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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Walking With Jackie the Ripper

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Living in the Ozarks Mountains as we do, Jackie and I see lots of rocks on our walks. Lots and lots of rocks in all sizes and shapes, It's fun to turn them over. You never know what may lurk beneath a rock. I especially like the big flat ones for they remind me of a story Mama told so many times.

Oftentimes on cold winter nights when Daddy was on a fox hunting trip with his friends, Mama would entertain us with stories of days gone by. The one that the flat rock reminds me of always started, "Well now, when the Spaniards came through this country they buried a lot of gold."

In the naivete of early childhood, I thought my mother was reporting on an event which had taken place just a few years back. I wasn't overly bright, and it was not revealed to me until the fifth or sixth grade when I learned a bit more about American history; Mama was referring to Hernando De Soto and his explorers, believed by many to have blundered blindly through our hill country on their journey to the mighty Mississippi.

Ozarks folklore has leaned heavily toward the premise that these early explorers had stolen much gold from the Indians and were so burdened by the treasure that they decided to hide it here in our part of the world. Why in the name of time they carried it to one of the most inaccessible areas of the New World before deciding to bury it was never explained to my satisfaction, but not being one to argue much with oral history, I just pass it on for what it is worth.

Anyway, Mama told us that her father, known to us kids as "Good Papa," had in his youth become friendly with a young man who had a treasure map detailing with extreme accuracy the location of one of the hidden stores of gold. It just happened to be nearby on one of the local farms (Can we talk about a coincidence or what?)

When I was listening to the story, not really wanting to because I had heard the story ending many times but somehow unable to tune it out, I could just visualize that map, dirty and stained, replete with skull and crossbones, daggers dripping blood, with oaths of a foul and ominous nature crowding the tattered margins of the document. (Being a devoted reader and ardent fan of Mark Twain, I was unusually experienced with treasure maps for one so young. Tom and Huck, along with Long John Silver, were as real to me as my siblings and I liked them a lot better.)

Well, the young men, sworn to secrecy, took off one late afternoon and, following the detailed instructions on the map, soon came to what appeared to be the correct latitude and longitude. They excitedly started digging in a violent way and ere long, about three feet down, they came upon a large rock. They just about turned wrong side out with joy for this rock was mentioned as the covering under which would be found the treasure.

Struggling mightily, with the aid of pick and shovel, they were finally able to remove the huge flat rock from the pit. There was not one thing there. Nada. Zilch. Nothing. Someone had beat them to the gold.

Jackie and I don't expect much when we turn over rocks, but it's fun anyway.