Posted by: Abe's Blog | January 24, 2011

Yellow Fever

As if I have not had enough obsessions, I have begun to develop another. ‘Tis the search for gold and treasure in the mountains and hills of Oregon and Washington. While some of my hobby interests can become costly and involve a degree of risk (ie buying a rotten boat, attaching a junk motor, then driving across a lake at high speed until the motor goes spinning into the air and sinks into the depths leaving me stranded with my goading passengers in the middle of Cooper Creek Reservoir), my search for sparkling yellow wealth has only cost me $6.45 at City Sporting Goods–the cost of one gold-pan.

Let me first preface the following statement by saying that it is a generalization and quite possibly an offensive remark. That said, I believe that the propensity for becoming obsessed with an activity is an inherently male trait. The mind of a man is a mysterious and magnificent thing. What! It really is! We like cool stuff. And what could be cooler than discovering that there could quite possibly be a treasure lost in a gully or buried in cave in your very own back yard? (Back yard being a gentleman’s term for anything within 200 driving miles that is super cool and you just have to see.) Answer? Nothing! Except for a cool boat. Or a motorcycle. Or a new laptop. Or a Porsche 911…okay, so there are lots of cool things, but I’m trying to focus right now on lost treasures!

Imagine the thrill of uncovering a chest of buried pirate treasure such as the one that was hidden on Oregon’s  Neahkahnie Mountain by Spanish pirates. It’s there, somewhere…just waiting to be discovered. Or what if you stumbled upon the treasure dumped into a steep canyon in the wilds near the Rogue River by a band of Rogue Indians who retaliated against local miners, confiscating their gold and burning their wagons.

I know that the chances of me finding a lost treasure are remote. But the act of searching is rewarding in itself. The stories alone are enough to spark the imagination. Take for example the story of the Thrill Killer’s Treasure. This story takes place in the area of which I grew up–the mountains of Southwestern Oregon–in 1841. Known as the Triskett Gang, five rough men had been marauding through the gold-mining territory, stealing gold and killing miners. One Tuesday afternoon, the gang, composed of Jack Triskett, Henry Triskett, Fred Cooper, Miles Hearn, and Chris Stover  sat in a tavern in the mining camp of Sailors Diggins drinking whiskey. Suddenly Jack Triskett rose from his seat, walked into the dusty street, and shot a man point-blank in the forehead with his pistol. As the man fell dead, the rest of the Triskett gang stumbled out of the tavern and began systematically shooting every citizen they saw.

As the echos of the final shots faded, the killers began to leave town, then Jack swung his horse around, walked into the assayer’s office and removed $25,000 in gold dust before calmly shooting the assayer down. By this time, the miners in the surrounding hills had heard the shots and were heading for the town.

As the miners straggled into town, they discovered everyone dead except for two women who had been beaten and raped. The miners formed a posse and began tracking the Triskett Gang, which wasn’t too difficult to do as the gang was drunk and dragging along two ponies loaded with gold. The miner’s caught up with them near O’Brien, whereupon the Triskett Gang climbed a low hill and made a final stand. A brief and violent fight ensued, after which only one gang member survived. Chris Stover was taken back to Sailors Diggins for vigorous questioning, while the miners searched for the stolen gold. The gold was not recovered and Chris Stover died without revealing it’s location. It is believed to be buried at the base of a tree on the hill where the gang was killed.

These stories of red-blooded men scraping a living out of the rock and water of my country thrill my heart. In searching for the treasures they have left behind, perhaps I am reliving in some way the primitive times that otherwise exist only in our history books–a time when face to face communication was the only kind possible, when the skies were silent save for the song of the birds and the whistle of the wind, and when a man would strap his tools to a mule, throw a pack on his back, and head off to find his destiny in the beautiful and deadly wilds of the west.



  1. Forgive me — but being a black Latina city chic…well, its just hard for me to relate. But, I do like the way you tell it!

    • Ha ha, yeah, I can understand that! Thanks Carmen.

  2. What if you found a lost Porsche 911? That would be cool.

    • Ha ha, that would be great! Especially if it was made out of gold. With my luck, I would find an 80’s 924 with no doors and no title.

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