Parables and Fables

Treasure can come in many different ways; A good meal with friends, a quiet beautiful sunset, the laughter of children playing.  One thing that I definitely treasure are any drops of wisdom that I can acquire on my life’s journey.  They can more valuable than gold and silver.

I wanted to infuse this thought in the board game Treasure Trove as players traverse the world collecting fabled treasures.  We all fantasize about what it would be like to find lost treasure in an attic, or win the lottery, or what it what be like to have come up with Facebook.  It is human nature to wonder about such things.  And yet, the important things of life are right in front of us, if we choose to see them.  If we choose to search for them right under our noses.

I choose to place within the situation cards drops of wisdom that have come from all religions that remind us of spiritual truths.  I think it is God’s way of trying to teach us to search for the spiritual things of our lives, not just physical blessings.

Many truths about something of great value in God’s Kingdom are often conveyed in the sense of something that would be of value such as gold or diamonds.  One of the situation cards describes a large pearl, one of great value.  Most of you would recognize the saying as that of Jesus, who often taught in parables.

Have you ever tried to define what a parable is?  What is a fable?  We have an idea what they are, basically, short stories with fictional characters that have a moral lesson.  People love stories, and these are a great way to teach, which Christ did.

Included within the game is a booklet that gives brief descriptions of the treasures on the game board.  Some real, some only myths, and some of the treasures I just made up.  A footnote section at the back of the instructional booklet lists real treasure findings.  There is also some discussion about things on the game board.  What is an archeologist?  Who was Dr. Livingston?  What is a herpetologist?  Where is Shangri-La?

The following comment was placed in the footnote section concerning the difference between a parable and a fable.     

A parable is a brief story that illustrates a moral or religious lesson.  It differs from a fable that uses animals or inanimate objects as actors while parables generally feature human actors.  Jesus often taught his followers by use of parables.”

I don’t think people take the time to read the booklet given with the game.  Most of the time we are in too big of a hurry, including when we are playing the board game.  Such is the pace of our lives.  Consequently, we miss a lot of lot of little factoids, and truths. It takes time to search for those drops of wisdom and truth, but they can make the playing of the game that much more rewarding.  I think our lives are often the same way.  We are searching for life’s treasure often in the wrong places. 

Early this morning I read from the book of Matthew, Chapter 5.  Not one of the parables of Jesus, but his Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes. Now that is real treasure.  I could read it ever day, and never get tired of it.  If I had a large diamond, I suppose I would love looking at every day, but I don’t.  Instead, I will enjoy my treasure of living for Christ, and holding onto those beatitudes.

Maximilian’s Loot

Emperoe Maximilian

The American Southwest has many, many stories of lost Spanish fortune from Louisiana to Southern California.  Most involve lost gold and silver from the hundreds of mines the Spanish operated with slave Indian labor over hundreds of years from the 1500’s to the early 1800’s.  I love reading about these tales of lost treasure.  However, there is one story of lost wealth in West Texas that captured my interest because it did not involve the Spanish but rather the French.  Also, it was not just lost gold and silver ingots that had been mined but rather gold and silver coins, plates, utensils and candlesticks.  And, in addition the lost loot included jewels. The story also takes place long after the Spanish are gone, actually during and shortly our Civil War.  It is the tale of Maximilian’s treasure.

In 1862 Mexico defaulted on some loans to France.  Napoleon III was wanting to expand the French empire and used the excuse of Mexico’s loan default to invade.  Neither Britain nor Spain offered protest and of course the United States was embroiled in conflict.  The invasion and defeat of Mexico took over a year and in 1864 an Austrian named Ferdinand Maximilian was placed as Emperor of Mexico.  His rule would not last long.  During his short reign the upper class of the Mexican populace lavished him with expensive gifts which he seemed to have a never ending appetite for.  The American Civil War ended shortly after he gained his throne and it was obvious the United States wanted the French out of Mexico.  He realized his time was short and that the Mexicans may not let him get out of the country alive much less with his wealth.  In 1866 He devised a plan to transport his riches by way of Texas to Galveston and form there back to France.  

