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The Truth Behind the Robinson Chest

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When I reached the bottom of the treacherous ridge, I made a small pile of rocks so anyone following me would know I had been there. I was now on a sharp ridge that broke into canyons both right and left.

I hadn’t gone more than a hundred meters when I came upon a rusty ox shoe and an equally rusty knife. This was certainly a godsend because here were the nails I needed to make a temporary repair of my boot. There was no shortage of rocks in the immediate area so I found two that would suffice as an anvil and hammer. This precious find came just in time because I had worn through the lace and my sole was flapping again.

I threw the ox shoe down and continued westerly when it struck me: What the hell was an ox shoe doing here on this remote and forbidding ridge?  Before I could answer my question, I noticed a small cave 50 meters away. The sun was shining directly into it and I could plainly see a box, or what I thought was a box.

By now I was wondering what Smokey and I drank the night before. Was I seeing things?  Assuredly not, because my sole was not flapping. I looked around thinking someone was pulling a prank on me but no one was in sight.

I went to the cave and found the box was a chest that had toppled from its perch of three rocks imbedded in the dusty bottom of the cave. I had to stop and talk to myself for several minutes. Try as I may, I could not convince myself I was seeing things. There at my feet were gold and silver coins, and barely visible under the lid of the chest I could see the top of a porcelain bowl and its broken handle.

I dropped to the ground and picked up one of the gold coins and tried to take a bite thinking it was one of those disgusting American chocolates wrapped in gold foil. It was not chocolate!  My wildest dreams were soon dashed— the chest was not filled with gold and silver coins. I left the coins in place and slowly righted the chest. There was dust on everything and I slowly and meticulously dusted and cleaned every item. I made a complete inventory of the chest’s contents but sad to say I lost it before the end of summer.

A letter and a manifest gave me the identity of the person who cached the chest. Obviously William Robinson thought he would retrieve it some day. At the time I was not well versed in Death Valley history to know who Robinson was. But since the second discovery, made by Mr. Freeman, I have learned a great deal about this man who suffered the same trail that almost took my life.

I knew there was a grand story here and my publisher would advance me a tidy sum for the ensuing book. Obviously no one had stumbled upon the chest since it was cached in January 1850. Had anyone done so, they would have taken the gold and silver coins.

At this point I did something I have never before revealed— I took the gold coins and left the silver and copper coins in the porcelain bowl and carefully placed it in the chest with all the other items.

In a daze that was like a London fog, I flipped a gold coin to decide what canyon to descend. The left canyon (the southern one) won and I continued my trek down it. For some distance the going was easy. Slowly the canyon narrowed and I began to have second thoughts about the coin’s choice.

I was in a dream when again a ghost seemed to awaken me— just in time, for one step more and I would have disappeared into a declivity from which there was no return— a narrow dry fall that was so tortuously twisted I could not see the bottom. By now I was exhausted so I sat down and pondered my choices. I could retreat and try the other canyon, but that might be more treacherous. As I pondered my plight again, I thought I heard voices and there high on the steep hillside far above me I could faintly see a man, or what I thought was a man. He seemed to beckon me.