( Copyrighted) All works should be considered FICTION whether true or not.
R. LeRoy Frye Author
When Clay Anders graduated Summa Cum Laude in Journalism from UCLA in 1971, he thought the world would be beating a trail to his door with job offers. All Summa Cum Laude’s really, really believe that they can be everything and do everything. This wasn’t exactly the case. There were still dues that had to be paid by the new blooming authors. In the beginning high paying staff positions are not available. Free-Lance and bit pieces is all a newbie are going to be offered (if they are lucky). These won’t pay the bills, but they will buy gs and some of life’s necessities. It can be a rough way to go in the beginning, yet still, most of the time being a writer is an interesting life style and a lot of fun. A writer meets many interesting people. They learn a great deal of information on a wide variety of subjects, and writing keeps their minds sharp and alert.
There are occasions however, when writing becomes a major bore, solitary and uninspiring. Writers block can occur. Supplies and postage become very expensive, and of course, there are the long tedious hours spent at the library researching and verifying data gathered. Most free-lance writers quickly get on a first name basis with all the librarians they work with.
June of 1973 was one of the “not so fun”, periods in Clay’s life. He was having writers block, feeling broke, and doing research at the library…………the “Triple Whammy” ! Writers block, broke and at the library.
One of Clay’s semi-regular publishers had offered Clay a paying assignment, but payment would be a ways off. The assignment as to research all known history regarding the San Andreas Fault in Southern California for a scientific publication. Clay decided to get back on it today. Since he was uninspired and having a block, he decided today would be a great day to get back on his research. Clay had several different books open at the same time. They were scattered about on the slab cold library table, open for scrutiny. The five books were open to varying time periods from 1750 to 1950. Quite a spread of time. Clay had read the information over and over and was still having trouble making his mind grasp the information and keep his mind on track. Something was bothering him and he couldn’t quite grasp what it was. It was really beginning to eat on him. Clay had sat at that table for over two hours, reading and re-reading, looking at the pictures, studying all the dates and locations, and feeling like there was something of major significance that continued to elude him. He knew there was something that he was should be seeing, but couldn’t. Something was right in front of his nose, but what?
Then it hit him.
“The Time Life” book, Volume titled “Miners of California, page 263. A painting dated 1763, in the land that later became California. On the top row, third from the left was a striking you man in his twenties. Hat in hand, pickax, guns and knives, brown hair, mustache, medium built, and a big wide smile on his face. The caption had his name as Bill Chance.
Next book: “The National Geographic Magazine”, an article regarding early settlers, superstitions and earthquakes. There was a tintype photo of a local logging camp. The date of the photo was 1819, and in the center of the photograph stood a young man in his twenties with hat in hand, guns and knives, what appeared to be dark hair, mustache, medium built, and big wide smile. He name was shown as Billy M. Chance.
“Encyclopedia Britannica”, 1986 editions, “S” book, page 418, photograph of the crew who had built the first road through the California mountains and discussion of some of the special problems presented them in their attempts to minimize what the Fault might do to their road. The date on the photograph was 1901, just 11 years after California became a State. The crew foreman was a young man in his twenties,, hat in hand, guns and knives, dark hair, mustache, medium built and a big wide smile,……his name: Willie Chance.
“American Frontiersman”, titled “The Trail Blazers”, page 190, approximated date of photo, 1928. A group picture of surveyors from Nebraska, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, California and Arizona. The group was led by Ferdinand Hayden. There are no specific mention of names, but the second man from the left, in his twenties, hat in hand, survey pole, guns and knives, brown hair, mustache, medium built, big wide smile and in his mid twenties with the striking appearance of Willie Chance.
Book title, “The Great Redwoods of California”. In a chapter covering the San Andreas and hazards to the Redwood forest, there was a photograph of three men planting new seedling. The date of the photo was 1947. The third man in the group, far right, in his twenties, hat in hand, pistol and knife on his hip, spade for digging, brown hair, mustache, medium built and a big wide smile, his name; W.M. Chance.
Clay just happened to have put together five different publications with paintings, tintypes and photos spanning almost two hundred years worth of fault discussions, and all five photos showed men with virtually the same name, the same age, and physical appearances that would qualify them for quintuplets by any standards.
There are two other very important factors about these five photos as well. The first fact was that it was very uncommon for men to take off their hats in the old days because the hat was a trademark (of sorts) and a sign of wealth since they were dressing up. A painting or a photo was a rare and special event. The other factor is the smiling in the photos. Men rarely smiled for painting or photos because it was considered a sign of weakness and femininity. It was perceived to undermine their masculinity and strength. Yet all these men are smiling and have the hats in their hands.
Clay Anders didn’t know exactly what he had his hands on, if anything, but alarms were going off in his head. He didn’t know where this would lead, or what story would develop it, but his writers intuition was on high alert. Dominant genetics passed through the generations, coincidence of names and appearance, or maybe even past authors that were stealing the names from other publications they had seen. Maybe it’s as simple as the fact that William-Bill-Billy and Willie Chance are just extremely common names in that part of the country.
The investigative writer in him exploded. Considering that a single generation is normally 20 years, Clay was looking at nine or ten generations, from 1763 to 1949. Could it be biologically possible for one man’s genes to be so dominant, that for at least 10 generations they reproduced themselves almost perfectly with no influence from the mothers side? Or, did these traits skip one generation and show up in the next one? What would be the odds against 10 straight generations of men being born with the exact same appearance and habits, and having names with some variation of Bill Chance? Too many questions and no answers. His curiosity was eating him alive, but because of finances and other limitations Clay was going to have to put all this on the back burner, like it or not.
clay had once done a series of articles on gene dominance. World renowned scientist, Dr. James Kirkandolph, and the doctor explained that if a dominant gene history could be tracked for five generations, then those genes could be used by scientists to create thousand of immune enhancing drugs for people without adequate immune systems in that area of immunology. Dr. Kirkandolph further explained that this is extremely rare. If a person does the math on just five generations there will be:
The original Couple ( 2 influences )
The parents of each in the couple ( 4 more influences )
Grandparents of Male and Female ( 8 more influences )
Great grandparents Male and Female ( 16 more influences )
Great great grandparents Male and Female (32 more influences )
This means that in just 5 generations there are 64 genetic contributors to a persons makeup. To have one set of genetic traits that are 100% dominate without being diluted would be astronomical.
After thinking back on what Dr. Kirkandolph had told him Clay sat up straight, looked around the room, and mentally shook some sense into himself. He had to get the subject out of his head. He knew that he was hoping beyond hope to make something of this story line. Clay knew the odds against any great biological discovery of a dominant gene was very very small, but by now he was totally hooked on the the intrigue and excitement that surrounded the Bill Chance mystery.
Who even says any of these five men are related? Yes, all five pictures were taken in California, or of people from California, but Bill is most certainly a common name, and maybe Chance is too for families in that part of the country. Each photo had been taken in a different part of California, (a very large State ). None of the photos were less than 29 years apart, and most of them were about 50 years apart. He decided to forget the whole idea. After all; what publisher would pay his expenses to California on such flimsy speculation and such an off-beat topic? The whole idea was too far out and too expensive to pursue.
