This is a story of found treasure, and a story I wouldn’t tell lest no one believe it, except for the fact that Ray’s youngest brother, Gene, and sister, Maidie, still live at Uvalde and know all about it. Jean and Bud, too, have heard the Milams talk about it many times.
In the early Spring most ranchers bun the pack-rat nests—piles of branches, sticks, grass, etc. the rats have collected, usually piled up around clumps of prickly-pear or low shrubs.
Under this “nest” is a maze of rat tunnels and holes. Rattlesnakes den up in these to hibernate during the Winter, and its really to get rid of the rattlesnakes, always a danger to the stock, that the “nests” are burned.
This is a somewhat time consuming task as all the dead grass, and brush around the rat nest must be cut and raked away as a “fire ring,” so as not to start a grass and brush fire.
One must have a hoe to do this, and to kill the rattlers if they crawl out of the holes. After the nests are burned, cynide powder is poured into the holes, and dirt tamped down to kill any rattlers in the holes.
Ray and I didn’t have time to do this as we were kept busy with the ranch chores and looking after the livestock.
So Pop Milam brought a Mexican man out from town to burn the rat nests.
He slept in the bunkhouse, but I prepared his meals along with ours.
He had only been at the ranch a few days when one evening he failed to return to the bunk house. We were worried that he may have been bitten by a rattlesnake or had an accident. Ray went out to the bunk house several times during the night to see if he had returned, but he wasn’t there.
All the saddle horses were accounted for, and we were puzzled as to why he would walk to the big pasture.
The last time we had seen him was very early that morning. And he was hurrying toward the highway which was about the distance of two city blocks from the ranch house. We spoke to him, but he hardly spoke to us, and didn’t return for breakfast.
We knew there were no rat rests there as it was part of the “trap” around the ranch house, so we wondered a little about it at the time.
A big gate opened off the main highway and a road led down to the ranch house.
A few months earlier a man with his wife and two children, in a truck loaded with camping equipment, had appeared at the ranch house to ask for permission to dig for treasure.
We told him he would have to talk to Pop Milam, so he waited around until late that afternoon when Pop Milam came out from town, as he did almost every afternoon for the eggs. There were about 150 or 200 White Leghorn hens, and a bushel basket of eggs every day. These supplied one of the store in town with “fresh country eggs.”
Pop Milam told the man to go ahead and dig all he wanted to, but that there was no buried treasure there. He had heard that rumor all his life and that was all it was, just a rumor. The only stipulation was that he was to fill in any holes he dug so the stock wouldn’t step into them and break a leg. And he was not to leave any gates open or cut any fences—unforgiveable “sins” on any ranch.
The man and his family pitched their tent under a big live oak tree about half a mile from the ranch house and he dug around that poor tree until he almost uprooted it.
They carried water from the ranch house, and we gave them milk, butter, and eggs, as we had more than we could use.
Sometimes we could see him digging by the light of a lantern at night.
The children told us their father had a treasure map and was going to dig up a lot of money.
He finally gave up, though, and went back East.
There was about a month’s time after he left, and when the Mexican man came to work at the ranch.
And to get back to him—the next morning after we had last seen him, we started out to look for him on horseback. We decided to start where we had last seen him.
Riding up toward the highway, not far from the ranch house, there was a little clearing where there were no trees or shrubs. We saw something strange—out in the middle of the little clearing was a pile of mesquite branches with fresh green leaves on them.
So we investigated. When we removed them there was the rust-coated clear imprint of an old iron kettle with three little “feet” about an inch and a half long. The kind used to cook over campfires, of iron. The kettle came to the ground level. The lid must have been exposed. Right across the road from this was the ruins of an old Stagecoach waystation and Inn. The foundation and stones and rubble from the walls were still there.
There were signs of a lot of digging done over the years all around it.
This road was part of the old Spanish Trail. It also wound its way across the Saunders ranch on the other side of Uvalde and, after all the years, the trail across our ranch was clearly discernable, no trees or brush grew on it.
Evidently the Mexican man had just stumbled onto the old iron pot with it’s lid exposed, while he was rounding up a horse to ride that day. When Pop Milam came out from town we took him to the nearby clearing and showed him the imprint of the iron pot. He was flabbergasted. He went back to town and tried to locate the Mexican man, but he was nowhere to be found. All the other Mexicans claimed they hadn’t seen him. And he was never seen around town after that.
We could only guess that he had somehow managed to take whatever treasure he had found to old Mexico. He didn’t own a car. But he could have been the only one that could have put the fresh green branches over the rust coated imprint clearly showed that it had certainly been there. If he hadn’t put those branches with the green leaves on them there, we probably would never have found that hole, the branches just couldn’t go unnoticed. That was his mistake.
He left a few clothes in the bunk house that he never returned for.