Norris Chambers Old Timer's Tales

Treasure Hunting

by Norris Chambers

   IIn the northern part of Brown County is a rough stretch of country that has for generations been known as Cart Wheel Mountain. It isn't actually a mountain. From the eastern edge of a peanut field, the terrain falls suddenly down for about two hundred feet, and the surface is strewn with large rocks, making it hard for a man or beast to climb or descend. Some of the rocks are as large as smoke houses, and the brush is as thick as the hair on a cat's back. At the bottom of the hill is a creek known as Red River (not the big one on the Oklahoma border). The valley, for the most part, climbs gradually upward on the other side of the creek. The rough hill extends in length for several miles.

  The old timers named it Cart Wheel Mountain because it was said that the early Spaniards were moving a cart of gold through the area, and were attacked by hostile Indians at the top of the mountain. They buried the gold before being massacred by the savages.. When another party came to investigate, they found only a wheel of the cart. Therefore, the rough hill was named Cartwheel Mountain. I don't know how they knew the gold was buried there. But that is the tale that the old ones handed down to the new generation.

  Many treasure seekers searched for the gold, among them my nephew, who was about my age, and I. We dug more than one hole there that didn't hit pay dirt. However, I recall one that paid off handsomely. While 'possum hunting one winter with our favorite dog, Smut, we noticed a sunken area in one of the rare clear spots between the rocks.

  "Clifton," I said, "Do you reckon that's the treasure spot?"

  "Could be," he answered, a little anxious. "It's in a clear area where they might have been able to dig, and it is a little low."

  I suggested that we make the mile trip back to the house and get a pick and shovel. We got the tools and started digging. The ground was a little hard, but we managed to get down about a foot. Then we broke into a void that made us think the ground had been previously disturbed. We speeded up our excavation and found what looked like a tunnel. We followed it about four feet in the direction of a big rock.

  Suddenly, Clifton jumped out of the hole. At the same time I smelled a skunk and realized instantly that we had dug up one. While we were getting out of the area, old Smut jumped on the startled animal and soon overpowered it. Clifton was concerned about his pants leg. He hadn't got out soon enough. I tapped the skunk on the head with the pick handle. The fight was over and old Smut was rolling in the grass in an effort to remove the smell. He became very sick, and started eating grass, as dogs will do when they are sick. Clifton didn't get sick, but he emitted a smelly odor for several days.

  We skinned the skunk and sold his hide for $1.80. That was the profit from that treasure hunt. We considered that very good, considering that a day's wages was usually $1.00.

  But there is a modern way to hunt for treasure. Many people do it every week-end. They use a metal detector. They don't normally hunt for Spanish gold, but hunt in the parks, beaches, old house places and abandoned towns for old coins, watches and jewelry.

  What you can find isn't usually worth very much, but every time the tone sounds, you think that this might be the time you will unearth the big find. And sometimes it is. Treasure hunters have found old coins, valuable jewelry and antique artifacts. I was searching once at an old home site where the house had burned many years before. I found dozens of old square nails. I also found hundreds of small pieces of cast iron, presumable from the cooking stove. The nails had some value to flea market operators. I also found a few metal items that were very old. These were rather deep, and apparently had been in the cellar and never been removed. There were also some jars that had held canned fruits, and some of it still looked almost edible.

  The big problem that the amateur hunter finds immediately is that his detector picks up pieces of foil, soft drink tabs, nails and other small metal items that are just below the surface. This is especially troublesome in parks or areas where many people have been. Of course this is the best place to look for coins and other valuables.

  There is a partial solution to this problem. There are many different types of detectors available, and some of them claim that their machine will not detect this rubbish, but will go for the better loot. Some hunters say this is true, and swear by the machine of their choice. No doubt detectors are now available that will look for silver, gold or other metals and reject those that are not wanted. Some now work under water, and with them it is possible to find valuables where there is a lot of bathing.

  If you are interested in getting into this exciting hobby, you should contact someone who is already hunting, or answer a few ads in the opportunity columns of magazines. The telephone directory in most cities will list dealers under "Metal Detecting Equipment."

  In Fort Worth, and probably many other areas, there is a treasure hunter's club that has regular meetings and hunting contests, etc. It is an interesting activity and those who take part. They find hundreds of coins, rings etc. Although you probably won't make much money, you can have fun. Most hunters will tell you that they have more than paid for their equipment.

  Treasure hunting is not for everyone, but I promise you that the newer detectors will not pinpoint skunks!


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