proof was not conclusive until they reached San Bernadino and submitted their find to an expert. Even then they did not realize the immensity of their discovery. It must be remembered that this was before 'the days of old, the days of gold, the days of '49.
Golden Days of '49 . . .
"After the discovery of gold in California and the rush of adventurers from all over the world to the new Eldorado, Smith began to consider. Eventually he became imbued with the idea he had made a great discovery, and he went to San Francisco where he organized an expedition to seek for the three buttes in Southern California where fabulous wealth was hidden. Fully equipped for a long stay on the desert the expedition left Los Angeles and started in a southeasterly direction for Smith Mountain where he last water was to be had, but before reaching the springs some Indians who had been brought along to pack the supplies decamped quietly in the night-time with all the provisions and most of the camp equipment, and the expedition was forced to turn back.
Pegleg Smith, disheartened by the catastrophe, left his followers in San Bernadino, and nothing was ever heard from him again, so far as history tells. Whether he again attempted to locate the three hills of gold and lost his life on the burning sands, or whether he abandoned the quest and left the country for good, is not known.
"From this time on the story of Pegleg and his discovery began to spread and to assume fantastic forms. Every one who related it told it differently. However, there were those who knew and appreciated the real facts regarding the find and who never gave up the idea of some day making a journey across the desert in search of the gold they knew must be there.
"The next authentic piece of history concerning the Pegleg has to do with an Indian employed on the ranch of Governor Downey, which is known as Warner's Ranch, and stretches from the foothills below Smith Mountain to the desert on the south. This Indian was wont to steal away from the ranch on many occasions when he would be fully equipped for a long journey and sometimes on his return he would display a quantity of gold. It was in the form of black metal, generously sprinkled with free gold, and readily passed for currency at the country store.
"The Indian was never very particular whether he got the full value of his nuggets or not. He often remarked he knew where there was plenty more. It was known that he used to enter the desert by way of the San Felipe Canyon, which would take him in the very direction of the three buttes, described by Pegleg Smith and his comrades after their first trip over this region, when the discovery was made.
When Downey Was Governor ...
"All the circumstances eventually came to the ears of Governor Downey, and he went to the ranch for the purpose of interviewing the Indian, but before he reached there the Indian had gone away to Anaheim and there he was killed in a quarrel over a game of cards. Governor Downey closely questioned the squaw of the Indian and succeeded in getting her to describe as best she could the route taken by her brave on his mysterious journeys to the desert. She said that the Indian got his last supply of water at the foot of Smith Mountain at the identical spring where Pegleg and his comrades found water after leaving the three buttes on the morning of their discovery. She said that he always left Smith Mountain at daybreak and traveled toward the sun and at about three o'clock in the afternoon he would come to the place where 'mucho, mucho gold' was to be had.
"Since that time it is hard to separate the reliable stories of Pegleg's discoveries from the unauthenticated ones and the purely imaginative ones. In 1860 a man named McGuire organized a party of six in San Francisco to go to the Pegleg mine. He claimed to have been there, and showed a number of very valuable gold nuggets to substantiate his assertions. He had certificates of deposits on a San Francisco bank showing that he had plenty of money, and said he had obtained them by depositing nuggets like those he carried. The six adventurers went through the San Felipe Canyon on to the desert, and that was the last ever seen of them. Their bleached bones clearly told the story of the fate of that expedition.
Lost Prospector's Black Nuggets ...
"Fifteen years after this a prospector, in making his way from Arizona to California, wandered far from his way, and became lost on the desert. After he had traveled about for two days he saw, away off in the distance, some low-lying hills, and made his way to the foot of them. In search of water to quench his terrible thirst, he entered a little canyon, and made his way through it to the very top of the little buttes. Here he found a number of black nuggets, and believed that they were gold, but water was more precious to him than gold at that time, and he descended to the desert again and finally crawled on to the foot of Smith Mountain, where he, too, found the little spring of life-giving water.
"As soon as he was able to travel, this man came to Los Angeles to organize a company to go with him back to the desert, but the hardships he had undergone had been too much for him, and he fell ill. When he learned that he was going to die he confided to Dr. De Courcey, his physician, the particulars of his discovery, and placed in his hands two thousand dollars' worth of gold nuggets, which were those he had picked up during the few months he stayed on the top of the little butte.
"After the death of the miner, Dr. De Councey spent some time on the desert attempting to locate the vast treasure, but he did not succeed, and finally, he, too, died.
"At Flowing Wells, on the edge of the Colorado Desert, the Southern Pacific road has a station, and the agent of the road here some time ago reported tha an Indian squaw came to his place one day and showed a quantity of gold nuggets. She guarded them jealously, knowing well their value, but would not talk freely nor tell where she found them, but would point to the direction of Smith Mountain, in line with which would be the three low hills mentioned by Pegleg Smith. This reticence on the part of Indians on this coast is general among them, for they were told by the Jesuit priests, that the Great Spirit would punish them if they ever showed a white man where there was gold located.