The Next Assignment
Clay’s short article on the San Andreas Fault was well received and Clay’s publisher friend told Clay he had decided he wanted a more expanded story for a follow up issue. Clay was excited that the publisher wanted to pick up the story, and even more excited when he learned that he would be getting an advance (just like a real writer) and the publisher would be pickup up all expenses to fly Clay to California for additional information and pictures. Interviews with leading experts in the field, quake victims (past and present), and any conspiracy theorist that he might find to accompany the next article. This was going to be his biggest writing project ever.
Clay could hardly wait to get started. Not that the assignment was so wonderful in and of itself, but because he could work on this and also work on the Bill Chance story line at the same time. For six months the Chance name had been eating into him like a cancer. He was becoming obsessed with Mr. Chance and his heirs. Unable to sleep, unable to concentrate on anything else, he needed some answers. He had not dare to discuss his ideas about the “Chance Syndrome” as he had begun to think of it, with anyone. He didn’t even want to discuss it with his fiancee. The two of them had began to drift away from one another and this new obsession wasn’t helping.
Writers are paranoid about their work and about other writers stealing their ideas. Most writer had a tendency to believe in the “Theory of 100 Monkeys” as well, and clay was no exception to this.
“Theory of 100 Monkeys”
The Theory of 100 Monkeys relates to the belief of a “Social Conscience”
A group of scientist in Japan were watching monkeys on a remote islands. They took potatoes crusted in mud, then laid them around for the monkey’s to find. The scientist on one remove island discovered that one of the monkeys figured out that he could take the crusted potato to the creek and washed it off before eating it. This monkey then showed the other monkeys in his troop how to clean the potatoes to be able to eat it. Before long, not only the first troop know how to clean the potatoes, but so did the other troops on the island even though the various troops did not interact with one another.
The monkeys on the first island what been cleaning the potatoes for about two weeks but not the monkeys on the other islands. Then suddenly all the other monkeys on the surrounding island began cleaning the potatoes. And, interestingly the spreading of this knowledge started with the island closest to the first island, and then spread out spread out with an expanding radius. This is where the philosophy of “Social Conscience” comes into play. The believe is that the mental vibes are out there and others pick up on it.
Evidence of this is inventions with human beings too. For example the invention of the radio. Marconi invented the radio, but at the same time there were estimates that about 200 other inventors came up with some form of a radio. There are many stories of other inventions with the same situations of multiple inventors coming up with these inventions at about the same time.
The same is true of writings, story lines, books, movies and TV shows. If a person sees a movie or TV series about any given theme, then the next thing you know, there’s an avalanche of similar TV shows and movies.
Clay knew that no one but him knew anything about his story line for sure, but, what if someone besides him had stumbled onto the same five books he’d stumble onto? Clay didn’t really think this was possible, he told himself. He had even scattered the books about the library. The odds against that happening are just too far out. No one but him had discovered these pictures in 200 years, there’s no reason to think they would discover it now. Is there? But what about the article itself? No, that’s no concern He didn’t give the people’s names and he only showed one of the five critical pictures, and that was the one without a name for Bill Chance.
Unbelievable as it seems, he had opened five unrelated publications and found the five intriguing photos. Since his discovery he had looked at over 300 additional publications and photos of that era and had found no additional photos or mention of anyone named Bill Chance, Billy Chance, William Chance or W.M. Chance. He had succeeded in reassuring himself that his discovery was safe.
San Jose Airport
Clay arrived at the San Jose airport at 8:05 A.M., on flight 277. The flight had been tiring but his excitement was high. San Jose is a beautiful city with pleasant weather and beautiful landscapes as well. None the less, he couldn’t wait to get in his rental car and head to Daly City where he thought he’d find the current generations of the Chance family. Both the San Jose and Daly areas had been rocked by numerous quakes since the mid 1800s, but Daly City was on of the largest current cities near the Sierra Madre mountain area, and here one of the pictures he had discovered was from. Daly City (once known as LaPortezuela) and had been occupied by the Ohlone Indians. The tribe still remains today, but occupies a very small region of the area.
Daly City had a current population of almost 100,000, but still maintained a very small town rural attitude. It was a large enough population, and yet a small enough population, that Clay thought he could gather information from a number of people who may have lived in the area for some time. Since the Daly City population was not transient many families had lived there for several generations with tight relationships and family histories. Daly City’s climate was Mediterranean and pleasant, but unlike San Jose, the residents did not have a yuppie mentality. This gave folks the attitude of slowing life down, take time to talk, enjoy peoples company.
San Jose had developed more quickly than Daly City. And because of Silicon Valley, and the type of industries there, the resident were more transient. Their yuppie attitudes also made them less friendly, less talkative, and made them want to stay to themselves more.
The drive to Daly City was way too long to suit Clay. He could not wait to get his hands on the first available phone book and start running down all the Bill, Billy, Williams or any other Chance’s listed in the phone book. Not unlike San Jose, Daly City was very clean and very beautiful. To his horror and pleasure, he discovered that Chance is not a particularly common name in the part of California. There were only six names to be followed up on, and none of them were William or a derivative thereof. That meant only six possibilities to fail, and only six possibilities to succeed without going to another California city. He swallowed hard. Six had never been an especially lucky number for Clay. As it turned out all six leads left him empty handed, not even the vaguest physical resemblance to the Bill Chance he was looking for. Nor could anyone point him in any direction that might help. Clay was disappointed in the Bill Chance direction, but he was thrilled to gather massive amounts of information regarding historical seismic activity in the region.
Clay knew that there we many other areas to be checked out that qualified for towns and cities along the San Andreas fault. San Bernadino, Palm Desert and hundreds of other cities were still to be investigated, the proverbial needle in the hay stack. This wasn’t all bad. This gave him opportunity to drive through many small towns that, he would miss out on if he was flying overhead, even in a small craft, he would only pass over the vast majority of these towns. This would also give him the opportunity to work on the assignment he was actually being paid to work on.
The sign read:
“Willies Authentic Western Memorabilia”
(Ain’t that a mouth full?)
Clay thought to himself “What a cute sign.”
He stepped on the weathered wood plank front porch, stepped through the double wide swinging wood door (like on an old western saloon) and was instantly transported back to 1850. Or so it seemed. The sights, the feel and even the smell per perfectly western Everything in the place was authentic. No reproductions either. no one could have recreated a better example of the old general stores. The place was enormous. There were cake pans, mining pans, pie pans, bread pans, pails, water pitchers, basins, and dish pans. There were graters, skimmers, strainers, steamers, dippers, colanders and huskers. There were boots, boot removers, scarves, muslin, gingham, calico, denim, and other bolts of hand woven fabrics. There was leather and leather goods, tack cobbler tools, bobsleds, threshing tools, shearing goods, and harvest needs. Yokes, and planting tools, pistols, rifles, knives traps, holsters, and saddles in abundance. He saw barrels of crackers adn pickles, sugar cured hams hanging from the beams, hand made brooms and walking sticks. He saw hundreds of tin types and antique photos, straight razors, straps, jars of honey, books galore by every frontier author, (many were first editions signed by the authors) maple candy whips, hard tack, chewing tobacco, rawhide chews and anything and everything that a frontier family could possibly need or want. and much more than Clay could even recognize or remember.
