by Duane Schwingel
1817. Palmyra, New York
ELI: Gather around folks, and you will hear incredible tales of buried treasure, just a stone's throw away from here, on the very land you have been plowing and tilling.
My name is Eli Walters, from the town of Sodus. Many of you knew my grandfather, Wesley Walters, one of the first settlers in Ohio, and he managed his farm just 30 miles south of here. Our family has been held in high esteem for generations, and despite what some of you have heard, I am not a disorderly person nor an imposter. I will admit proudly to being a money digger, and to my wife's description, "a vagabond fortune teller with an unusual gift for crystal gazing."
Those of you who are educated know that crystal gazing is an ancient (and honorable) profession. Egyptians stared into a pool of ink, the Greeks into a mirror, the Aztecs into a quartz crystal, and Europeans into a sword blade or glass of sherry.
I am also a serious student of history, and I have always been especially fascinated by the history of the red-skinned peoples in western New York, and the curious burial mounds which dot the countryside. Most people can only guess who these mound builders were…but those of us trained in archeology and history who have examined these mountain graves can tell you that these mound builders made much greater advances in the arts of civilized life than any Indians, as evidenced by the pottery and copper ornaments found, which were beautiful in design and skillfully wrought, definitely not the handiwork of the red savage.
More evidence is coming in each month that shows the mound builders were a race of peaceful farmers and metal workers who had been invaded and utterly exterminated by a bloodthirsty race of ancestors to the modern Indian. This is not folklore folks. This is scientific history. Former president William Henry Harrison wrote that the last great battle took place on the banks of the Ohio, where now priceless Indian treasures, and perhaps Spanish gold, is buried right here under our feet where we live and work. (crowd murmurs)
I come to you tonight to announce that not only am I gifted in the administration of the witch hazel stick and the mineral rod, but my archeological expeditions have yielded me the most valuable resource I could have even prayed for. For I have discovered a parchment of an ancient Indian burial record describing the locations of their hidden treasures. (crowd murmurs)
Now, I am armed not only with the usual tools of my trade, but also a virtual map, properly translated, to all of the secret locations in the valley… However, I am limited by the fact that squatter's rights are just a memory in this fair state—the land is all taken up, and thus the treasures rightfully belong to you-- the owners of the land under which they lie.
But, always the businessman that I am, I can see that my services would be valuable indeed for those fortunate enough to own these acres of wealth. I come with letters of reference and testimonial witness to the riches I have helped other landowners like yourselves find right under the grass their poor cows eat.
I will be available to schedule scouting expeditions on a first come, first served basis, and all of my clients will attest to the fact that my fee is reasonable compared to the prospect of the riches which lie hidden on your property.
(crowd begins to move forward) Thank you for your attention and your eagerness, however, I prefer to be reached by letter delivered to post office box number 31, and remember, it is first come, first served!
(crowd begins to disperse, excitedly)
JOSEPH: Mr Walters! Do you have a host for your stay here, or are you boarding?
ELI: Well, in most cases, young man, my first client becomes my first host, and maid, and cook!
JOSEPH: I am certain my parents would like to meet you. Would you stay with us tonight?
ELI: (impressed) Why, I would be honored, young fellow.
JOSEPH: You gotta help me and my Paw find them treasures! We got about 10 of them injun mounds all around where we live. And I would help, cuz I already got a witchin stick, and I been learnin about conjuring and magic spells and such! I mean, I can't promise you nothing about my dad hiring you or nothing, cuz he aint got any money cuz the farms been doin bad, but I figured gosh I'd like him to just hear you tell him some of the same things I've been telling him, about them injuns and their magic and such.
ELI: Well, what do you know about that sort of thing? You can't be more than 11 or 12 years old ..
JOSEPH: Well first of all, I hate farm work, so my maw says if I keep reading books she will let my brothers do my chores, cuz she says I have a fertile imagination which must be cultivated.
ELI: A wise woman she must be, for I can see you have such a talent and possibly even the gift which I have been blessed with.
JOSEPH: Do you really think so?
ELI: I really think so.
JOSEPH: Do you always find treasure?
ELI: (looks around, then whispers) Son, I never find treasure, at least not in the way you are thinking of. I find my treasure. And I give them something worth my fee. Hope. Hope is priceless, son. I sell hope.
JOSEPH: (smiles) You mean you lie?
ELI: Let me ask you a question. Do you have any younger brothers?
JOSEPH: Yes, Samuel and William.
ELI: If your little brother Samuel contacted a deadly disease, and had just a few hours to live, but did not know it, and you wanted his last hours to be happy ones, and he asked you if he was going to die, what would you tell him?
(Joseph is silent) I don't lie, son. I sell hope
Later that evening, in the Smith home. It is a modestly furnished, but clean cabin.
