Chapter 11

This entry is part 12 of 44 in the series Smile

Chapter Eleven — The Golden City

Jock, the Judge, and I went prospecting once more, and were gone for several days. The same luck — no luck.

When we returned to Quilalí our first thoughts were of Chase.

We pulled up in front of the hotel, and there sat Chase sunning himself and drinking a bottle of beer. He was smiling.

“How do you feel, Chase?”

“Fine,” he said. “I’m peeling off now. It was a very painful treatment, but he is a good doctor, and he knew what he was doing.”

I was truly astounded.

Chase grinned. “You know, Señor Joe, the last thing I remember before I passed out? This powerful m medicine had turned my skin just as white as yours!”

The Judge of Quilalí always wore a gun — he is the law. But you must have a permit from the government to carry a gun in his country. So as a result, there are very few guns seen. .22 caliber pistols and rifles are permitted, but for anything larger that might help in a revolution, a special permit must be obtained.

The Judge carried a .32 caliber automatic pistol, a Spanish brand, and he had a permit. He confided to me. “Señor Joe, I will tell you something if you will promise not to tell.”

“Sure, Judge, what is it?”

“My gun, isn’t it a nice one?” He handed it to me.

“Sure Judge, it’s very nice.”

“I have a beautiful gun but I have no shells.”

That about floored me. “Why do you carry a gun without shells?” I asked.

“Because I am the law. I must carry a gun.

“But if people knew I had no shells it would be very hard for me. You are going back to Managua where shells can be bought. Would you send me up a box of shells? Also, would you send me a sheet of lottery tickets? “

“Sure, I will send the shells, and ten tickets with all the same numbers. If you win, you will be a very rich man.”

“It is just as well that you did not find enough gold here,” he said.

This sure surprised me.

“Why Judge?”

“For hundreds of years, Nicaragua and Honduras have been quarreling over a big area of land north of the Coco. They call it ‘No man’s Land.’ Both countries claim it and no one knows where the border lies, but finally after all this time, the case is going to the world court. There it will be decided where the line should be made. Maybe you would start mining in Nicaragua and end up in Honduras. Also this land — No Man’s Land — is full of bandits. No one knows who owns it for sure, so all the bandits hang out there. This is the area where the notorious Bandido Sandino made his headquarters. He had caused so much trouble the United States sent the Marines down to capture him. That has been almost thirty years ago. You will notice that many of our people here about twenty-eight or twenty-nine years old have blue eyes and or light hair.”

Matter of fact I had noticed it, considering that only a small percentage of the guys could come up with a blue-eyed baby or blond hair with these dark-skinned beauties for mothers. Those Marines certainly must have gotten around.

The Judge said, “Señor Joe, you must go to Siuna. There are some North Americans from Canada. They have been there quite some time, and they are mining much gold. They are in the mining business, so you go see them, and they will help you. I have been watching the stars, and it is written that you will find what you are looking for.”

I decided that we must return to Managua and start over. So Jock and Chase helped me pack the Jeep and we prepared to leave. The Judge wanted to ride with us as far as Ocotal. He had some business there to take care of.

Chase had the Jeep in four-wheel drive and low gear as we climbed the high mountain range. The recent rains and the many ox carts had cut deep ruts in the road. There were many big puddles of water and much mud; but Chase was a good driver, and the Jeep had lots of power.

The Judge indeed was a learned man, and there was one question I must ask him. Maybe he could answer it.

“Judge, this probably will sound a little silly to you and very likely you have never heard about it, but if you have, will you tell me the true story?”

I told him about the old history book and the city built of gold.

He smiled. “Señor Joe, so you have heard of the city built of gold!”

“Then there is something to it?” I asked.

Again he smiled. “All of my people know the true story and they have kept it a secret for hundreds of years.”

“Then there is a city built of gold?”

For quite a while he was silent. Then he said, “I can see no harm in telling you the true story. Yes, now the story can be told.”

He was enjoying himself. He leaned back, closed his eyes.

“For thousands of years, Señor Joe, our people here have mined for gold. The gold had no value except for its beauty. Our people have long known the art of making beautiful jewelry and ornaments. As the gold was brought out, it was made into many beautiful designs. Each year the stockpile grew. Almost every family had many pounds of beautiful trinkets. Many of the temples of worship were adorned with golden idols. Tons of gold were melted, and then hand-carved into many designs of great beauty.”

He paused for a moment. “Then the Spaniards came. They looted our temples, robbed our people, and raped our women! More and more of them came demanding more gold. Our people were tortured, and made to tell where it was hidden. We fought them, but they had many guns and our people were no match for them. Many meetings were held. Our people had to find a way to get rid of these bandits!”

I glanced at him. His eyes were open, and there was a strange light in them. Suddenly he laughed. “Señor Joe, we sent those bastards clear to what is now Mexico, looking for that city of gold!”

So I had heard the true story.

It was no wonder that these people did not welcome everyone here to mine. I remembered some other words of the Judge; “Ten years ago we would have killed you!”

We came down off the mountain to the Rio Coco. It must have been washday. Dozens of women were out in the river doing their scrubbing. In the river were many big boulders, and next to them were women washing clothes. The big rocks had been used for so long that the tops were worn flat. The women were standing in water up to their waists, and some of them wore blouses; but others were naked. What was under the water we could not see. One thing for sure, they took a bath at the same time.

The banks of the river were covered with clothing of all colors — red, blue, pink, green, yellow — all the colors imaginable. These people lived in mud houses with the pigs and chickens, but strangely enough, all the clothing they wore on the streets was spotless.

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