The general store even had a large restaurant of sorts where people could purchase authentic frontier foods. In addition to the hard tack a person could also purchase freshly prepared Bacon Fried Apples, Elk Back Strap with Spice Plum Sauce, Bean Sausage, Vinegar Lemonade, Cornmeal Mush, Cinnamon Sugar Toast, Poor Man’s Meal, Hot Water Cornbread, Cinnamon Sugar Toast, Milk Toast, Buttery Sweet Potatoes, Scrambled Dinner with Pork, 1975 Cottage Cheese, Beans and Ham Hocks, Duck and Dumplings, Pepper and Eggs, Blue-Flower Feather-bed, Side Pork and Mormon Gravy, Cooked Cabbage Salad, Bean Soup, Potato Pancakes Lemon Pie Filling and Cooked Cabbage Salad, Corned Beef Crapers, Soda Biscuits, Skillet Trout, Winter Red Flannel hash, Glazed Turnips, George Pasta, Mud apples, Spider Cornbread, Mormon Johnnycake, Western Scrambler and Oatmeal Pancakes to name but a few of the available dishes. There was an unbelievable selection to choose from, and the placed was packed with customers.
The smells erupted in Clay’s nostrils. Not musty old dirty smells, but clean and perfect smells with just a hint of musk and char to them.. Clay was totally mesmerized. Clay had ventured to a glass display case and was entranced with looking at the most beautiful gold coins he’d ever seen. He realized that someone was talking to him from the other side of the counter.
“What?” Clay said.
I said, “Where’d you get that ring?”
Clay looked up and there stood Billy Chance. Looking every bit of 20-25 years old.
“Billy?” Clay asked.
“Everyone calls me Willie.”
Clay said, “I can’t believe it’s you.”
Willie asked if they knew each other.
Clay could only reply that he felt like he knew him.
“Again; about that ring. I can tell from here that it’s authentic. Are you here to sell it?
Clay proceeded to let Billy (Willie) know that he was not there to sell his heirloom ring. He told Bill about the family significance of the ring and how his “Great great” had been an original Pony Express Rider. Clay also explained to Bill about his assignment concerning the fault line, and asked if Bill and his family had lived in the area very long.
Willie didn’t answer Clay’s question, but said, “Well, feel free to look around young fella.” And spoken like a true “Old Timer.” Clay found this amusing since they both appeared to be about the same age.
Clay must have stood there lost in awe for at least two hours when Willie came up to talk with him again. They spent quite a while talking while Willie’s friend and helper, Ahote, took care of the store, and the other staff members took care of the restaurant. Ahote was an elderly Indian or Mexican looking gentleman, slightly stoop shouldered and moving slow, very easy going. Ahote didn’t appear to be too interested in what Clay and Willie were saying to one another. But, none the less, Willie pulled Clay aside and quietly asked Clay, “Since you are so interested in everything, would you like to see my private collection.”
Willie led Clay into a hidden room in the basement that was three times the size of the entire upper two levels. If Clay had to guess he’d put the basement at 20,000 square feet or more. It was like walking into living history. A history of the last 200 years. To say that it took Clay’s breath away would be an understatement. Everything was labeled, dated, logged and in perfect operating condition. Jewelry, guns, weapons of all kinds, (Calvary , Cowboys, Indians, Mexican, Spanish, French) wanted posters, publications, maps, deeds, paintings and photos. There was Indian and White Man’s clothing in both adult, male, female and children sizes. There was branding equipment, saddles, bridles, cavalry gear, army uniforms of all description from all eras, United States flags of every style ever used, all abounded. He had Confederate as well as Union, Mexican, Spanish, French and trapper uniforms and weapons, and the largest display of photography of all decades that anyone could imagine. Not just portraits, but landscapes too. Many of the finery like guns, saddles, reigns, and knives were inlaid with gold, silver and jewelry.
Clay couldn’t help but notice something else that was very curious to him. Many of the items in his private collection were also items that were identical to items in the pictures of the Chance family members he had seen during his library studies. He had the complete collection of hats, knives, and guns that were in the pictures too. Breathtaking.
Clay was so enthralled with what he was seeing that he wasn’t watching Willie. The door went shut and a tumbler fell. Clay was locked inside the massive room and looking down the bore of a loaded Colt 45 pistol.
“How did you know my last name is Chance, and what are you doing here? And I don’t want to hear that bullshit about that earthquake story.”
Click, click, click as he cocked the pistol hammer back.
Clay very timidly asked if he could reach into his pocket.
“Long as you bring it out slow and easy.” Willie replied
In Clay’s suit coat was a packet of reproductions from the five books showing the pictures of Billy Chance. The names, dates and events too.
“You got me partner.” Was bill’s reply.
“What do you want now? What do you think your next step is?”
“Nothing sinister Mr. Chance. I’m a free-lance writer, and all I want is the story. First hand, from you. That’s all I want.”
“That’s all?” replied Bill with cynicism. “That’s all? The biggest story on the face of the earth and you say that’s all. I want to know what publication you work for. Who besides you knows about me? And, how were you able to track me down?
Clay knew that when a man has a loaded gun pointed at your face, and asks you if anyone else knows you’re there, the answer is “Yes”, whether it’s true or not. He knew there was at least some security just having Willie think that others know where you are.
“I’m a free-lance writer and about six other people know where I am, they only know that I am researching the fault line. That’s the truth. I discovered the photographs by accident, and I found you by dumb luck.” Was Clay’s reply.
Clay reluctantly continued. “You asked me about my heirloom ring, well, so did Bear at the filling station up the road. It was Bear that directed me here because he thought I would be interested in all your authentic western memorabilia.”
Bill took in a deep breath. He sat down in a cattle horn rocker with brown and white cowhide while clutching the photos in his hand.
“I’m really kind of glad to be discovered you know? It’s kind of hard to carry on everyday life, always wondering when somebody’s gonna find you out. Not to mention the solitude of not being able to share your amazing story with anyone else.”
Like all good investigative writers Clay always carried a mini tape recorder. He checked to make sure it was running. Convinced that is was he urged Bill to start from the beginning. He acted as if he already knew what was going on, even though he still believed that the only story here was the family lineage. Clay was not prepared for what he was about to hear.
“My full name is William Marshall Chance. I was born of Mary Bell and Granville Seth Chance. My mother’s real name was Aiyana, but my father wanted her to have a Christian name so he always called her Mary Bell rather than her Ohlone Indian name. I was born in 1736. Two years after my brother, and I am currently 240 years old.”
Utter silence. Clay couldn’t speak (or breath) and Willie didn’t speak again for some time.
What did Clay just hear? He couldn’t digest the information he had been given. As he sat there and the information sank in, Clay convinced himself that Willie was making fun at his expense rather than telling the truth about his lineage. Even though Clay was telling himself that none of this was true his head began to swirl. He thought he was going to pass out at any moment. He listened as if he were in a day dream. He was numb to reality. After, all this can’t be real. Clay looked deep into Willie’s face, and listened to the tone of his voice. He could see that Bill was serious. No matter how improvable Willie’s story was, Clay began to believe ( true or not ) that Willie believed what he was saying.
“All the paintings and photographs that you have shown me are in deed of myself. I now own all of the originals, but some of the prints and copies are still out there. I can’t believe that after all these years someone finally put everything together.”