LUCY: A small cake and beer shop. I could sell gingerbread, boiled eggs, root beer, and I could even sell my oil cloth paintings.
JOE SR: We certainly need the money. You know, there's a hundred acres just 2 miles south of Palmyra just full of sugar maple trees…
LUCY: There is a little shop for rent right off the square…
JOE SR: I'll pick those tomatoes Friday and take them to the market. There's 5 dollars right there. Where's Junior?
LUCY: He went to town again. I expect him shortly for dinner. The other kids are cleaning up.
JOSEPH: (from offstage) Father! Mother! I have a guest!
JOE SR: (amused) Who is it this time son? (Joseph and Eli enter)
JOSEPH: (In "announcer" voice) It is the great Walters the Conjurer!
ELI: (laughs) Your son is too kind.
LUCY: Would you stay for supper?
ELI: Well, if you twist my arm…
JOE SR: Any friend of my son is a friend of mine! (holds out bottle) Would you like a swig? (ELI refuses)
JOSEPH: I told him he could stay the night.
LUCY: (mildly scolding, slightly embarrassed) Joseph…
ELI: That's alright maam. I wouldn't hold you to that, he is quite an eager lad. I was quite entertained by him on the way here… quite the precocious one here.
JOE SR: (proudly) He sure is! He's the genius of the family.
JOSEPH: Mr Walters is a professional certified treasure hunter Paw. And he's got a witchin stick and a magic peepin stone! And he's got a treasure map showing where all those treasures are buried in those injun mounds!
ELI: (patronizing) That's "witch hazel stick" Joseph, not witchin stick. And it is not exactly a treasure map, per se, but rather a very old Indian document which I found not far from here which, written in strange characters and symbols, became decipherable to me through my crystal, and, your son has not told you this but that is my primary profession.
LUCY: (in awe) You are a crystal gazer!
JOE SR: I have seen visions!
LUCY: Go get your brothers and sisters for dinner, Joseph. Be sure to wash up. (Joseph exits)
JOE SR: So if it's not exactly a treasure map, what is it again?
ELI: Descriptions of the location of the treasure. More like directions rather than a map.
LUCY: It is a blessing from God!
ELI: (enlightened) I never thought of it that way. Are you religious people?
LUCY: It depends upon what you mean by religion, Mr. Walters. I read the good book and pray to my Heavenly Father every day…but if you're talking about church membership…I do not have my membership yet with a church in this community. Since I am not a member of any particular church, all the "religious" people say I am of the world…and if I join one of the denominations, all the rest will say I am in error. So it all must boil down to what I feel in my heart.
JOE SR: I've seen the revivals come and go: people jerking around and barking like dogs, some of em rolling around in the mud. All in the name of the Holy Spirit. Well, forgive me brother, but some of the craziness I've seen I don't think the Holy Spirit wants his name on it, do you know what I'm saying? I get real visions from the Holy Spirit in my dreams at night, and that is how God directs my life. I haven't found a church yet that seems to know any more concerning the kingdom of God than anyone else.
LUCY: I feel God at work in my life, and I see His presence in the daily activities of life. Many times God has intervened when all hope was gone. The doctors wanted to amputate Joseph's leg 3 years ago. But God intervened. My boy suffered tremendously, but his will has been made stronger, and soon his limp will be gone.
ELI: The Lord works in mysterious ways.
JOE SR: I'll drink to that.
ELI: And I have a business proposition for you Mr. Smith.
I can tell you with full assurance that when I check my post office box tomorrow I will have several requests for my services as a scout, and I will need a crew, which can be you and your sons, for which I will pay a handsome percentage of my fee.
JOE SR: Well you know Joseph is going to love this.
It is 1823 A funeral parlor. Joseph is now 17 years old, attending his brother's funeral.
PREACHER: And although the fires of hell may burn for this one lost soul who died before joining the Presbyterian Church, it is not too late for you who are here this morning. Now let us pray: "Lord, we regret the eternal damnation of this man, and those of us who die without your forgiveness, but we thank you that we are still alive with time to repent of our sins and seek your grace before it is too late.
In Jesus' name we pray, amen." (crowd murmurs amen, and begins to disperse)
PETER: Hell of a send-off, wasn't it?
JOSEPH: He deserved better.
PETER: Time for some distraction, my friend.
JOSEPH: I need to leave this town.
PETER: Meanwhile, there is a new young lady in Palmyra that has taken an interest in you, or so I am told. This kind of distraction will relieve some of that grief. (Simpson approaches, shakes Joseph's hand)
SIMPSON: I'm real sorry about your brother, Joe.
JOSEPH: Thanks, Simpson.
