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Confederate black helicopters, perhaps?
on November 19, 2005
REBEL GOLD is a better than average conspiracy book, if you're into that sort of thing. And it has the added allure of postulating the existence of a fabulous buried treasure.
Written by ex-Vietnam vet Bob Brewer and investigative journalist Warren Getler (Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune), REBEL GOLD describes the former's twenty-five year quest to establish the existence and location of Confederate gold and silver caches buried by the pro-secessionist Knights of the Golden Circle in the anticipation that they could one day be used to further a second Civil War. Along the way, Brewer associates the Knights with the Scottish Rite Freemasons, Scottish freedom fighters, the medieval Knights Templar, and the post-Civil War outlaw activities of cousins Jesse Woodson James and Jesse Robert James. (Gee, there was more than one?) Brewer concludes that Jesse and Jesse weren't robbing for personal gain, but to enlarge and help conceal the Confederacy's rainy-day stash.
Brewer's quarter-century involvement with rebel treasure depositories, which are ostensibly scattered over a wide swath of territory in the American Southwest and South, is incremental. Growing up in the Arkansas backwoods, Bob was first exposed to the existence of hidden swag by listening to the recollections, stories, and veiled references by resident old timers. It wasn't until he returned home from Vietnam that Brewer began to take these verbal clues seriously and undertook to systematically correlate and follow widely spread physical mapping clues, principally carvings in the trunks of trees and buried markers. To his credit and the overall story's credibility, Bob did manage to unearth several relatively small troves of buried coins in the area. Later, as his knowledge of the KGC increased and he came into possession of additional coded maps and information, he transferred his attention to a larger area across the state line in Oklahoma, and finally to Arizona's Superstition Mountains. In Oklahoma, he was thwarted by a fellow treasure hunter with whom he'd naively shared knowledge and who allegedly beat him to a significantly large stash of gold in a buried safe. In Arizona (and back in Arkansas), Brewer was, and still is, blocked from unearthing (presumably) major hordes by the fact that the sites are on federal land. And who, in their right mind, wants to share found riches with the dang guv'mint, eh?
Bob's ultimate triumph, if it can be called such, was in identifying the precise but presumed location of the Arizona treasure vault - underneath Picketpost Mountain - after interrelating a myriad of clues - including cliff carvings, buried markers, and coded stone tablets - with the help of a couple of local amateur treasure hunters and a topographical map of the region.
This yarn by Brewer and Getler is a good one, though to be completely believable the reader would, I suspect, had to have been there. Brewer's surmises and intuitive leaps are both numerous and mind-boggling. For instance, concerning an enigmatic stone tablet containing both text and the image of a horse, an image which Brewer had discerned amidst the contour lines and other features of his topo map:
"Bob surmised that the textual clue DON ... was intended to read in reverse, as NOD. If the giant horse's head were to nod ... it would be facing the zone of interest, directly south."
Further, from a newspaper obit about the death of the presumed KGC sentinel Elisha Reavis, Bob's mental contortions are revealed:
"The article reported that a 'Billy G. Knight' - an English 'cowboy' ... had cautioned Reavis a couple of weeks before his mysterious death to 'see a doctor'. Reading between the lines, the 'English cowboy' could easily pass for a medieval Knight Templar, Bob thought. The G could well be a nod toward the hallmark symbol for 'Geometry' (some say, 'God') in Freemasonry. And, he speculated, based on related clues uncovered in Arkansas and Oklahoma, 'William' could suggest William Wallace, the heralded Scottish freedom fighter ..." Yeah, well, like I said, I guess you had to be there.
The thing is, as even Brewer himself recognizes on page 197:
"(The mapmakers) had left behind their signature system of symbolism, too subtle for most to recognize and perhaps too clever for those in the know to be able to follow the encrypted signposts."
So, what was the point of creating maps and clues so arcane and obscure such that die-hard secessionists in future generations might not even be able to recover the treasure? Whatever happened to "keep it simple, stupid"? Indeed, I suspect you could give the same maps and clues to a hundred different cryptologists and come back with a hundred different conclusions. Why should the reader believe Brewer's interpretation, especially as he wasn't (and hasn't been) able to make the major find that would prove him correct?
I'm awarding REBEL GOLD four stars for its interesting premise. Otherwise, it's hard to care. Besides, a vague likeness of the Virgin Mary has just appeared on the trunk of a tree in my yard with her finger pointing down. Hey, Mother, get the shovel! We're gonna be rich, girl! (Or, maybe it means I'm destined for Hell. We'll see.)