        The loot was hidden among barrels of flour on fifteen wagon loads as it crossed into Texas near present day Presidio.  I live in West Texas and have traveled it extensively and let me tell you Presidio is way out in the middle of nowhere.  It is west of Big Bend National Park and east of El Paso. 
A very remote area, and a long, long way from San Antonio, much less Galveston.  The wagon train had the ill fortune of meeting a group of renegade Confederates on the way to Mexico.  The Confederates reported seeing Indians so the Austrians hired the Confederates to protect them on the long journey from Presidio to San Antonio.  During the trek the Confederates noticed the Austrian guards were over protective of the flour.  As they headed east somewhere near the Pecos River the curiosity of the Confederates got them to spying into the flour barrels.  After discovering the hidden treasure, you guessed it, they killed everyone who had traveled from Mexico. They buried the jewels and most of the loot and made the wagons look like they had been attacked and destroyed.  They then decided to carry with them as much of the coins as their saddlebags would carry, anxious to get to San Antonio.  They would of course return later to retrieve the buried riches.  One of them fell ill and was thereafter shot and left behind to die in the Texas sun.  He survived only to catch up with the others who themselves had been killed by either Comanche or outlaws, empty saddlebags strewn about.  This lone survivor of Maximilian’s expedition was picked up by some horse thieves who were then arrested by a sheriff.  They need to make a movie about this if they have not already. 

        The wounded man placed in jail told his tale to a doctor and an attorney shortly before succumbing to infection from his gunshot wound.  He drew them a map on where to find Maximilian’s treasure.   Several years passed until the Indians were pushed further west before the doctor and attorney used the map to try and locate the loot, and once again as you probably guessed they found nothing.  Supposedly, the whereabouts is somewhere along the Pecos river south of Odessa.  Sounds easy enough but that is still a big area, even if the tale is true.  I suspect there is some truth to the story but then again Texans like to tell tall tales. 

        As for Maximilian, he never did get out of Mexico, and was executed in 1867.  So there you are, a little bit of history entwined with a treasure tale.  Those are some my favorite to share.


photo by

                When I hear the word, “explorers,” the first thing that comes to my mind are the Spanish explorers.  Nowadays, I often think of archeologists such as Indiana Jones in the context of explorers with the adventure element.  For the most part my mind is still captivated by the wooden ships of the high seas discovering unknown and exotic far away destinations during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries.  

            I love history and it began for me in early childhood during the 1950’s with the Davy Crocket and Daniel Boone stories.  Then in fifth grade we studied world history and the chapter on the Spanish explorers still rings in my mind.  I recall memorizing names such as Columbus, Balboa, Pizarro, Cortes, Ponce de Leon, Magellan and many others.  The picture in our schoolbook introducing that chapter had a colorful picture of the Spanish with their swords and muskets strapped to their belts standing on the sandy seashore with the masts of their ships in the nearby blue ocean behind them.  One of the men held the Spanish flag.  They looked like they were about to embark on an adventure.  They also had those cool helmets.

Francisco Pizarro

            We all know the wealth in gold, silver and gems that Spain acquired from the New World and the fortunes to be found.  Stories of fabled gold such as El Dorado in South America and Coronado’s golden Seven Cities of Cibolo in western Texas continue to intrigue us.  Not to mention tales of pirate treasure that also emerged during that same period of European exploration in the context of world history. 

            When I was creating the board game TreasureTrove I wanted to give players an option of choosing a player token representing what they might want to be if they were searching the world for fabled treasure.  For some, that might be like Indiana Jones and therefore they would want to be an archeologist.  Someone else may be fascinated with underwater diving and they might want to SCUBA for wealth such as a deep sea diver.  Others my think of an oil man exploring for black gold such as a wildcatter of the early 20th century.   A tycoon with money to invest in treasure hunts is in many ways the adventuresome individual of modern times.  For me though it will always be pirates and Spanish explorers that come to my mind when treasure is to be found.  Player tokens representing each of these give participants a choice in what they would want to be if they could travel the world hunting for treasure. 

