Treasure Hunter: Caches, Curses and Deadly Confrontations
I have great interest in – and respect for – storytellers. There’s something fascinating for me in the act of creating a narrative, something that feels more than just noteworthy, it feels important. Fundamental, even. Part of what fascinates me is the wide spectrum of motivations that lead to storytelling, particularly the creation of fictions. There’s the most basic, the brief lie that is told to gain reward or avoid blame that, when questioned, begins to accrue layer after layer of elaboration until it either crumbles under its own weight or coalesces into a perfect, valuable whole, like an oyster worrying a grain of sand until it creates a pearl. Then there are the more complicated impulses, the desire to entertain, the need to self-aggrandize, the craftsman’s pride of a well wrought narrative, or the ineffable drive to captivate an audience.
There’s a moment in one of the early narratives in W. C. Jameson’s memoir Treasure Hunter: Caches, Curses and Deadly Confrontations, that brought to mind all of these questions for me. What seemed to be a – factual inconsistency, let’s say, suddenly had me asking myself whether the author was recounting events from his life or fabricating them. I soon realized, though, that making this distinction didn’t really matter. The stories collected in Treasure Hunter: Caches, Curses and Deadly Confrontations are, after all, mostly stories of the treasures that got away. Thus, in the tradition of fisherman’s tales, some embellishments are to be expected, even relished. Beyond that, Jameson makes it clear that the activities of professional treasure salvage must be clandestine, both logically and legally, and so he deliberately obfuscates some of the details of his hunts.
Once I moved past questions of fact or fiction and simply allowed myself to experience the stories, Treasure Hunter: Caches, Curses and Deadly Confrontations was a quick and enjoyable read. Despite the many dangers facing him and his three companions – flash floods, nests of rattlesnakes, and corrupt military personnel among them – Jameson continues to persevere in the pursuit of abandoned mines and lost caches of silver. There is much to admire in this devotion, and much to learn. Jameson’s memoir is worth reading for his final thoughts alone, his message to those of a generation that seems content to experience the world vicariously. Reality, for men like W. C. Jameson, for all of us, is not found on television. It’s found out in the world, surrounded by danger and covered in dirt.