“I was 18 years old in 1754. My brother and I had taken a job in a California gold mine working for Spanish investors. My older brother resembles my mother (Indian) more than I, and he was able to be hired for the job. He brought me along with him. The Spaniards never would have hired me otherwise. There was extreme prejudice against the White man because of their reputation as thieves, vagabonds and low life’s.
All the miners on the crew worked on a percentage basis. We were each to receive room and board, and 1% of the profits from the mining. There were originally twelve men working the mine. We worked for the first two months using normal safety methods for that day and age, but we had barely retrieved enough gold to even meet our living and expedition expenses. We became desperate for the big strike and threw all caution to the wind. Digging and tunneling went on day and night with little or no consideration to shoring and bracing. Timber beams, which we had to cut ourselves, were spaced further and further apart, and all escape tunnels and most air return tunnels ceased to be dug. The only thing we were interested in was gold, and nothing else.
My brother and I were on the point dig while the other ten men were sleeping or working chase up. (Chase up was the term we used for the men who were taking the ore and dirt out of the shaft, and carrying tools and materials.) I am not sure about what happened next. All I remember is seeing a large vein of gold, smelling a strong, strange odor, and then waking up in total blackness. My back, neck and head were in extreme pain.”
I called out to my brother but got no response. I knew that I had to take inventory of the situation. I located one of the shaft torches and finally got it lit after several minutes. There was a strong breeze and a strong odor blowing in the tunnel, but I did manage to light the torch eventually. My brother was lying in a puddle of blood about 20 feet away from me. I located Carlos, Philip, Juan and Miguel. All dead.
Two of the pull dogs used to pull the ore wagons were still alive. The two living dogs looked as if they were just about to die from starvation even though they had been eating on the third dog. There were several torches, lots of food, water and apparently air. Picks, shovels, ropes, timbers and an ore wagon were in tact. I was in extreme pain from my head and all the way down to my upper thighs on the back side. The mine shaft was approximately three and one half feet high; but even that was more than I could straighten up to. I was getting very concerned about my back!”
Willie said there was no way to know how long he had been trapped in the shaft. He knew it had been quite a long time because he was very hungry, the corpses were heavily decayed, and the two pull dogs had more than haft eaten the other pull dog that had been killed in the cave in. After several days Bill has able to dig through the debris. How wonderful it was to be standing in the fresh air with the hot California sun shining in his face. Willie was relieved to discover that he was still able to stand erect. He had feared that his back was broken.
After he got out he buried the dead miners, but left the remains of the third dog for the other two to eat. He could have given them some of his food, but why? He didn’t know how long his food supply would have to last.
Willie also knew there would never be any rescue attempt. It was obvious that the surviving miners had already fled and abandoned the site some time ago. Since the mine had been unprofitable the departing miners simply carved a sign and posted it above the entrance to the shaft that read “RIP”, as was common for those times.
The remainder of the shaft was in remarkably good condition except for the one section near the side where the collapse was most prevalent. Willie said that he had laughed quite loudly and said, “I’m going to die a rich man.”
Willie knew he had seen a rich vein before the collapse, and the shearing had exposed a very rich deposit of gold. A huge vein. “The Mother Load.” he was sure. A rich prize the Sierra Madre Mountains rarely gave up so easily.
Willie had a searing pain hit in the back of his head. The pain was excruciating. He almost lost consciousness. He reached back and felt a large sliver of wood stuck in the back of his head, and he thought it was going to cause his death. He decided he had to get it out. He tore the sleeve off his shirt to stop any bleeding that might occur. Then he grabbed the piece with both hands and pulled.
According to the Sun’s position when he woke up Willie guessed he’d been unconscious about two hours. Apparently he had lived through it and had tore the sleeve off for nothing.
The Confession Continues
Not in Clay’s wildest dreams had he ever imagined anything like what he was hearing, he thought he had discovered a story about a strong gene pool, and nothing more. He knew that he was only being told the story because Willie thought he already had figured it out, so he had to be careful how he reacted and how he worded any further questions.
“Go on Willie. Let’s hear the rest.” He said.
“Well; I kept my survival a secret so I could mine the gold without the company knowing anything about it; at least the easy pickins. It might end up that the vein would dry up quickly, so I wasn’t takin any chances. I decided I didn’t want to draw attention to the mine by bringing out large quantities of gold. After all, the mine was technically still owned by the Spanish investors. I just pulled out some as I needed it at first. That way it could remain undetected. I didn’t even take the gold to a nearby assay office. I went to considerable effort to hide my wealth.”
“The 1763 painting that you had seen had been commissioned by the Spanish investment group to help them promote the mine to other investors, but after the cave in it was no longer of any value to them. The artist was free to do with it as he wished. I had bought the painting so I could have a painting of my brother and myself together.
“I was becoming bored and longed for more human companionship, so I joined up to fight in the Civil War. While fighting in ‘The War Between the States’ I was bayoneted in the stomach and shot in the head, but never died.
In my absence thieves broke into the building where I was keeping the painting and some other valuable, somewhere between 1863 and 1865. Later I was able to buy back the original, but copies of it had already been made and put in print.”
Clay interjected at this point, “That brings up a very interesting point. What about all the wars the United States has been in for the past 200 years?”
Willie said that he had fought in almost every war the United States has ever been in. He had fought in many Indian skirmishes, battles with the Mexican’s, the French, British, Fur Companies, Mercenaries, and Land Barons. He’d even fought in some of the unpublicized range wars against the railroads. I’ve been in and out of the military dozens of times. Revolutionary War, Mexican War, Spanish War, War of 1812, Civil War, Indian Wars, WWI, WWII, Korean and Vietnam. You name it I was in it.
Willie told Clay that Clay needed to keep mind that it wasn’t that he was super patriotic. Most of the United States didn’t even exist when he was getting involved with what was going on. Willie was extremely rich, lived a long time, often bored, couldn’t be killed (as far as he knew), and these were exciting times to be living in and he wanted to be involved. Think about it; during the Revolutionary War I was already 40 years old and looked a felt 20.
“Wow” said Clay. “But can we get back to the gold mine and the accident and how your lie proceeded?”
Willie told Clay that he continued to mine the easy pickins for a few years. He wasn’t sure if it was two years or five since it easy to lose track of time when you’re all by your lonesome. He went to Ohlone Indian tribe occasionally for what little he could trade with them. Willie was welcomed by the Ohlone’s since his mother had been Ohlone and Willie spoke the language. If he needed something that the Ohlone’s couldn’t provide he could take some gold dust to the nearest settlement and trade for it. He didn’t have to worry about being exposed because he rarely needed anything that he didn’t already have, and because the settlements kept coming and going. They never seemed to last very long, especially the fur trading company settlements.
“About the time I was in my early to mid twenties (I wasn’t sure since I didn’t even know what year it was), I started thinking about taking on what they called a full time woman. There weren’t towns back then, just settlements, outposts, forts and wagons traveling the trails. Most people were Mexican or Indian or a mix thereof, and very few whites. Willie didn’t really care. People are people, and Whites actually had the worst reputation. Most of the other races considered them thieves, dirty (unbathen) drunkards and untrustworthy.”
Willie discovered the year was 1761 and he was 25 year old. He knew that he didn’t have a heavy beard growth, but he considered that a blessing. But Willie didn’t look like 25. Most men of that era were already looking weathered and worn by 25. Most of the women that Willie talked to did not believe him when he gave his age. They accused him of being 17 or 18 and thought he was just spoofin them. Willie could fully understand why people thought this, after all, he had eyes too.
