In Jan. of 1972, three men in the Army, stationed at Ft.Huachuca, Arizona, went to town on liberty. All three had just been transferred there after basic training at Ft.Dix, N.J. In town they went into a “rock shop” run by an old Army Sargent, 80% disabled in a wheelchair. After talking for a couple of hours, the Sargent asked them if they needed some “beer money”. “You could go up in the hills and dry pan for gold” he said. “How do you do that?” , they asked. “Throw the dirt up into the air and catch it on a wool blanket, like an Army blanket. What’s left will be gold as it is heavier”. “Where would we sell it? The government won’t let us keep it.” “I’ll buy it from you for up to $32.00 an Oz.” “What are you going to with it?” “I’ll melt it down and make wire out of it and sell the wire in Mexico”. “We wouldn’t know where to go”. The ex-Sargent went in the back room and came back with a binder of 8 ½” by 11” maps and showed them exactly where to go. “When will you go out?”, he asked. “Well, Monday is a G.I. holiday, so we will go this weekend”. “Remember, the Indians patrol up there and if they catch you, they will confiscate your gold”, he warned.
Friday, they had an early inspection and were free for the long weekend at 1:00 P.M. They went over into town to a house one of them had rented, for when his wife arrived, and drank beer. About 5:00P.M., they said, ”Let’s do it”. They went back on Post and got everything they thought they would need, and went back off Post to get more beer. They started off with the man in the back seat laying down and going to sleep. The man in the passenger’s seat slumped down and went to sleep, also. It was night out at this time and the driver was also drunk and dyslexic. After making some turns, the road he was on went to dirt road, then dirt track and finally his Renault wagon could not get over a slick flat rock that went across the road. “This must be the place”, the driver said as he woke up the others.
They unloaded the station wagon, had a spirited dispute and left the car. They took two cases of “C” Rations, two cases of beer, a four man Army tent, and bedding. They went along by light of Coleman one mantle lanterns, until they found a flat spot to set up the tent. Took them two hours to set up the tent. There had been a heavy mist/light rain all night and the tent was soaked, so they rolled it up on the tent poles like a litter and put the food, beer, and bedding on it. They walked on and finally saw a mineshaft on the right hand side and said, “There’s the mine he told us about, now we want the second ravine on the right”. A little later, the point man , during a rest/beer break, climbed up a rock outcrop. And looking down the canyon, said “I can see Post down below us”. They zigzagged up the side until they came to a drop off. “Look there’s a deer trail going off over there”.
They skirted around a valley wall until they were forced to descend. They were again stopped by a drop off, and noticed a rock walled ravine to their right. “This must be the first ravine to the right, that he told us about”. They then went up the ravine until they thought they could put up the tent. They found out that they had to use rocks to hold the tent instead of the tent pegs. The loose dirt was only about two inches over solid rock floor. The next morning, they went up to the end of the ravine, and started looking for the ”second ravine on the right”. After climbing up high enough to see the end of the valley twice and coming back down, one of them said, “Look over there, there’s a break in that rock wall. That must be the second ravine on the right”. They climbed up into the opening and were standing in a thirty-foot culdesac. “Look, there’s a break in the wall on the right”. They went through the break and entered another culdesac with a break to the left. They went through the break and were standing in a small ravine about fifty feet long by fifteen to twenty feet wide. “This must be the place”.
They started digging and throwing the dirt in the air with the blanket, at ‘four inches’, they started finding yellow flakes about 1/3 the size of Rice Krispies. At eight inches, they found pieces of quartz with little runners of gold, ”like 30 gauge wire”. They broke the quartz with pliers to get the gold. At twelve inches, they found small rock chips with reddish yellow flakes in them. By the end of the day, due to “rest breaks”, they had dug a trench, fifteen feet long, one foot deep and just big enough to stand in. The wire gold and the flakes were pinched together with the pliers to make 8 or 9 balls about ½ inch diameter. Those along with three inches of rock chips with the flecks of gold were put into a quart mason jar. It was getting dark, so they stopped and went back down to the camp. The next morning, they buried the rest of the “C” Rats, and started back. At about 1:00 P.M. they stopped to “wash up in a mountain stream feed pool”. As they were starting to get out of the pool, they heard someone coming up the canyon. Just as they got dressed, a white haired Indian came around the bend on a very lathered horse. As soon as he saw them, he pulled out a Winchester rifle and asked in Spanish, “What are you doing here?” The only one that spoke Spanish was the driver and before he though, he said, “We’re looking for gold”. The Indian smiled and asked, “Did you find any?” “UH, uh”. “It is government land, it belongs to the government, give it to me”, with a bigger smile, said the old Indian. They brought him the mason jar and went back and sat down with their hands on their heads as he took a set of scales and a box of weights out of his saddlebags. He weighed the total contents of the jar and handed them a hand written receipt for 64 Oz.’s and 53 grams total weight. He took down their names and service numbers and put that into the jar. He put everything a way and got on the horse and backed it all the way back to a bend in the canyon, and turned the horse and was gone.
The three men argued all the way back to the car about weather or not they should have given the Indian their gold. At the car they drank the third case of beer that they had left at the car, because no one wanted to carry it in the beginning. After the beer was gone it was dark and the man in the back seat laid down and went to sleep, the man in the front seat went to sleep and the driver “drove forever”. He was so glad to see the gates of Post come up, at which time he crossed over into Mexico from Douglas. He now knew where he was and drove the forty miles back to Post. The next morning, Tuesday, they went to the M.P.s and said, “ An Indian drew a gun on us, above Post.” “Did he take anything?” “Oh, no. Nothing at all” “Don’t worry about it. They are afraid that people will shoot at them”. They went over that night to the rock shop and told the Sargent, “An Indian took our gold.” “I warned you that would happen if they caught you up there”. For the next two and a half months, every weekend they took their wives up behind Post, picnicking and camping. They never told them why, and they never found it again. They never saw the Sargent again either. One year later, Jan. 1973, all three of them were stationed in Hawaii putting up microwave towers for the Army. They each received a registered letter, addressed to them at Fort Hachucha. In it was a W-2 for State and Federal taxes, and a certified check drawn on the Arizona Bank for about $280.00. All three said, “Look the government finally paid us for our gold”.
This was the story told to me by the driver who I know personally, in September 1982. I had it verified by a man I worked with in November,1982, who had been stationed there in 1974 and had heard the story about the ravine of gold above the Post, that was still being told and looked for by others. I believe that the Sargent set them up from the get go. The Indian had a hard time finding them as they were not in the right canyon, where they were told to go. Remember the “lathered horse”, he had been pushing it hard all day to find them. The question is, did the Sargent die and when they went through the estate, they found the jar of rock flakes, which hid the balls, with their names and service numbers inside? Or, did the Sargent decide that because the price of gold was coming off in February from $48.00 per Oz. To $240.00 per Oz., that he would crush the rock chips for the low-grade flakes and saw the gold balls. Where were they from? It wasn’t where he sent them. Did he then cash two balls for each of them, so that they would come back and tell him about it and go back up for more? Followed by the Indian, of course. I do not know. I do know that 5 years later the driver stopped back at Sierra Vista, and no one remember the rock shop or the old Sargent at that time. We found the main canyon in 1983 with the driver and have been looking for the second ravine on the right ever since. It’s a BIG canyon.
This is one we are actively working at present. Next one day trip to put it to bed one way or the other will be in Sept., the Lord willing.