SIMPSON: I've never told you this, but my father in Pennsylvania has been trying for years to find a Spanish gold mine—most of the family thinks he is a little "touched" in the head, but he can certainly afford your fee. You know, he is very well-off.
PETER: It is a shame he doesn't give you any of it, eh?
SIMPSON: That's the truth.
JOSEPH: Thank you Simpson. I will keep that in mind.
SIMPSON: I will put in a good word for you with him.
JOSEPH: (sees pretty girl walk by) Oh my goodness!
PETER: She is absolutely beautiful!
SIMPSON: This is a funeral! You guys are pathetic! (they all laugh)
JOSEPH: Tell me more about your father, and his estate.
The home of Isaac Hale. 1825
ISAAC: It is simply a business transaction. Nothing more.
We agreed that one of the benefits of a large house would be the income derived from the occasional boarding of a traveler.
MRS HALE: He is a money-digger! Isaac!
ISAAC: If he is a money payer, he is alright by me. They are paying me for his board. Now I expect every member of the Hale family to be courteous to our guest. (Knock on door) Mrs. Hale.
MRS HALE: Hello, Josiah. Come in.
JOSIAH: Mrs. Hale, it is a pleasure again. Isaac! I bring you Joseph Smith Jr., and his father, Joseph Sr.
ISAAC: Welcome, gentlemen. I hope you find our boarding arrangement to your satisfaction. My wife, and my daughter Emma.
JOSEPH: Pleased to make your acquaintance. Mr Hale, Josiah tells me of your hunting skills. Do you have an elk?
ISAAC: Why yes, in the back room…
JOSEPH: Ah…. I have only read of the excitement of an elk hunting expedition from my uncle Stephen….and I have always dreamed of doing it.
ISAAC: (flattered) Well, I shall have to take you next season.
JOSIAH: The Hales have lovely accommodations for you both.
MRS HALE: Yes, Josiah, they will be staying in the West bedroom, facing the sunset.
JOSEPH SR: Well if you younger folks don't mind, I'd like to take a look at that bedroom, and possibly the facilities while I am at it.
MRS HALE: Certainly, Mr. Smith, right this way… (They leave, Josiah follows)
ISAAC: I have to let you know, Mr. Smith, that I am a skeptic concerning money digging activities, but I will not let that interfere with my responsibilities as a gracious host.
JOSEPH: Why thank you, and neither will I let anything interfere with my responsibilities as a grateful guest in your lovely home, (looks at Emma) with all of its inhabitants.
MRS HALE: (offstage) Isaac!
ISAAC: Excuse me. (exits) Coming, dear. (Joseph and Emma are now alone… short silence)
JOSEPH: I am sorry for your loss…
EMMA: Of good manners? That's an old joke. Believe me, Mr. Smith, I will be polite to you only because you are a guest. Beyond that, I have no use for scam artists who claim to find money and treasure that does not exist.
JOSEPH: Okay. In that case, I am sorry for your loss of innocence. Either way, you were just the victim of the curse.
EMMA: (unimpressed) The curse…
JOSEPH: The curse of ravishing beauty.
EMMA: Oh yes, the story of my life. And it is so perceptive of you to notice that I am beautiful. I see that you are equipped with a pair of eyes. But why is that a curse?
JOSEPH: It is the same curse that befalls the ugly and deformed. People judge your inside based on what they see on your outside. "In the case of the ugly, they are pre-judged to be devils—while people cursed with beauty are pre-judged to be angels…and maybe they really are angels…on the inside…but they never get a chance to prove it. And so they feel cheated, and used by others as mere eye candy for their own existential fantasies…
EMMA: (Curious, impatient) Where are you going with this?
JOSEPH: Where do you want to go?
EMMA: To sleep. (exits) (Joseph watches her, admiringly)
JOSEPH: My name is Joseph Smith, from the town of Palmyra, New York, currently staying at the house of Josiah Stowell in Bainbridge, employed on Stowell's farm and going to school. Yes, I have a certain stone which I occasionally look at to determine where hidden treasures lay in the bowels of the earth. I have been hired by Mr. Stowell to look for treasures several times, and supervised the digging for them. I had found this gift to be mysterious yet useful, and in Palmyra, it helped me find coined money, lost property and other items for people. But it was only a side interest, and I have given it up as of late. It really hurts my eyes. But I do not solicit business of this kind, and when people approach me about this I usually turn them away.