About this time Willie began calling on 16 year old Betsy Watson. They began to court and two months later they were married. Courtship in those days was different, there were no long engagements. He and his new wife headed off for their life of seclusion together in California. Back where the mine was. Back where Willies life was. Willie and Betsy were married for over 50 years before Betsy passed away, a very long time for those days.
Willie said that after Betsy and he had been married for three years. Their first son, Daniel, was about one and a half and his wife was 7 months pregnant with his first daughter, Lilly. After supper (lunch as it is now called), his wife brought it up again how young he looked. Now that they had been married for two years, she was 18 and he was 27, and they looked the same age. He told her that he couldn’t explain it. His Father and Mother seemed to age normally when they were alive, he didn’t know why he looked so young. He told her not to let it concern her.
Eight more years passed and Willie said Michael, James and Thomas were born during this period. It’s now 1771, Betsy was 26 and he was 35. He still looked 20 or so, but not Betsy. Life was hard on women folk in that era and Betsy aged equal to other women. She was 26 and looked more like 40. Even though they had wealth, medical care was non-existent and child birth and child raising wore on her. Their oldest son Daniel is nine and Willie is looking more like his older brother rather than his father. About this time Betsy and Willie discussed the fact that her parents were getting older and they had been told her parents were in poor health. Willie and Betsy decided that they should plan a visit before her parents die. Unlike with most frontier families, money was no issue, bu they did have to wait for the weather to break in the Spring.
“Come Spring and we headed out to her parents. Being accustomed to nothing but open air breathing we could smell the sewage and decay within 15 miles of their town. We were amazed at what we saw when we arrived. Never had we seen so many white people in one place. There must have been 150 white people living there. There were stores, and shops, liveries, dry goods stores, feed stores, stage coach offices, and much, much more. But the bad part was that there was sickness and decay. We saw filth, trash, sewage, and dead rotting animals laying about. It was disgusting. I saw many men who I had known from 10 years earlier. I couldn’t believe how they had aged. Men of 35 looked like 50 or 60 rather than 35. No one in town that remembered me would believe who I was or that I was Betsy’s husband. Betsy’s family was extremely glad to see us. The visit was a total surprise to them. We hadn’t notified them that we were coming since we knew we would get there before the mail did.”
“It was a very joyful reunion, as it should have been, because we all knew that this was the last time we’d ever live to see each other. Dining over the next few days was not stop. We have every imaginable thing to eat. There was everything that a person could ever want. We had Turkey, squirrel, rabbit, vulture, elk, buffalo, head cheese, cold boiled pork, goat, venison sandwiches, buttermilk, pork chops with pork gravy, cured ham, biscuits, breads of all types, roast beef, steaks, salt rining, and tart bread. There were sour pickles, cheese, roast pig, boiled taters, crackers, apples, fruits, yams, patty pans, cookies, dried berry pie, pumpkin pie, maple syrup candy, clove apples and hasty pudding. And that was just a sampling of everything we had. One of the neighbors brought over the best tasting beaver I’d ever eaten.”
“We had many a great conversation.” Willie said. But he indicated that the main topic of conversation was him and his appearance. Willie kept telling them it was the good clean country living, but he couldn’t explain why it hadn’t worked on Betsy. Betsy’s brother, Robert, was only nine we they left, and now, 10 year later, he looks every bit as old as Willie and is talking non-stop about fighting the British for all their miss-treatment of the colonies.
Betsy’s father asked Willie to go into town with him the next day and pick up some special supplies for their visit. Willie was happy to spend time alone with him and gladly went into town. When they were in town Betsy’s father suggested they get something a little stronger than milk or water to drink. They entered the pub and ordered a pint of ale for each. Others came in and after everyone had had considerable rounds one of the men started a fight with Willie concerning the British. Willie was doing well at protecting himself until a second man grabbed him from behind. That is when the first one stabbed him in the stomach.
Willie was taken to what was called a Doctor and the Doctor told Bill’s father-in-law to take him home so he could die with his wife and children. Willie’s father-in-law rented a wagon to transport Willie home so he could die. Much to everyone’s surprise, within 3 days there was no sign of ever having been injured, and to Betsy’s families astonishment, two days after that Bill and Betsy were on their way home as if nothing had ever happened.
Willie told Clay that four days after leaving his wife’s folks, the entire family, (except him), was down with consumption, dysentery, or something horrible . Since there was no medical diagnosis Willie never knew for sure what they had contracted, all he knew was that it had hit them hard, and he knew that “civilization” was to blame. Betsy was weakened severely and took several months to recover even though she never really fully recovered. Willie suspected that it had weakened her heart. They lost Lilly, Michael and James. Daniel and Thomas became very, very ill. Bill was doing his best to bath and feed the rest of his family. He swore right then and there that he would never again expose his family to the plagues, filth and diseases of civilization.
By 1773 Willie was 37 years old and looked 20. His wife Betsy was 28 and looked 45. Daniel was 11 and Thomas was 2. Angeline was born sickly and died two days after her birth. Bill didn’t particularly want to fight in the Revolutionary War (the War for Independence), but he felt the need to since he did not want to be under British rule. He knew that the British attitude was that the Colonists were nothing more than slaves to serve His Royal Majesty and the Crown. Willie was much more independent than that. Willie had left for the Revolutionary War with Daniel (11) in charge as the oldest male.
Willie had quit telling people his real age by now. He was 37 when he signed up as a 20 year old, and even that was challenged by many of the other soldiers. They intended to turn him into a drummer boy or a flag bearer until he showed them that he could out shoot and out ride the best of them.
It seemed strange to Willie, but thinking back on it the Revolutionary War was the most pleasant war that he had ever fought in. It was filled with simple little hit and run skirmishes by the group he was with. Everyone on both sides behaved themselves like gentlemen, and when it was over; it was over. In contrast ninety years later was the vilest war he ever fought in. The Civil War. It was bloody, vicious and heartless. It was a war without mercy or honor. It was a war of ignorance, greed and thievery that tore the whole country apart.
Four years passed before Willie was able to return home from the Revolutionary War. Daniel was not 15 and looked close to the same age as Willie. Betsy looked like a much older sister, or aunt, or even his mother. Age wise life went on much this way for the next 20 years. Soon his son looked like his father and his wife looked like his grandmother.
“In 1796, I was 60 years old and still looked about 20. Nine out of 10 men born in 1736 were already dead. The life expectancy back then was probably about 45 or 50 for men and even less for women.”
Willie was very glad that they lived in a secluded area and were rarely visited by outsiders. This kept the talk of his condition to a minimum and allowed him to continue life in a semi normal way. But even so, Betsy, Daniel, Thomas and he decided to alter their linage to outsiders that they came into contact with. By now Willie had managed to legally acquire deed to the mine and several thousand acres around the mine as well. They were free to live anywhere they wanted, of course, but never went too far from the mine for very long since this was home.
June 6th 1811, Betsy died at the beautiful age of 66. This was extremely old for women in those days. Willie was heartbroken but he said he felt joyful and thankfulness to have shared 50 years with this wonderful lady. He was now 75 (going on 20). Daniel had died at the age of 62, and Thomas, who had posed as Bill’s father for a number of years, died at the age of 70. Coincidentally both Daniel and Thomas lived to be the exact age of the year they were born in. Daniel was born in 1762 and died at 62. Thomas was born in 1770 and died at 70. Thomas, who was the last surviving of Willie’s immediate family, was outlived by his 104 year old father.
