Treasure sign on tree: ORO

Form the Expedition!


As I go into somewhat more in depth in my book, I am pretty skeptical of treasure signs on trees, especially if the subject matter is a very old treasure. I have spent many summers working in the high country of Idaho, for example, riding and hiking old trails, putting together routes from the late 1800’s back together, in part, by stitching together tree blazes and other signs. Many of the blazes, though only a bit more than 100 years old, are very indistinct and take a practiced eye to discern. So, the idea of a blaze from the 1600’s or 1700’s seems a bit far-fetched, even in country with long-lived trees and a short growing season.

There are exceptions, however, though I stand by my original logic. Here is a picture from the Caballo Mountains – a perfect example of the many long-gone treasure signs once thickly dotting the rugged and mysterious range in southern New Mexico. This sign, I believe, was carved sometime in the late 1930’s; the picture is from the early 1970’s. It is from a place called the Hackberry grove, just down from Gordon’s cabin and the granite uplift at the bottom of Burbank canyon, not too far from where the modern road now passes.

Treasure signs on a tree in the Caballo Mountains of New Mexico, probably carved by Doc Noss or possibly even Willie Douthit or Buster Ward.
Treasure signs on a tree in the Caballo Mountains of New Mexico, probably carved by Doc Noss or possibly even Willie Douthit (Doughit) or Buster Ward.

The Hackberry grove was reportedly a nice place to stop for lunch, and was likely the only decent shade form the relentlessness of the high desert sun within miles. It is not too far from the Smoke Hole, purported waystation for Willie and Buster as they moved gold bars down from higher in the range. In fact, it is said that a local fellow, drifting around for remaining bars with a ‘dozer, is the one who destroyed the grove of trees some years back. I saw the remains of the trees only a few years ago, laying forlornly in a sad, desiccated heap by the side of the road, and they are by now totally obliterated beyond recognition.

There are two especially interesting aspects to these markings.

One: there are additional markings that were on a tree nearby. Based on the pictures that have been passed to me, these markings look somewhat older, perhaps stretching back another 50 years or so. This would put them within striking distance (in time) of the “Entiro 1860” rock marker once found not too far away from there if they were something that was noted in the 1930’s, perhaps used to find and recover treasure, and then added to in the form of the “ORO X” we see in the picture here. That their style is a bit different helps support this idea, but I myself, sadly, did not see them in place. However, it seems quite incredible that the markings themselves could date clear back to El Chato or Padre LaRue, other famous supposed hiders of treasure in the region. At best, they could be part of a chain of re-marking, though that such an unbroken chain could or would exist seems very far-fetched. I am more a proponent of large, indelible markers, including the use of pre-existing natural landmarks, when it comes to anything big enough for a King to get upset over you losing track of.

Two: another thing I talk about in my book is how to discern truth. In the case of these markings, we have an interesting case in point. “Friend A” took these pictures in the early 1970’s. “Friend B” subsequently was introduced to Friend A in 2010. The extra symbols I mentioned above were on 1940’s notes with additional information in them passed down to Friend B, who basically knew little if anything about the Caballos (he knew them as a place for the lost Chavez mine, not the Doc Noss era saga.) Friend A had no specific story whatsoever to go with the glyphs, having just documented them as a matter of course. So, here we have two people with partial information long in their possession, obtained from totally independent sources, and with no prior knowledge of each other. This seems a far less corruptible lead than the average, and may be something worth considering.

I plan to put both sets of markings in the next book, and do a much more thorough write-up. Remember, these signs are long-gone, and the people who have documented them will be gone someday, too. Take lots of pictures and don’t destroy things or vandalize things, including additive vandalism, and maybe someday an old story may eventually be solved!

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