National Geographic : 1957 Nov
Beauty Queens Meet at the Mexican Border Nancy Lee Williams, costumed for the fair and rodeo in Im perial County, faces Fernanda Esquer, who represents the Mex icali Press Association. They stand at the end of the high wire fence running between Ca lexico, California, and Mexicali, Mexico (page 714). "It was in 1903," he said. "Two friends and I made up a burro train and followed an old Indian trail east out of Julian. We covered the Borrego Badlands and all the places we thought Peg-leg could have strayed into. We found plenty of other minerals, but none of his black gold nuggets. My hunch is that blow sands must have covered up his strike. "Once I thought we were close. It was in this very spot, the Yuha Wash, that I found the hematite nodules. 'This is it!' I said to myself, but how wrong I was!" Stevens is one of those old-timers who pre serve the lost-mine legend with an annual trip to Borrego Springs, where they have erected a monument to Peg-leg Smith. Gathering round the flickering light of a campfire, they declare the Liars Club in session. Stevens has won the contest twice. "Once while on Peg-leg's trail," he told the delegates, "I lay rolled up in my blankets on a hillside of bare stone. As the night grew colder, I could hear layers of stone contract and chip off. Before long I heard the click-click-click of little round stones rolling past me. Switching on a light, I saw a pile of black nodules tumbling down the hill. I tried to follow, but the stones outsped me, and I lost the trail in the dark. But I followed it in the morning, and it led me to a heap of black nodules encrusted with gold. And if you don't believe me..." With that, Stevens's confederates carried onto the Liars stage a box of his worthless hematite nodules painstakingly weighted with lead and salted with gilt paint. By campfire light they looked like the real thing! Prospectors haven't found Peg-leg Smith's gold mine and maybe never will. But Cali fornia's burgeoning desert has produced an other kind of bonanza. And most of the new desert dwellers pheasant growers, lettuce farmers, artists, and movie stars-wouldn't trade the sun, sky, and solitude that brought them there for the richest claim yet found. Notice of change of address for your NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE should be received in the offices of the National Geographic Society by the first of the month to affect the following month's issue. For instance, if you desire the address changed for your January number, The Society should be notified of your new address not later than December first. Be sure to include your postal-zone number.