            I choose to use a purple helmet to represent the conquistador.  You had to be of royalty to be given ships to explore the high seas and purple represents royalty.  I thought the helmet more than anything represents the Spanish explorer.  I also think conquistador is a cool name.

player token from TreasureTrove game board

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Solomon’s Treasure


Solomon_Dedicates Temple_at_Jerusalem

           The fabled wealth of King Solomon is legendary.  He is thought to have been one of the richest men to have ever lived and many believe he was perhaps the wealthiest of all time.  If what he possessed in his time was compared to today’s prices, his net worth would easily outpace the richest people living in modern times.  He would have been richer than the oil baron John Rockefeller at the turn of the 20th century or the computer billionaires of the early 21st century.   

Israelite Temple

    His kingdom is written about in the Old Testament books of 1st Kings and 2nd Chronicles.  The vastness of his wealth and how he managed the Israelite Empire he ruled over is quite detailed in these accounts.  He lived almost three thousand years ago.  He oversaw the building of the Temple in Jerusalem for the Israelites to honor and worship God.  It was probably one of the most expensive architectural accomplishments ever completed.  Rulers from distant places, such as the Queen of Sheba, traveled to visit him and marveled at his great wealth.  It has been recorded that the utensils and drinking cups of his palaces were only of gold.  It was plentiful enough in his household that silver was not considered of much value.  (1st Kings, chapter 10, verse 21)


    Hundreds of years after King Solomon lived, the Babylonian Empire(located in present day Iraq)destroyed the Temple and looted the treasures.  Archeologists discovered Babylon in the mid 19th century but no treasures of King Solomon.   Yet his greatest treasure remains with us to this day:  his wisdom.  He is regarded as the wisest man who ever lived.  The recorded writings of his wisdom are in the book of Proverbs of the Old Testament.  The following is a sample of his inspired words:


                      “Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.  For wisdom is more profitable than silver and her wages better than gold.  Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.  She offers you long life in her right hand, and riches and honor in her left.”   

   Proverbs 3:13-16

       When players compete in TreasureTrove, they are trying to collect as many treasures as they can as quickly as they can.   Included in the playing of the game are situation cards that by chance allow players different options.  Some of the cards allow players to acquire more treasure, some cause a lose a turn, while some send players to different places on the game board.  There are also some cards that offer a quote of wisdom to remind of us life’s true treasures.   A sample of one of such card reads as follows:


            A card such as this one is not going to help one win the game but reminds us hopefully that  treasure is held in our hearts not just in our hands.


To learn more about the game go to

Anglo-Saxon Hoard

      News reports in September 2009 flashed the exciting story of a treasure find in England by an amateur treasure hunter.  With a metal detector and checking out a farmers land he discovered a seventh-century hoard of gold and silver items.  Over one thousand objects have so far been unearthed.  Initial reports by scholars and archaeologists believe the artwork on the different pieces reveal an Anglo-Saxon time period, about 700 A.D. when England was ruled by Anglo-Saxon tribes from Germany.

     When I first heard about the finding I just assumed the British government would claim the medieval treasure.  As of now it looks as if the items will be auctioned off and the money split between the farmer and the treasure hunter who are friends.  I thought that was cool.  It is assumed they each will receive a very nice financial reward.  The government has not revealed the location in order to keep out looters. 

     I posted a blog article in July 2010 called, “Roman Coins.”  That article touched on the Treasure Act passed in Great Britian in 1996.  The English law encourages treasure hunters, or for that matter anyone lucky enough to discover treasure by happenstance, to work with authorities in order to preserve any historical significance to the find.  The government not only wants to reward the finders but also desires to professionally excavate and evaluate any discoveries.  It seems to be working.  The laws are in place to preserve any cultural clues, exactly what a find such as this one can reveal regarding England’s long and rich history. 