The extended family had many grand children and great grand children, and even some great great grandchildren, but Willie had grown tired of the charade and grown accustomed to seclusion and cherished his privacy. He had grown weary of watching his family die long before himself, and chose to separate himself from the pain. He had what he needed. Willie would never leave the mine of course, but he could not deal with those that die. Willie set up trusts for the living lineage, but then he just stepped out of their lives and made sure they could never discover where the money had came from.
By 1872 Willie was 136 years old and was still looking 20. His immediate family was but a memory as life went on, but he wanted answers for himself and the memory of his family. He was afraid to visit a doctor to try and establish what was going on with his lifespan. But it did bother him some times, all the unanswered questions. “Why do I seldom get sick? Why am I still 20? Why am I still alive? How long will I live? Why have I been fatally wounded six times in the last 136 years? Was it even possible for him with his condition to be killed in normal ways?”
Willie knew that there were many evil and anxious people in the world. Does he dare let anyone know his secret? Carpet baggers, a country divided and split by the Civil War, and in some places the Civil War was still raging twenty years after it was officially over. Willie knew that he could be imprisoned in a hospital or institution and be cut into pieces to see what makes him tick if evil people discovered his unique situation. He would never be able to have a life to himself again, if he was even allowed to live at all. These are frightening questions with potentially horrific answers. Willie wanted answers, but decided that he had to put these questions out of his mind for now. After all, there’s plenty of time.
As Willie explained to Clay, money was of no consideration when deciding what to do with his life. Willie enjoyed getting to know people on a short term basis. He enjoyed learning new things. He enjoyed adventure, exploration and education. Because of these things Bill considered himself the original “Job Jumper”, and a renaissance man. He was always on the move, and always looking for new things to learn, and new stimulation, but always ready to get back to his true life at the mine too.
Willie joined a survey crew and headed for Colorado. The crew was led by Ferdinand Hayden. “That would be the third picture you discovered.” He told Clay.
Willie joined up with the crew so he could find an old Colorado doctor he’d hear about without drawing attention to himself. He figured that if the doctor was not the reliable and trustworthy person that he had heard he was, then he would simply disappear back to California. Just another missing vagrant worker. Who would notice or care? Another good thing about this doctor was that he was old and Willie knew if the doctor tried to tell Bill’s story to anyone they’d think he was senile. Even if the doctor did not tell anyone about Willie at least Willie would only have to be concerned about it for a few years.
Willie located Dr. Casebolt on the same day the photograph was taken. In those days traveling photographers took pictures of cowboys and work crews and made handsome profits doing it. Easterners wanted to see the Cowboys and Indians, and the cowboys and workers were always anxious to send pictures East to their families who never go to see these family members.
Dr. Casebolt was about 70 years old and he himself was dying of tuberculosis. Willie swore the doctor to secrecy and prepared him to the fact that he was going to hear an unbelievable story. The old doctor looked at him, smiled and said he had heard everything. The doctor listened quietly while Willie told his story. The doctor looked at him and said he had no idea of how to explain Willie’s situation. He acted excited but also acted as if he thought Willie might just be having some fun at an old man’s expense. He asked for some proof. Willie had nothing that he could think of. Dr. Casebolt checked him out as best he could but could, but could not explain anything to Willie. He suggested that maybe this was a freak of nature, and suggested that Willie should see another doctor in 50 to 100 years and that maybe medicine will have advance by then, and or maybe Willie could gather some proof. Dr. Casebolt did venture a guess that maybe the mine accident had something to do with the condition since Willie had been aging normally up until that point.
Willie told Clay that he continued his life trying new challenges. He was a farmer, surveyor, cowhand, soldier, lumberjack, or whatever other jobs he wanted to do over the course of the next 75 years. This constant changing of jobs was his way of eliminating boredom and stagnation in his life.
“After all, it takes considerable effort to stimulate a brain that is 211 years old” Willie said.
“Modern Technology has been wonderful as a stimulus, but terrible from the standpoint of verification and documentation. It doesn’t matter how good a person is at doing something, they always have to be able to prove where they learned how to do it and who they used to work for. Falsification of documentation became a way of life for Willie, but at least he was rich and could buy the necessary paperwork.
“Social Security registration, drivers license, college degrees and banking, all needed verification. Now they’re coming out with something called Credit Cards; and this will make it even worse. I’ll bet that some day we won’t even have actual money.” Willie said.
Willie liked working for other people and meeting and working with others, but for the most part it’s smarter to travel to less developed countries or run his own business. Many of the companies he owned were ran by much more knowledgeable people who had worked in those fields. Willie had figured out early that a person only needs documentation to work for someone, documentation is not necessary to own the company. He actually had owned a Dentist office one time and had five (5) dentists that worked for him, but even though he wasn’t a dentist, he could still own a dentist office. The same is true of almost anything.
“Willie; have you ever discovered to this day what is going on with your longevity?” Clay asked.
“Why you don’t age or die? This has to be the greatest scientific breakthrough of all time. Do you know for sure why you don’t age?”
“Around 1901 I first heard tell of a new type of specialty doctor called a Neurologist. I learned of a Dr. Michael Trowbridge who was living in Paris, France. After I got some information about him I decided to go and see him. He was a lot younger than I prefer (35 or so), but these specialists are all quite young. I was disappointed that he didn’t speak English. I did speak some French of course, but not fluently enough to relay such a delicate story.”
“I was excited to find out that he spoke Spanish (my native tongue), fluently. I sat in Dr. Trowbridge’s office and discussed with him that I must have him sworn to secrecy, not just the normal doctor/patient confidentiality, but top secret. He agreed somewhat reluctantly, but I think the Doctors reluctance was primarily because of the abnormal request. I further explained that what I was about to tell him would sound crazy, but that I had also brought proof with me so that he would be able to believe.” Willie said.
Willie didn’t know which approach would be best. To instantly get into the meat of the subject or to lead into gradually. After all; he had traveled to France to see this man and didn’t want him to throw him out of his office without first examining him, and helping him with a prognosis.
Willie decided the best approach was to show Dr. Trowbridge all his proof and documentation that he had brought with him and let the Dr. come up with the idea of Bills aging process.
Dr.Trowbridge said, “If I understand correctly your body does not function quite like anyone else’s body. According to this documentation you are currently over 150 years old, but have the mind, body and energy level of a 20 year old. Is that correct?”
“Yes”, said Willie.
“Very interesting”, said Trowbridge. Nothing more. No excitement, no disclaimer, not even a request to call an associate, or a psychiatrist was suggested. Just. “Very interesting.” Willie didn’t know if Trowbridge believed him, or was just humoring him. But he proceeded.
Clay was told that Willie then began explaining everything to Dr. Trowbridge. The doctor stopped Willie and notified his receptionist that she should clear his calendar for the remainder to the day. At this point Willie knew that the doctor was taking him seriously. Then Willie gave the doctor his ideas on what was going on, and he waited for his to reply. The doctor asked him if he would be willing, under strictest secrecy of course, to enter the hospital for four or five days for a complete neurological workup. His preliminary diagnosis was that Willie’s pituitary gland had been altered in the 1754 mine cave in, but he couldn’t know for sure without a complete workup. The doctor sat motionless and emotionless while waiting for Willie’s reply.
