Camp McKinney Jimmy introduces his memoir Chasing Stolen Gold, a treasure hunter’s adventure to locate the lost gold bars of Camp McKinney, east of Osoyoos, British Columbia. The robbery occurred in the summer of 1896. The amount of bullion taken forced the bandit to hide the two larger bars in the forest. When Mathew Roderick returned three months later to retrieve the bars, he was shot dead in a bungled attempt to follow him to the treasure. The gold bars whereabouts remained unknown, until now. The highly illustrated book comes complete with a detailed treasure map.
I prefer sleeping in a cool environment, cold enough so that when crawling under the covers, the room temperature feels too cold. But in mere seconds, body warmth and an excess of blankets create a comfortable environment. In all but the worst weather, I keep the window open a crack for fresh air.
Sleeping cold reminds me of camping in Rock Creek Canyon when fall night temperatures dictated I use two sleeping bags, one stuffed inside the other with a heavy wool blanket placed on top. No polyester allowed. Getting up to pee in the night was brutal yet returning to the warmth of my cocoon made it worthwhile. Sleeping cold also reminds me of life in our old farm house before 1964. There was no heat on the upper floor except for the meagre amount that several small floor vents allowed. If we were lucky, dad had installed the storm windows all round before cold temperatures put such ideas to rest. Either way, warmer moist air inside the room collected on the cold window panes creating frost ferns and endless floral patterns. The designs were flawless and grew thick with frost. Our young minds reeled at the beauty of the art and weren’t completely satisfied with the answer that Jack Frost was at work.
These are the memories I enjoy when winter reigns supreme and my bedroom cools off. I know how much our parents enjoyed the new house with all the amenities including all the kitchen gadgets that made mom’s life easier. But superior windows barred Jack Frost from returning and more magic faded from our world. Progress bettered our lives but there is always a loss until only the memories remain.
When adventure calls to you, it’s important to be self-reliant, especially when there is no cellphone service. Being six or seven kilometers away from any help means you should be prepared for the unexpected as shown here. After sliding off the trail towards numerous trees, I was forced to use a hand winch and length of chain to pull the truck back onto the road. Another hard lesson learned meant the rental company had no knowledge of my off-road journey. But the outcome could have been so much worse.
This Young’s Weeping Birch grows on the grounds of the old Insane Asylum in New Westminster, BC, about one kilometer east of my apartment. I see it as a former patient, firmly rooted in the past, trying to escape the institution. Also seen as my self-portrait.
Treasure hunting has greater perils in winter. But the serenity and absolute silence are worth the risk especially for an old man determined to receive the benefits of forest bathing. While the adventure cost me everything I had, the call couldn’t be ignored.
Winter has returned to once again securely lock the two gold bars in nature’s protective vault. This image is years old; I don’t know the current amount of snow in the canyon. This old man wishes he were once again there to absorb the absolute silence nature allowed me to absorb into my soul. Urban life is saturated with noise that rarely subsides. I walk streets spotted with dog urine and poop, some in bags. If I stopped to relieve myself on a tree, I’d be ticketed or at least chastised by anyone who saw the infraction. Oh sweet rural lifestyle, I miss you. But I had to be where great doctors worked their miracles so for now, I stay. When my end comes in perhaps a decade, maybe two, let it be in the silence of nature, under a sky studded with a million stars. Please.
Yet it must be done so I persist, the stubborn Englishman within clashing with the German side of my limited abilities. There is an overwhelming tide of online articles and more printed books than I imagined. I waded carefully through a number of potential books that were rated, removed the ones more than seven or eight years old, and read some of the reviews. They helped me to narrow my choices down to two that are due at my door tomorrow. Already returned a “small sized, limited number of pages” book that had every sentence and headline double-spaced. I need information that I can understand, not white space for doodles and thoughts. (Update: one of the two new arrivals featured the same style-too much empty space).