     In addition to gold and silver, some copper items, garnets and glass objects have been excavated.  It is being referred to as the greatest Anglo-Saxon treasure discovery of all time.  Many dozens of crosses and religious artifacts have been found.  One of the objects is a small strip of gold with a Latin quotation saying, “Rise up, O Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face.”   

     Speaking of crosses, one of the situation cards in the TreasureTrove board game talks of discovering some medieval crosses and crucifixes.  I liked the fact that this was part of my board game years before this recent historical treasure finding occurred.  The card reads as follows:

                                    MEDIEVAL ARTIFACTS

            While caving in some caverns in Croatia and Kosovo uncover

            caskets containing carved crucifixes and crusaders’ crosses.

                                          Keep this card

                                 REWARD:  TEN MILLION    

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Santa Anna’s Gold

University Library

    It was quiet as I browsed the shelves looking for treasure.  Quiet as a library should be, as they used to be.  The year was 1989 and I was searching for books that would inform me of the world’s greatest lost treasures.  Pirate loot, diamond mines, sunken ships, buried gold; whatever I could get my hands on, or at least what I could read about in a book.  I had no illusions of ever actually going to dig and find any treasure but I wanted my imagination to journey to far away destinations.  Good books allow a person to escape.  This was before the Internet had come of age; a time when research was hands on, hours at a time sorting through books at a library.  Today I can accomplish in few hours on the Internet what may have taken weeks to complete just a few years ago.

      I have a reflective personality so I have always enjoyed libraries.  When I was in college I would often retreat from the noise of the dorm to find a quiet chair or nook in the library in order to study.  Last year I went to meet my son at the library on his college campus I felt out of place.  There were computers everywhere.  Students were chatting, while others placed their order for coffee.  When I inquired as to where the books are, an attendant politely informed me the books are on the other floors.   I went upstairs to find the books but do not recall it being much quieter than the commotion of the computer floor.  Libraries are a different atmosphere than when I was in college almost 40 years ago.   

     Browsing for Spanish treasure I pulled a few books off the shelves here and there.  Suddenly, my ears picked up on a conversation between two men.  It sounded like they were discussing treasure.  I paused to hear every word of the two voices.  They were indeed talking about treasure: lost treasure.  They were on the other side of the bookshelf so I could not see them.  Could they actually be talking treasure at the exact time I came to the library to search that subject?  I paused and strained to hear more.  It got quiet.  I shuffled a book or two until the conversation began again.  I quieted to listen.  Then they stopped again.  I fidgeted with the shelf intentionally making more noise than usual.  One voice was perceptibly louder and I recognized it as belonging to an older gentleman that I knew had worked in the library for many years.  I discerned he was trying to help the other subdued male voice. 

     I rounded the corner of the bookshelf pretending to be looking for a specific book when I was actually trying to collect more of their conversation.  They immediately paused as my eyes careened the books in their section.  They were about eight feet away when the older library worker directly but politely asked, “Are you looking for something in particular?” 

     I panicked and was afraid they could tell I was eavesdropping.  I had hoped I wasn’t so obvious.  “Oh, I’m looking for books on Spanish,” I replied.   I was actually taking a course at the university on Spanish at the time so my conscious wasn’t bothered about the convenient out.  “One aisle over” he replied.  “Thank you,” I responded, as I meandered back to where I had been.  As I continued to listen, I realized they were indeed talking about treasure and one nearby to where I lived in West Central Texas.  I waited until they parted company.

     As the older man was leaving I asked him for a moment of his time.  “Sure, what can I help you with,” he said.  I informed him I was trying to make a board game for my children whereby they could travel the world collecting treasure and I was in the library searching for famous lost treasure and had come to this section looking for Spanish treasure.  However, I admitted, I had overheard him talking about treasure and would it not be too intrusive to inquire what treasure they had discussed.  “The treasure of Santa Anna,” he said.  “I have never heard of such and I know my Texas history fairly well,” I responded.  “Well there is no such thing,” he replied waiting for me to ask the next question.   “But I heard you inform the other man of a reported lost treasure not far from here belonging to Santa Anna?”

