Ordinarily, I’m pretty selective in my eating habits but with my rumbling stomach, I would have eaten anything. I turned over a large, flat stone on the ground; hoping to find a sizable lizard or snake. To my amazement, there were several sentences scrawled into the flattened sand underneath! Even more unbelievable, was what it said.
The message began like a pirate’s cryptic riddle. It spoke of gold and silver coins, precious jewelry, and thousands of dollars in booty. All of it was supposedly hidden just beneath the desert soil! For the briefest of moments, I forgot my predicament and imagined possessing the ill-gotten treasure.
“Buried beneath this sand lies the strong boxes of many banks and stage coaches. It’s useless to me since I’m a wanted man with a considerable price on my head. He who finds it is a lucky gent. Happy spending!
B.t.K. Feb., 1883”
I read the message a dozen times in pure amazement. Each time I rubbed my eyelids, expecting it to disappear as figment of my imagination but it never did. If it was a hallucination, it was a consistent one. Could it really be that a message written in the sand could be undisturbed for more than a hundred years? I realized that the flat rock had shielded it from the elements but it was still very hard to accept.
Finally, who was ‘B.t.K’? My mind struggled to find meaning to all the perplexing questions but I had more important things to worry about. Night would be settling in soon and bringing with it chilly desert winds. I spotted a small lizard but it was too fast for me and got away. I had to settle for three large beetles.
Since there is a drastic temperature change after sundown, I was fortunate to have matches in my pack. I rounded up some sagebrush and started a fire to cook and keep warm. My ‘meal’ of roasted beetles and five sips of water was especially tasty after 18 hours of nothing at all. I stayed fairly warm that night until I ran out of things to throw on the fire. When all the heat had gone I buried my body under a layer of sand as insulation from the frigid wind.
The next morning I awoke with renewed hunger pangs. Luckily, my hunt turned up a more impressive bounty than the previous effort. Besides two more beetles, I also caught a small snake. I had no experience preparing them but I managed quite nicely, none the less. Unlike the beetles, the snake meat was moist and provided valuable fluids and solid nourishment. Compared to the crusty beetles, it really did seem like a feast.
After my stomach was full, the throbbing pain from my sunburn came back with a vengeance. I no longer had an empty stomach to act as a distraction. An aloe-like plant nearby helped to ease the inflamed skin but I realized I had waited too late in the day to start my journey. With the sun almost directly overhead, I opted to wait under the rock overhang until dusk. It was during the searing heat of the second day that I unquestionably began to have full-blown hallucinations.