Learning is good for the senior brain, I’ve heard. Good for all brains, actually. Life is like that. If you’re not moving forward by learning, you’re moving backward or stagnating. In my agricultural years gone now over two decades ago, monthly magazines were the method of keeping up on the latest trend or repair. And hockey rink visits. Today, having so much information available at my keyboard is a good thing, if I can put it to proper use. So I struggle on, hopeful to learn the basics and move forward.
I also try to live my senior years in as slow a motion as possible, keep busy but not overly so in hopes each day doesn’t pass by too quickly. Life is like a roll of toilet paper; the closer you get to the end, the quicker it goes. C’est la vie.
During seven years of research for the book, this was the only source that I found for the accurate bullion weight. I had photographed a Provincial Police letter in the Royal BC Archives that listed the weights but they didn’t add up properly. Human error can be found where you least expect it. Eventually I browsed through all the reports from the Boundary Historical Society as found online. That’s where I found this gem of information. Shortly after the robbery, Chief Constable McMynn in Midway, BC sent a letter to the Spokane, Washington Police Chief in the off chance that someone tried to sell one or three rough bullion bars. By giving the accurate weights, there would have been enough cause to hold a suspect for further questioning. Court records indicate the smallest bar was sold to a jeweller in Seattle. We can then be certain the two lost bars weigh 258 and 272.5 troy ounces respectfully, an impressive 530.5 ounces at 625 fines or per cent purity.
Publishing the book and learning about marketing has left me busy, broke, and staying close to home. I should be camping in Rock Creek canyon and enjoying the health benefits of bonding with nature. Those were great times as I explored and appreciated every moment of it. But age changes the body in so many ways. Get out there and enjoy nature while you can. And carry a copy of my book along to follow the treasure map. Take a selfie at the Bre-X shack and I will set up a venue for that purpose. Be safe.
Starting August 1, Chasing Stolen Gold went live on Amazon.com. It will follow in Canada, the U.K. and other countries over the next week. The “Look Inside” feature is live but only shows up to page 14 with some pages missing. My understanding is this will increase up to 20% but as I have yet to contact a human there, so we shall see. The high price is due to color printing costs and wide distribution. Freight costs are hurting us all. My royalty per book is five dollars and change so please don’t shoot the messenger. My hope is that libraries and brick and mortar stores will take notice. But if you’re looking for a treasure map, there has never been a better time.
In 2015, I hired an editor to draw up an outline for my adventure to locate the lost gold bars of Camp McKinney. Several years later a ‘blue pencil’ consultation through the Vancouver Public Library added more direction to my confusion of ideas and ramblings. Despite the failings, the second editor appreciated the storyline and my writing voice. Her remarks were great encouragement for me to continue.
The hardest portion of the quest for me was to admit I did not locate the lost gold, pick an ending for the memoir and stick with it. I never expected it to end in anything less than a golden success. Of course, it still can even as I prepare to share my search details in the memoir. Mathew Roderick’s spirit related to me that the treasure was not what I thought. Those words mystified me for years until at last, I realize the real treasure may well be the story itself. It certainly has been for me and with the right words and nearly two hundred photos, maps and illustrations, it can be for the reader too.
The third editor continued the brutal assault on my words and provided an excellent path for me to travel in order to improve the read. I canceled my addictive tv subscription and spent six months using Pro Writing Aid and Grammarly for a great purpose. Two more years passed as I lived my slow-motion writing dream to develop a book worth reading. That same editor is presently hammering my words into still better blends with the results expected soon.
Meanwhile, I continued to uncover images and maps that have been previously unpublished in stories about the gold mine. I have benefits of the electronic age that local authors Barlee, Basque, and Paterson, among others, did not. Libraries on both sides of the border have been able to do likewise and I am blessed with all the information available. While gathering material for the Endnotes, I also hired a talented woman to create the front and back cover. Between us, we are trying to display the right blend of words and images to attract potential readers. The cover will appear here soon, perhaps both versions.
In my writing ignorance, I have learned much and continue to move ever closer to “casting my little book upon the waters” of the marketplace to see if it sinks or provides me with a golden reward. With luck, my old gray matter might remember who quoted the line several hundred years ago. And finally, publish a book. (Sir Francis Bacon).