"This story differs from the usual run of these hot-air narratives in only one important detail — this is a true story." So said an Eastern Oregon newspaper reporting on a local man who had just returned from California, where he had allegedly found the "real" Lost Cabin Mine.
In the Pacific Northwest, these "Lost Cabin" fairy tales seem to have begun right after the California Gold Rush.
Although they won't admit it, there are probably a few hundred people in the state holding on to their lottery-like dreams, actively seeking a Lost Cabin Mine. If they ever find it, one wonders if it might still be guarded by a prospector's protective ghost, one of those nasty little trolls, or perhaps a tribe of angry and hairy Bigfoots.
The story always varies a little, but when the telling is done, dreams of Captain Kidd's buried treasure, the Arabian Nights, and just a touch of an Irish leprechaun are all rolled together in one gigantic, luminous, golden ball.
Take the adventurous miner who pushed his way across the Coast Range to the outskirts of Crescent City, Calif., and "struck it rich."
He built a cabin and daily went to work digging out a fabulous fortune until he was ready to carry some of it home.
But that's when evil robbers struck, knocking out the miner with a nasty blow to his head. When he recovered, they demanded to know where to find his mine, but the poor miner had completely lost his memory.
After a frustrating few weeks of fruitless searching, the robbers burned his cabin down and left. The now penniless man wandered out of the forest and somehow managed to reach his home and family.
A few hours before he died, his memory returned, and calling friends to his bedside, he told them all where to find his hidden treasure. But so far, no one has ever found it.
When John Hillman accidently discovered Crater Lake in 1851, he said his party also was searching for the Lost Cabin Mine.
In 1897, a newspaper reported that a dying Indian woman had revealed the location of another Lost Cabin Mine that had been worked by three Germans who all were killed by her tribe. She may have revealed the location, but the newspaper story didn't.
Then there were the two Wilson brothers who found nuggets sparkling in a stream somewhere southeast of Jacksonville. Naturally, they built a cabin, but soon were attacked by Indians during the Rogue Indian Wars.
One brother was killed and the other escaped, but he lived for only a couple of years. He died with his pen in hand, attempting to draw a map to his treasure.
In 1903, someone found the Lost Cabin Mine in Montana, but by 1905 it had miraculously moved to Idaho.
Sometimes the Lost Cabin isn't a mine at all.
In 1912, local miner J.M. Howard finally discovered what he thought was the cabin where, 58 years earlier, bank robbers had buried their loot. Years before, Howard had heard about the cabin from a mysterious eastern stranger who hadn't revealed where the treasure was buried.
Howard had never seen the stranger again or ever cashed in on the loot.
A touch of Lost Cabin fever hit once again in 1921 near Prospect, when, supposedly, a little lost boy was found with gold nuggets stuffed in his pockets. But again, no cabin, no mine and — come to think of it — no boy.
"That Lost Cabin," said a perceptive newspaper reporter. "It's been discovered regularly every year since Cleopatra ruined Mark Anthony with her wildcat deal on a gold mine."
With that in mind, you'd think we'd be getting close by now.
Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.