After many years Santos remembered where he hid the gold. Finding it wasn’t so easy.
They had all gathered together for one last time. Robbers, thieves and killers of days gone by.
Men like Arthur Klemp, horse thief and cattle rustler. Johnny Bad, killer of two men. And the worst offender of them all, Santos Francisco, bank, stage, train robber and killer.
In one way or another, they all managed to escape the noose. Mistrials, bribed jury members and Judges on the take all played a part in one way or another. The men served the time handed down to them and were released. Too old to be of any danger, they now found themselves in a predicament. Each was past their eightieth birthday and each lived in abject poverty.
Their past deeds may have made them enough money to survive at the time. Now they had nothing to show for their past lives. Except for Johnny Bad. He carried a bullet in his left shoulder, shot from the gun of the second man he killed.
Santos was to only one of the three men who had thought ahead. It was rumored he had buried a cache of gold coins. A backup reserve for the future. He never needed it and had long forgotten where he had buried it. Age had taken that memory from him and he mourned its loss.
Powell Lancaster owned the Harley boarding house in Elko, Nevada. Built in the 1800’s, it was a relic of the old west. Long bypassed by customers in search of more modern living quarters.
It was 1925. Elko was slowly progressing into the modern world. Lancaster, not wanting to give up this small piece of history, searched for a way to bring in more revenue. He found it in Arthur Klemp who lived just outside of town.
Lancaster had become acquainted with Klemp over the past year. The two had occasionally shared a beer and a game or two of checkers. Arthur loved to talk about his adventures back in the “old days”, as he would call them. The old days being before his time in prison.
He came up with the idea of bringing two of his old cellmates, Johnny Bad and Santos Francisco to town. They would all live in the boarding house at a reduced cost. Lancaster would let it be known that they were boarding house residents. In exchange, they would entertain paying customers with stories of their past exploits.
It was a winning combination certain to bring in new customers. They would even let Lancaster sell autographed photos for a 50/50 split.
It wasn’t difficult to talk Johnny and Santos into it. They both needed less expensive living conditions and the autograph money would be an added bonus. The plan was put into action. The word was put out and soon the old boarding house was booked solid.
Everything was going as planned. Lancaster was making enough to afford some much needed repairs and the three old desperadoes were making a name for themselves once again. Only this time it was all legal and above board.
Six months had gone by. Johnny Bad and Arthur were on the front porch talking with one of the guests when Santos came out and sat down at the other end of the porch. He kept motioning for the two men to come over. They politely excused themselves.
“What’s so urgent that you had to pull us away from telling a good story?” Asked Arthur.
“We need horses,” replied Santos.
“Horses, Why do we need horses? I haven’t rode a horse in years,” Replied Johnny Bad.
“Do you remember when we were cellmates, I told you I hid a lot of gold coins, but I forgot where?”
“Ya, what about it?” They both replied.
Santos almost yelled it out. “I remember where I hid them.”
Johnny Bad thought Santos was playing with them. “Are you serious? You remember?”
“Yes, yes. It came to me in a dream last night. We are only a days ride from being rich.”
“I could steal some horses,” remarked Klemp. “But I don’t know where to find them.”
“How about stealing a car,” suggested Santos.
“Do you know how to drive one?” Asked Klemp.
“No, do you?”
“No, how about you, Johnny?”
“I never learned.”
All three sat and pondered the situation. After a minute of silence, Santos spoke up. “Why don’t we ask Senior Lancaster to drive us?”
“Excellent idea,” agreed the other two men.
The following morning the three amigos approached Powell Lancaster with their proposal. He thought it would be great fun and agreed to drive them. They piled into the old car as giddy as schoolboys about to skip class.
They drove about ten miles from town and turned onto a dirt road. They left a cloud of dust trailing behind them as they drove out into the desert.
“Stop here,” shouted Santos. He pointed a bony finger on the end of a shaky hand. “I think I might have buried them by those rocks over there.”
“You think?” Asked Klemp.
“Yes, I think so. It was a long time ago.”
Powell and the three geriatric amigos got out of the car and started a slow walk to a rocky outcrop about a hundred yards off the road. Once they reached the rocks, the three amigos sat down to catch their breath and wipe the sweat from their brows. Santos searched the area with squinted eyes as he tried to remember exactly where he had buried the gold.
“Well?” asked Lancaster. “Where do you want me to dig?”
“Try there.” Santos pointed to a spot a few feet away.
Lancaster dug. “How deep?” He asked.
“About a foot.”
There was nothing there. He tried several more spots close by. Nothing. Lancaster dug most of the afternoon. After more than two dozen holes the men decided to give up. None was more disappointed than Santos. “I know this is the spot. Maybe someone found it?”
They went back to the boarding house and the incident was quickly forgotten by all but Lancaster.
Years later, after the three amigos had breathed their last, Lancaster mentioned the incident to his nephew who convinced Lancaster to take him to the spot. The nephew dug for several hours with no luck. By this time the gold of Santos was nothing more than a growing legend.
Years later, after Lancaster had passed on, the nephew mentioned the incident to his only son. His son convinced his father to take him to the spot. Once there, the son did something the others could never had done. He pulled a metal detector from the trunk of his car. After searching for about an hour the detector began to ping. The spot was about ten feet from where all the previous men had dug and came up empty handed.
Digging down about one foot he hit a solid object. It was a small box. He uncovered it and broke it open. Inside was the cache of gold coins Santos Francisco had buried so many years ago. The Gold of Santos legend had come to an end.
© Copyright 2023 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.
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