Willie couldn’t tell if the doctor was serious about the workup, or this was a trick to enter him into an insane asylum. Either way, he agreed to the doctors request. If this was a trick, then he’d just change his story and deny that he had ever told this story to the doctor and suggest that they evaluate the doctor.
The hospital was filthy and antiquated by today’s standards, but it was the best that could be expected back in 1901. Around 2 P.M. on the third day of the stay, Dr. Trowbridge entered Willie’s room. “Mr. Chance. We need to talk.” He said. “All evidence and all tests show and prove that you are a raving lunatic. All but one! The white blood cell count is extremely high, even for a 20 year old. The white count is more than double what it should be. This could be explained by over active pituitary gland, or other hyper activities with the immune system, but nothing can be said for sure without exploratory surgery to see exactly what is going on inside. And of course, there are other possible explanations too, assuming that everything you say is true.”
There is was no way that Willie was going for that! He was not about to sign his own death warrant just to find out why he is still alive. What kind of irony would that be?
The next suggestion the doctor had was much more to Willie’s liking. “Check back in with me in 10 or 20 years to see how the Neurology field has advanced, and see if we can come up with a more definitive answer. After all; what’s 20 years to you?” The doctor then took pictures of Bill to put in his secrete file so they will have comparison proof for later use as necessary.
Dr. Trowbridge was right. Willie decided there was not really hurry. Based on what the doctor had told Willie, Willie decided his pituitary gland had possibly suffered some damage during the cave in. He remembered the large piece of wood he had pulled out of the back of his head too. This was good enough for him for now. He did not want to be cut open. Willie knew for a fact that the pituitary gland was not the sole answer. He believed that there were probably a combination of occurrences that had led to his situation. Probably gasses or something to do with the environment in the mine, but definitely not just his pituitary and he knew this for a fact.
Willie was very calm while telling his story to Clay. As a reporter Clay had known many kooks and liars, but never had he known any person to tell such a far out story with such ease and confidence. Willie may have the body of a 20 year old, but he had the unhurried, easy attitude of the typical senior citizen.
CLICK. The tape recorder went off. A quick refill and off he went again.
Willie continued, “Another 40 years had come and gone since my visit to Dr. Michael Trowbridge. The doctor is no longer in France, but a Neurologist name Dr. Trowbridge is listed in the San Francisco Bay area. If this is the same doctor he must be at least 75 (if he’s still alive,) and I’m still 20. I decided to make an appointment for a visit.”
“The receptionist answered the phone and told me the doctor was with another patient and could not come to the phone. I told her I would hold long enough for her to tell him that Bill Chance is on the phone. Two minutes later a young man’s voice said ‘Hello’.
I learned that my Dr. Trowbridge had retired and that his son, James Trowbridge had taken over the practice. I took this as a good omen. Ironically the two Neurologists were Michael and James Trowbridge the same names of two of my dead sons, Michael and James.
Willie relayed that Dr. James Trowbridge said that his father had mentioned the name of Willie Chance and made him promise to always remember it, but the father had remained faithful to his promise to Willie, and had never told James why he should remember the name.
James arranged a meeting that evening with his dad, Willie and himself. Both doctors were very excited to see Willie, and Willie was very excited to see them as well, but their meeting had to wait about four (4) hours until James’ office was closed.
Because Willie had to wait for four hours before the meeting it seemed like weeks, and he didn’t every think it would be time. When Willie entered the doctor’s office, there stood 75 year old Michael. Willie was instantly drawn to him and they embraced one another with genuine love and affection. There was an undeniable bond between the two men. Of course, Willie knew why he was drawn to Michael. Michael was the only other living person that he had shared his entire life events with.v Michael had kept Bill’s secrete as promised, and possibly Michael and James will be the solution to his 200 year old riddle.
Willie knew why he was drawn to Dr. Michael Trowbridge, but he did not know exactly why Michael was so drawn to him. Maybe Willie represented life eternal to the old doctors. Maybe the doctor knew that as long as Bill lived the doctors memory would live on through Willie, or maybe seeing that Willie was still 20 made the doctor feel 20, maybe something much deeper than all of these. Willie thought that maybe the doctor felt so strongly about Willie because Willie had made him believe in a fairy tale, and it came true. Tears came to the eyes of both men as they looked at each other and hugged again.
James did not know what to make of the two men’s behavior and was quick to say so.
“Hey, what’s going on here?” he asked.
Michael told him to read my file and look at the pictures while the two old friends talked. Michael was so easy to talk to. It was so nice to be able to discuss his life with someone without having to hide anything or worry about slipping up and accidentally telling the truth about anything.
“What kind of crap is all this?” Dr James Trowbridge blurted out.
Michael just looked at him, smiled, and said “Did you look at the photographs?”
While James listened on in disbelief and astonishment James looked back and forth, and back and forth at Willie and the photos. the only thing that James could think of was that this guy had came to see his dad 20 years ago, and now his son was showing up and pretending to be the one Dr. Michael had seen.
It was difficult to convince James’ that Willie was in deed the original patient. Willey relayed the whole story to him from the beginning. It finally sank into James and after what seemed like a thousand questions from James, James agreed to do a complete new workup on Willie.
Willie was entered into the hospital the following morning. Neurology and hospitals had come a long way since 1901. Willie had X-Rays taken, secretions taken from every portion of his body; needles stuck in, pulled out, and twisted in circles. Not in his wildest dreams had he ever imagined that so many tests could be done with the human body. EEG’s, EKG’s, Sonograms, agility tests, endurance tests, mental tests, balance, motor reflex, eye, ear, coordination, speed, strength, memory; you name the test and Willie had it. He felt like he deserved a college degree just for having survived.
After two weeks of testing, Michael and James announced that they wanted to cut the back of Willie’s head open and biopsy a small piece of his pituitary gland. Willie was very reluctant. Michael explained all the scientific ramifications. They would only take a tissue small sample of the pituitary and by looking at it through a microscope, and by exposing it to various chemicals, they would know 100% or sure what Willie wanted to know. Again, Williel knew that the pituitary gland was not responsible for his longevity, but decided to go along with their request.
Willie didn’t completely trust the medical field and all the unknown technicians, but both Michael and James assured Willie that they would personally be conducting all procedures and tests. The thought occurred to Willie that he had to do this for Michael as well as himself. He knew that if he didn’t do this now Michael wouldn’t live long enough to find out all the answers and share in the excitement. James tried every argument he could think of to exert pressure on Willie to do the procedure. The scientist in James was not willing to let this go. Willie finally agreed to the procedure, but more for Michael than for himself, and even though he never told Dr. Michael, Willie did not fully trust James.
The procedure was a simple one and twenty four hours later they had an answer. James, Michael and Willie met at James’s office and James explained. The tissue samples and visual examination of Willie’s hair, skin, blood, urine, sperm, and feces, show to be and proved to be, that of an Indian/White male, approximate age 18-22. All X-Rays prove to be that of any normal 18 to 22 year old male. Pituitary gland; visual examination reveals the following. An injury in the upper 1/4th quadrant. There were two biopsy samples taken. One in the upper ¼ (in front of the injury) and one in the lower 3/4ths (behind the injury). The lower 3/4th revealed both by visual, chemical and tissue sample to be of an 18-22 year old male. The upper 1/4th revealed both visual, chemical and tissue samples to that of a person between the ages of 19 and 21 year old.
