Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Step(s) (11/29/12)
TITLE: Lost Dutchman Mine
By Beth LaBuff
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I unfold the yellowed, brittle map. Each scratch on the map has been pickaxed onto my soul. Each inscribed landmark conjoins with my every breath. I purchased this map a decade ago from two prospectors who were with the Dutchman at his deathbed. I’ve never shown this map to another person; I guard it with my life.
No directional arrows adorn the map. Near the center is the X. The landmarks surrounding the X are at top left: the rugged monolith, Weaver’s Needle. The Four Peaks are at center bottom. Then, the area that is center right marks my bane. It is the intangible formation, the one I’ve sought for a decade and have yet to find. It is labeled Burro Rock. The map indicates that from Burro Rock, you walk ten steps towards Weaver’s Needle, turn, then take seven steps to the right. That puts you at the X on the map—the Lost Dutchman Mine. The mine is rumored to have a vein of gold over eighteen miles long. Many have sought the Dutchman’s mine. Some have died. The mine is alleged to be cursed. I refold, then, tuck the map into my shirt pocket.
By day, I wander these mountains taunted by a Dutchman, as I chase that elusive Holy Grail. At night, in slumber my mind rehearses—Burro Rock, ten steps toward Weaver’s Needle, turn, then seven steps to the right. When I must, I pan for gold, working just enough to purchase jerky, beans, and coffee—enough to eat, to breathe, to exist, all to attain that halcyon dream. Soon, it will be worth it all because today is lucky.
Today, I clamber over boulders. The sun melds with my red shirt, blistering my back. As I circumnavigate a bush to avoid a rattlesnake, I descend into a small canyon. Loose rocks slip beneath my feet. I lose my footing and slide about twenty feet. I have the misfortune of coming to rest on a prickly pear cactus. My backside takes the brunt of the fall that leaves me scratched and bruised and my shirt torn. Several minutes pass before I’m able to continue my quest.
Eventually, my stride slows and my water is gone. I breathe dust until I’m no longer able to distinguish dust from dream. The shadow of Weaver’s Needle stretches long.
Today is like yesterday. Yesterday yielded naught. Heavy steps churn the dust as I tread back to my camp at Tortilla Flat. The saguaro cactus and a saffron moon are silent witnesses. But, defeat is fleeting. Tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow is lucky.
For what is a man profited,
if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Matthew 16:26 KJV
Lost Dutchman State Park is located in Apache Junction, Arizona, near the Superstition Mountains. Legends and maps abound, concerning the Lost Dutchman Mine. While the above narrative is fiction, there are some who have spent their whole lives in search of the mine, often becoming destitute in the process. Today, people still hunt for the Lost Dutchman Mine. It has never been found.
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