"Only three months ago a man came across from the Banning side of the desert to a point about twelve miles above Yuma, and stopped at a mill near the river to obtain water and rest. He told the engineers at the mill that he saw many queer things on his trip, and took from his pocket a handful of black nuggets which he said he thought might be lead by the weight, but concluded they were iron pyrites and laid them down. After he went away the mill man picked up one of the nuggets and with a file removed the coating. Then he discovered it was pure gold. He started in pursuit of the man, overtook him and learned from him that he picked up the nuggets in a gulch where the wind and the sand had driven him for shelter, and where he remained all night. He said that there were carloads of that stuff there. The black coating over the gold obscured from him the value of the find as it had from many others both on the desert and in the Klondike country.
"The nuggets which this man picked up were just like those which Pegleg Smith's comrades found, just like those the Indian brought to Warner's Ranch, and just like those which McGuire brought to San Francisco. G. W. J. 1906
WEST STILL WILD
— from the pages of Harry Carr's great book, The West Is Still Wild, Houghton Mifflin Co., New York. A line and a sketch.
The line from Chapter XXV El Dorado "La Golondrina" was drowned out by "Oh, Susanna.."
This is the story of the hottest sport of the Mother Lode country. He, too, lived in Columbia. He came ambling into the gold country one day in the fifties. He had an air of sang-froid and a permanent aversion to work.
One day, coming back from a drunken party he stumbled over a rock. It proved to be one of the largest nuggets ever found in the Mother Lode. Eventually he dug eighty thousand dollars out of the claim he staked. When he got the assay report, Nate hired a brass band and gave a one-man parade. Then he marched into Long 8om's Bar at Columbia and paid for a drink with a twenty-dollar gold piece — no change expected. He never stopped paying twenty-dollar gold pieces for drinks. That was his standard price.
Some of his friends tired to get him to save his money; but Nate replied that he was now about to satisfy his life's ambition, which was to own a fast horse, a fast woman, and a fighting dog. He had a buggy made to order with red wheels; bought a high-stepping horse and a harness mounted with solid gold; married a pretty Mexican girl from the Gulch; and sent East for the ugliest bulldog ever seen in California.
All the bar-keepers waxed rich on Nate's twenty-dollar gold pieces before his money gave out. His pay streak pinched out. Then Nate went the rounds of the saloons trying to borrow money off the bar-keepers he had enriched. They fumbled — as they had always fumbled with his change.
His bulldog and horse disappeared. In the end, he and his little Mexican girl went hungry. But Nate never lost his elegance or his INSOUCIANCE. One day the little Mexican girl managed to dig up seventy-five cents and sent Nate to the market to buy some much-needed meat. He came back without the meat. He had spent the money to buy a live owl from an Indian. He said it was a cute little owl; and anyway, he had always wanted an owl.
One night they found Nate lying dead on the trail. His whiskey heart had suddenly given out.
The little Mexican girl went insane.
FURTHERANCE AND COMFORT OF LIFE IN
Shack, Shanty & Cabin
Tender Your Aid, You Rats, Send in Your Stuff
Not Approved by Good Housekeeping
In building a shack, put your open fireplace in the corner, — so's when you burn long logs, the logs will lay along the wall and you won't stumble over them — saves a lot of woodcutting. —Your Editor.
Never put pepper on any kind of meat before cooking. Always pepper just before serving, to avoid having the spice become burned and distasteful —From Bill Magee's Western Barbeque Cookbook. Fond as he is of hot sauce, Bill Magee advises to "lay off" all sauces for fine-flavored meat like venison.
You can get a purty fair idea of a woman's disposition from the way she scrapes out a pan. — (How did that woman get into this column?) but no matter.
The modern idea of roughing it is to have no radio in the shanty.
If your shack is in the desert and you pack in your water — put in two Tamarisk sticks, water them with waste water, running it through a keg of ashes and you have yourself trees.
Was reading in an old, old cookbook: "When toast is burned, do not scrape with a knife — rub across a grater." Your editor has got a better idea of what to do with it!
Remember you can't fall out of bed if you sleep on your face.
Wine In The Desert
Somewhere under "The Algodones" fascinating sand dunes (20 miles west of Yuma, Arizona) near Gordon's well. "Yes, it's true." Under the dunes is a freight wagon filled with the finest champagne from France.
One of the most amusing of the desert tales is that of the freight wagon loaded with champagnes, bound for the tables of the dons in the pueblos of San Diego and Los Angeles. Crossing the sand dunes, the freighters were struck by a violent sand storm. As the flying sand settled about the wagon, the drivers cut loose their mules and rode on them before the storm and to safety. Returning later, they found only a sea of dunes where the wagon should have been, and never since has the cargo of champagne been seen.
Magistrate: "So you claim the defendant hit you with malice . . . and aforethought?"
Plaintiff: "No, your Honor — it's no good trying to make me contradict myself. I said he hit me with the shovel, and that's right!"
