Rio History: This Treasure Hunt Ended In A Washout

Special to the PRESS

I remember a time my friend Bill Bieker and I were on a hunt for an old US army encampment we had heard about. A friend of Bill’s had stumbled upon the site on his ranch after Hurricane Brett had brushed the Island back in 1999. Though the storm had missed hitting the Valley head on; the ensuing rains had carved huge gullies in a hilly area about 5 miles back from the main highway.

Located high on a bluff overlooking the river near Rio Grande City, this site would have been used as a base of operations for forward observers during the Mexican War of 1846. Bill’s friend had found four U.S. Army Dragoon buttons in a washout area about 20 feet below the peak. Bill and I climbed hills and crawled over snags for several hours with out finding any military artifacts.

As dusk gathered we knew it was time to call it quits. Always the optimist, Bill decided to explore a washout area along the old river bottom. Fire blackened stones were the first clue to what we had stumbled upon. Suddenly Bill stooped down and picked up a perfectly formed arrowhead. We had found an ancient Native American campsite! During the next few minutes of remaining daylight, we found several scrapers, part of an old stone knife and an oddly shaped piece of wood.

It was the piece of wood that held my attention. I’ve always been fascinated by the strange shapes and figures created by the forces of nature. Some would look at this piece of driftwood and only see a scrap of root, washed down the slope by a spring flood years ago and left to bake under the hot Texas sun.

What do you see?

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