Mon, Feb. 24

Verde Heritage 1891: "A SACK OF BEANS"

"A curious old dried up specimen of humanity was seated on the curbstone in front of Peoples' Saloon, Sunday night, and seeing that he was a stranger in town, the newspaper reporter accosted him. A few moments conversation developed the fact that he was loaded with some kind of story, and, counting the numerous stray quarters he had in his pocket the reporter concluded to take his chances, and forthwith invited the stranger to join him in a social 'jolt.' He was well rewarded, for after a little judicious questioning, the time-handled prospector --- as he proved to be --- told him a most wondrous tale."

"His language was vivid and dramatic though not always strictly according to Hoyle, and indeed there were some points in his narrative where a little profanity was not only excusable but urgent. For this reason, and also because the tale told in his own words would be too long for publication here, only the gist of the story is given and here it is:"

"Sometime in the fall of 1889 he and Bill Stump, two Arizona waifs drifted together in Prescott. Bill had $110, left from his wages after working 4 months at the United Verde Copper Company mines in Jerome and our hero was possessed of $120, having just quit a job at the 'Senator.' They met in Dan Thorn's saloon, and after a social evening spent together, 'bucking the tiger' a little but not seriously, singing with the girl at the piano and taking a few friendly drinks they concluded to become pards in a prospecting trip."

"The outcome of it all was that two evenings later, found them in camp at the placer grounds near Thumb Butte with 4 burros browsing near by --- 2 to ride and 2 to pack --- and 4 months provisions. Bill was monkeying around the campfire, putting on the coffee etc., while our hero was sitting with a sack of beans between his knees picking over a mess of those succulent articles for breakfast. There was much gravel and small stones in the beans and one can imagine our hero uttering a mild cuss word now and again as he encountered a larger gravelstone than usual. Soon, however, his spasmodic profanity changed into a cry of wonder, 'Look here Bill,' if this ain't a gold nugget worth 7 or 8 dollars I'm a blankety, blank, blank blank!"

"There was no denying the fact that it was gold and the rest of the evening far into the night was spent in speculation as to how it came there, and how they could find out where the beans were raised. Says Bill, 'Those beans must have been raised at some little mountain ranch, as the Mexicans always thresh them out in the field and sweep them up into sacks. If we can find that field we will find rich placer dirt near by. That's mighty coarse gold and we will make our eternal fortunes.'"

"Most of their provisions they had bought at Bashford's store, but the sack of beans they had picked up from a freighter who was camped with his teams in the corral where they had stopped in Prescott. He had more beans than he needed, and offered the sack at half price. Clearly they must follow him up and find out where he got the beans. The sack was very plainly marked with a large black cross surrounded by a circle. The next morning their travels commenced. Back they went to Prescott and inquiring at the corral found that the freighter had gone to Jerome to get a job hauling. Three days travel brought them to Jerome, but their man had left two days before, for Camp Verde intending to go to Apache. They could not make much time with their burros, but with brave hearts they started to follow him over the long Apache trail through the Mogollons."

"On reaching Camp Apache three weeks later, they found their freighter had left with his teams for Willcox the day before. On they pushed for Willcox losing one burro by the way. The burro was bitten by a rattlesnake and died in four hours. It was Bill's saddle burro and thereafter they had to ride and walk 'turn about.' At Willcox they fund their man. He recognized the bean sack which our heroes had stitched up and left intact for the sake of identification. He informed them that he had bought it at a little Mexican store in Tucson."

"The next morning they were out bright and early on the road to Tucson, one afoot and the other in the saddle. They reached that city without further casualty in two weeks and hastened to the Mexican store."

"Well, to cut a long story short, the man who had sold the beans to the store happened to be known by the clerk. He was a Mexican who had come from below the line, but he had gone to Bisbee with a little wagon and a team of mules. Thither through many trials and vicissitudes our heroes followed him. The Mexican when found at Bisbee recognized the sack and said he had taken it in joke, there being no one at the house when he passed, from the ranch of a Mexican friend of his, who lived a few miles below the Custom House at Sassabe on the Altar road in Sonora."

"Backward the travelers turned their steps, passing through Tucson and down the Altar road to the Sonora line. Their only remaining saddle burro was going lame now, and grub was running rather short but Bill insisted that they must not open the sack of beans. Late one afternoon they passed Sassabe and halted at a little ranch by the roadside that answered the description they had received."

"Here they only found an old Mexican woman in a small adobe house, but she told them to camp and welcome. Just at dusk 3 horsemen rode up to the house and after a short parley with the old woman they came down to see the travelers. Words of greeting had just been passed, when one of the Mexicans noticed the bean sack which was lying as it had been unpacked, close by the camp fire, the cross and circle plainly visible. He strode toward it and drawing his pistol claimed it was his property. Bill sprang forward, pistol in hand --- there was a shot, a wild gurgling cry and poor Bill fell forward on his face, the blood spurting from a pistol ball in his throat. A blow on the head from behind laid our hero senseless, and when he came too, it was several days after the catastrophe and the old Mexican woman was nursing him back to health."

"Two weeks later when he was able to travel he left her the two burros and mounted on the remaining one he re-crossed the line into Arizona, and had made his way to Phoenix, busted and looking for a job."

"The old Mexican woman knowing that he was an Americano and was returning to Arizona where he could not make any trouble told the beginning and sequel of the story. The three Mexicans were her grandsons. Several months before they had robbed a placer miners camp in the Sierra Madres and had taken 4000 pesos in coarse gold. For safe keeping they had mixed it all up in a sack of beans --- there being 8 or 10 sacks stacked up in the house. For recognition the sack was marked with a circle and cross, but one day while she was absent the sack disappeared and the gold had been given up for lost until the boys had recognized it and claimed it as described. Our prospectors had been packing that identical sack filled with $4,000 worth of gold for a thousand miles, and had finally brought it back to the original robbers. One of them had lost his life and the other his faith in prospector's luck."

"'For,' said the old prospector as he finished his story and wiped his grizzled moustache after a final drink, 'I am dead broke now both in fortune and in spirit. I'm looking for a job mining and if you can put me on one you'll find me here at Peoples' Saloon and my name is E. Nuff.'"

(Arizona Republican; Phoenix; October 8, 1891; page 1.)

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