If you fold this paper again, long way, it makes it just right for killing cockroaches or vinegaroons.
After searching for a week for a lost mule the owner offered the town half-wit two bits if he could find him. In about an hour the dope came in leading the mule. When asked how he found him so quickly he replied — "I just thot where I'd go if I was a mule and I went there and there he was.
Big Game Hunters
from the land of tired air
From page 197 Matt Weinstock's Book, My L.A.
If you have read Matt's book you will enjoy reading this again. If you have not read Matt's book get one and read this agin, and hundreds more like it. —Your Editor.
A few reporters were sitting in a small cafe, watching a cockroach track up a lemon meringue pie, speculating whether it would spell out Pepsi-Cola, as the skywriter does. A stranger sitting three stools away broke into their research. "Hey, Al, there he is again," he called to the proprietor. "Is it all right if I take a try at him?" Al said it was ok, he'd been trying to trap the so-and-so all day. The stranger pulled out a .25 automatic, took aim, and blasted at a large rat visible in the doorway to the kitchen. He missed, swore, replaced the gat, and resumed sipping his coffee. The newsmen almost fell off their stools.
We are eagerly waiting for Matt's new book, "My So. Cal."
Lost Dutchman Mine
The famed Lost Dutchman mine, reputed to be located somewhere in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona, has been "found" again according to a statement given to the Houston, Texas, Chronicle by one of the locators.
According to legend the mine was worked originally by members of the Peralta family of Mexico. After considerable gold had been taken from the rich deposit, the Apache Indians, resentful of the intrusion in their territory, attacked the mining party and massacred all but one of the workmen.
At a late date a German, Jacob Walz, reported that he had discovered the old Peralta workings, and exhibited rich gold ore to prove his claim. He never revealed its location.
Most recent claimants to rediscovery of the old workings are Robert C. Drury and O. T. Haning, a mining engineer. They say they have located a 200-foot shaft about 20 miles from Casa Grande. It had been covered with mesquite. An old hand-made ladder leads into the mine. They assert they found gold in the ore at the bottom of the shaft, and believe that eventually they will locate a cache of arrastre-milled ore said to have been buried at the time of the Apache attack. Desert Magazine
The only way to know anything about a lost mine is to go to just one man. If you go to two, what you know is reduced by half. Got to three and you don't know anything.
Gasoline and Oil
Open the Year 'Round
PEG-LEG gets applause 5
From Arizonas Expert Bert Fireman
Almost everyone has his pet legend, his pet dream — a Big Spoof in which he steadfastly believes despite any facts to the contrary. And who's to say there isn't solace and comfort in such willing suspensions of logic?
Nobody has learned to make better use of it than my old friend and Secessionist holdout, Harry Oliver, the self-styled Desert Rat of Thousand Palms. That's a wide spot off the freeway a few miles west of Indio. There he has daubed an adobe structure into a replica of what a desert fortress might have been in pioneer days. There he publishes a unique newspaper scrap book devoted to Western Americana, and enlarges upon his personal spoof — the mystery of the Lost Peg Leg Smith Mine.
My pride in Arizona be hanged, I have to admit the Lost Peg Leg is richer than the Lost Dutchman, because it has the built-in wealth of loving proprietorship. Oliver, a former movie producer, started with wisps of a lost mine tale no more or less substantial than our local fable.
With a wealth of imagination and showmanship he has built it up into a treasure that constantly throws off clues as a cyclotron does neutrons. One year Oliver carved a pile of peg legs from old mine timbers. He weathered them still more in acid and a sand blaster, then dropped them into sand dunes and canyon where they were a cinch to be found by rockhounds and tourists. The myth of the Lost Peg Leg Mine grew anew, and he delighted in its prosperity.
FINE IDEA: This is a technological improvement upon the older and less resourceful means of promoting a lost mine — the distribution of wseathered cryptic maps and the publication of fictionalized accounts of the mine search. A peg leg carved from weathered wood is so substantial and real. It is a clue second only to a bar of gold as evidence of an elusive El Dorado.
At the Christmas season each year, as soon as the first go-round of turkey has settled, Oliver gathers aficionados of the Lost Peg Leg Mine myth for an Annual Trek and Liar's Fete. This is held at the growing Peg Leg Monument in the Borrego Desert, hard against the coastal range that guards the Imperial Valley wastelands from the Pacific Ocean.
This monument is being built of stones hauled to the site by those willing to invest a few drops of sweat in their quest for desert romance. Each visitor is asked to bring a rock to heap upon the pile.
In The Phoenix Gazette Dec 23 1959
POSTMASTER — DO NOT — send this back — if the subscriber don't know where he lives, I sure as Heck don't either.
All text was hand-entered (no OCR scans) by Ric Carter (all of Harry's misspellings retained). Dick Oakes did the layout, markup and graphics reproduction, but not the contents, which remain the property of Bill Powers and his heirs.