     “That is correct,” he said, “but not General Santa Anna, the town of Santa Anna, or Chief Santa Anna’s gold.  Are you familiar with the small town of about 1000 people 70 miles south?”  I informed him I have driven through it dozens of time over the last 20 years.  “Supposedly Chief Santa Anna’s lost treasure is buried somewhere in the vicinity of the town,” he said.  I told him I had heard of Chief Santana but  not Chief Santa Anna.  He then proceeded to tell me the story.

Chief Santana

“The town was originally named after Santana, an Indian Chief who fought the U. S. Army.   There was another Indian Chief years before him named Santa Anna who also fought against the U. S. Army.  He is the one who was rumored to have captured some gold and buried it in the mountains nearby the town.  That gold has never been found.  That is the supposed treasure of Santa Anna.  Sometime around 1980, the townspeople applied for a U. S. post office.  They wanted to name the town after Chief Santana who had recently attained some fame fighting in the Texas panhandle.  The authorities back East thought the Texas people had misspelled the name.  The U.S. government returned the official title of the town as Santa Anna rather than Santana.  The folks in Washington had heard of General Santa Anna but not Chief Santana.  They assumed the Texans just misspelled the name on the application.  The people in Santana had their post office and decided to leave the name  Santa Anna rather than reapply.  Almost 150 years later it remains Santa Anna and the lost treasure has yet to be discovered.”

     Several decades have passed since I had that conversation.  I admit it was a little confusing sorting out General Santa Anna, Chief Santa Anna and Chief Santana.  It was an interesting story and if I heard his version correctly the older gentlemen did not have the facts in order.  I did some of my own historical search to find the truth. 

     First, the naming of the town has never had anything to do with General Santa Anna, and probably nothing to do with Chief Santana.  There actually was a Penateka Comanche Chief named Santa Anna who fought the Texas Rangers and U.S. Army during the 1830’s and 40’s until his death in 1849.  His resistance was in the exact area of the present day town.  An area in central Texas that is relatively flat except for two prominent twin mesas.  When an eventual settlement of white pioneers was built at the base of the mountains during the 1860’s the early inhabitants referred to them as Santa Anna’s Peaks.  The Indians had often sent smoke signals from them while resisting encroachment from the whites.  Chief Santa Anna died very close to where the town is today.

     The more famous Chief Santana was a Kiowa (also an Indian tribe from Texas) but his exploits at resisting the Anglos was more on the Texas panhandle into Oklahoma and Kansas, not in the area of the present day city of Santa Anna in Central Texas.  He died in 1878 and was indeed more famous when the town applied for a post office in 1879, but it is doubtful the townspeople had Santana on the application.  Notable Texas historian Rupert Richardson recorded from his research that the town was named after Chief Santa Anna’s twin peaks.  It had been referred to as such for decades when the inhabitants applied for a postal office.  Chances are the folks in Washington had actually heard of Chief Santana but for whatever reason they got it right in naming the town Santa Anna.   The truth is the name on the application was probably Santa Anna and not Santana as some have rumored.  There would be no reason for the people in Washington to have cared one way or the other.  It just makes for a good story to imply that the bureaucrats back East thought those dumb Texans did not know how to spell.     

Santa Anna's Peaks

     I found no information in books or on the Internet regarding any buried gold from Chief Santa Anna.  I continue to drive through the town of Santa Anna several times a year going South to visit San Antonio as I have done so for almost 40 years.  I now l take more notice of the peaks nestled around the town.  I did not dig with a shovel, but I can assure you I did some digging in my search for Santa Anna’s gold in order to write this.  I also admit I thoroughly enjoyed my 10 minutes of eavesdropping.

     If you would like to explore a board game that allows players to travel the world collecting treasures please go to