JOSIAH: My name is Josiah Stowell. The defendant has been at my house for five months as a part-time farm worker. I know for certain that he is a reputable treasure hunter and he can look through a certain stone and tell where these treasures are. Once he looked through his stone for Deacon Attelon for a mine…now they haven't found the mine yet, but they did find a piece of iron ore, which sort of looked like gold… He also told by means of his stone where Mr. Bacon had buried money; and I went with him to find it. The defendant said it was to be found in a certain root of a stump five feet from the surface of the earth, and with it would be found a tail feather. Well we started digging, found the tail feather, but the money was gone! And that wasn't the defendants fault, because more than likely he said that evil Indian spirits moved the treasure down 5 more feet. When I met him in Palmyra, he looked through that stone and described in great details my house and all my outhouses; He has never deceived me, and I have complete faith in his skill.
JONATHAN: My name is Jonathan Thompson. The defendant was requested to look on Yeomen's property for a chest of money. He did look, and claimed to know where it was, and the three of us went out to look for it. Well it was dark, and the defendant got there first; he placed the stone in his hat and looked into it and told how the chest was situated. After digging several feet we struck upon something sounding like a board or plank. The defendant said he could not look again, on account of the memories stirring up in his mind about the two Indians that buried the treasure years before, who fought and one killed the other and left the body in the hole to protect it. Either way, I believe everything Joseph said. I mean sometimes there's things buried in the earth that the spirits would just as well have them stay there.
ISAAC: My name is Isaac Hale. I first became acquainted with the defendant in November of 1825. He was at that time in the employ of a set of men who were called "money diggers" and his occupation was that of seeing, or pretending to see by means of a stone placed in his hat, and his hat closed over his face. In this way he pretended to discover minerals and hidden treasure. His appearance at this time was that of a careless young man—not very well educated, and very saucy and insolent to his father. Smith and his father, with several other "money diggers" boarded at my house while they were employed in digging for a mine that they supposed had been opened and worked by the Spaniards, many years since. The younger Smith gave the money diggers great encouragement, at first, but when they had arrived in digging near to the place where he had stated an immense treasure would be found—he said the enchantment was so powerful that he could not see. They then became discouraged and soon after dispersed. This took place about the 17th of November, 1825, and one of the company gave me a note for $12.68 for his board, which is still unpaid. After these occurrences, young Smith made several visits to my house while I was on hunting trips; and at length he asked my consent to his marrying my daughter Emma. This I refused, and gave my reasons for so doing, some of which were, that he was a stranger and followed a business that I could not approve.
JOSEPH: My friend and confidant, Peter!
PETER: You are certainly in good spirits!
JOSEPH: You are not going to believe to what extant people will go to believe what they want to hear.
PETER: Something tells me I am going to believe it.
JOSEPH: Yesterday, as I was passing across the woods, after that heavy shower of rain, I found some beautiful white sand in a hollow which had been washed up by the water. I took off my frock, and tied up several quarts of it, and then went home. On my entering the house, I found the family at the table eating dinner. They were all anxious to know the contents of my frock. At that moment, I happened to think of what I had heard about a history presumably found in Canada, called the golden bible. So I very gravely told them it was the golden bible. To my surprise, they were credulous enough to believe what I said!
PETER: (laughing) Oh you didn't!
JOSEPH: Wait, it gets better. Accordingly I told them that I had received a commandment to let no one see it, for, says I, no man can see it with the naked eye and live. However, I offered to take out the book and show it to them, but they refused to see it, and left the room!
PETER: That is hilarious. So what did they say when you told them the truth? (Joseph is silent) Joseph, don't tell me…
JOSEPH: Now I have the damn fools fixed and will carry out the fun.
PETER: You amaze me.
JOSEPH: The look on my mother's face was priceless: (in a woman's voice) "Oh, my golden child!"
PETER: Joseph…Slow down for a moment and think through what events have just occurred in your life in just a few months. You elope with Emma move here, after her father turns you down. Then you hire me to take you back to her father's house for her furniture. We arrive at Mr. Hale's house who, in a flood of tears, accuses you of stealing his daughter and being a pathological liar. You, in your own flood of tears (a rather impressive display I might add) acknowledge that you never could see in a stone and promise to give up your money digging and work for a living. Mr. Hale then accepts your apology and offers to help you set up a business for yourself. You told me upon our return that you intended to keep the promise, but, said you, "it will be hard for me, for they will all oppose, as they want me to look in the stone for them to dig money; and in fact it was as you predicted. They have been urging you to resume your old practice of looking into the stone. You were so perplexed as to the course you should pursue. And now you tell me that you are encouraging in them the very thing you don't want them to do. You lie to them because they want you to?
JOSEPH: I don't lie to them, Peter. I sell hope.
PETER: Well get ready for a wallet full of hope. Apparently, your mother has told Walter Harris this morning, because he is already talking about financing the publication of the translation of this "Golden Bible" and promising to pay all of your debts.
JOSEPH: Then translate I shall!
PETER: You will never cease to amaze me.
JOSEPH: I hope not, my friend.
Last edited on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 08:14 pm by mrduane