Both Michael and James were in agreement that it is not 100% definitive that the pituitary gland injure is the sole reason for Willie’s condition. Having said this, both doctors concurred completely that during the mine collapse Bill had sustained major injuries to the head, neck and spinal areas. This damaged the pituitary gland as well. By all medical standards these injuries should have resulted in death. Whatever went on in Bill’s body during the long period of unconsciousness and immobility, a healing process began unlike any that had ever occurred before.
It would appear that the blow to the head and the long splintered wood through the pituitary gland has altered the gland in just the perfect manner to cause a constant reproduction signal for all organs, including the skin, (which is the body’s larges organ). All parts of the body, except the upper 1/4th of the pituitary received the necessary signal, including hormones, blood, oxygen ratio, and redevelopment. The doctor’s prognosis was “Eternal Life”. Even if the upper one fourth of the injured pituitary dies, it is doubtful that he would be affected seriously. As Willie expected after all the testing, there still was no 100% definitive answer.
Willie did want to know what his “Achilles’ Heel” was. Michael ventured to possibly electrocution, drowning, poisoning, removal of vital organs, decapitation or being destroyed by fire are probably the only things that could kill Willie; and only they would succeed under the proper conditions. Willie knew that some of what the doctor said was right, but some it wasn’t because he had already experienced many of the things the doctor mentioned. He had received severe electrical shocks on several occasions, he had drowned once, and had different types of poisoning on more than one occasion. Willie had been stabbed in the stomach, shot twice in the stomach, shot once in the chest and once in the head, he’d been exposed to every conceivable disease, and yet he’s still alive. Willie had never had any vital organs removed, but some of them had been injured. Obviously he had never been decapitated or burned to death, but the severe burns he had received healed very quickly. Willie found all of this interesting, but he still knew that the pituitary gland was not the sole reason for his longevity.
Michael and Willie were satisfied just knowing all the test results, but not James. He became obsessed with the case. He insisted that Willi did not belong to himself. James said that all humanity has the right to what Willie had. Be begged Willie to think of all the lives he could save, all the suffering he could stop, and all the wonderful things that mankind could accomplish with his gift, his abilities, the magic of eternal life.
World War II was raging in Europe and everyone knew that sooner or later the United States would get into it as well. James urged him to think about all the soldiers he could save. James even tried to seduce Willie with the wealth and power that were at his disposal if he were but to allow the world his gift. James had already forgotten that Bill had unlimited wealth already, and did not want power.
Willie continued talking to James, “Please listen to me> Both you and your father have repeatedly pointed out to me that it is not 100% certain that the pituitary injury is the sole reason for his existence, and I know it’s not.”
Also, Willie tried everything he could to convince James that is a curse and not a blessing. Willie pointed out to Dr. James that not everyone has the same intelligence or the same luck. He pointed out that he himself had had great fortune at being able to amass wealth; there is no guarantee of that with everyone. What about the person doomed to live an eternal life of poverty? And think about yourself James, you’re a young man, but don’t you ever get bored with the monotony of life? Get up in the morning, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, shave, do you job, eat some more, generate trash, takes out trash, get more groceries, go to the bathroom, go to bed, etc.,etc.? The same thing over and over. What about the person that lives to be 300 years old, and never accomplishes more than mediocrity in their life and can never get a fresh start? What about a person that is sold into slavery? What about the person that is sentenced to life in prison? What about the person that believes in Heaven? If they’ve had the procedure and their loved ones haven’t, they can never be reunited in the Heaven. Willie discussed this and many other aspects of eternal life. How about all the loved ones I’ve outlived. The pain is excruciating.
Willie told James, “I wouldn’t cure this condition on my worst enemy.”
It was a real coincidence that the man with eternal life was a firm believer in reincarnation, but was being deprived of a reincarnate for himself. Willie was not a believer of any one religious philosophy, but he did believe that there was something more than just this life. Even ancient philosophers taught the conservation of energy. That energy cannot be created or destroyed, but transferred from one form to another. In Willie’s opinion there is no energy greater than life itself, so therefore it cannot be destroyed, but only transferred. Even this argument did not sway James in the least.
James hounded Willie day and night for the next several months. James ignored and deserted his family and practice. He was totally obsessed with Willie. Even Michael talked to James on numerous occasions in Willie’s behalf, but to no avail.
Michael called Willie and in a heart ripping moment he informed Willie that he had obtained and destroyed all records of Willie’s ever having been to either himself or James. There was no longer any record of his having been a patient in the hospital. There is no record of his ever having any lab work. Michael begged Willie to leave and never contact him or James again.
“Willie, I’m a doctor. I’ll do what I have to stop James’s obsession with you. James is my son, but if I have to I’ll slip him a drug that will make him look like he’s losing his mind. That way no one will believe anything he tells them” said Dr. Michael.
It seems that James had contacted the federal Government; The Office of Scientific Investigation, and was at that moment attempting to convince them that Willie must be apprehended and tested as a matter of the highest National Security, and that the lives of hundreds of thousands of American military men and women were at stake.
Willie told Clay that he knew Michael was correct about James, and what Michael had to do regarding the situation. He also knew that it had to have cost Michael thousands to have all those records altered, and all those people bought off. As requested by Michael, Willie left immediately for home. Willie never even went back to the hotel for his belongings, because he was afraid someone might be looking for him.
Willie was very glad about one thing. Even though he had told James of the events that had occurred, he had never told James any of the specifics of where he lived, where he was from, or anything that James could divulge to track him. Willie had never told James or Michael about the mass of gold that was in the mine or in what location the mine was. Willie felt safe in returning home even though he assumed he was probably a hunted man.
One of the few things that James did know about Willie’s specifics was that he spoke Spanish fluently so Willie did not feel safe going to Spain; at least for a while. So, Peru it will be after getting a few things taken care of. After getting home Willie converted some gold into cash the next morning and transferred several thousand dollars into Michael’s checking account to cover the expenses that he knew Michael must have incurred in his behalf.
Willie decided to forgo Peru for a while. December 7th, 1941 saw to that. After America declared war Willie joined the United States Military. Willie piloted B29 (Flying Fortress) bombers during WWII. He was shot down on four different occasions and his superiors were astounded that he was never severally injured and returned to duty as soon as they would allow it. Willie was highly decorated but chose to never discuss his exploits with anyone.
After WWII Willie stayed in France for a while, but by 1949 Willie was back in the United States. He’d taken a job in an obscure section of the Giant Redwood Forest planting seedlings for the United States Forestry Department. A photographer with a telescopic lens took his picture along with two other men, and then got his name from the payroll clerk. When he discovered what had happened he located the photographer and purchased the picture. The photographer had already sent the negative to the Forestry Department for publication in their magazine. Willie wasn’t terribly concerned since this was a very obscure publication that would primarily be seen by Park Rangers and forestry personnel only.
By the time the Korean War broke out Willie was living in Columbia and working as a clown, but once again the excitement of war pulled at Willie, he joined the Columbian army and fought along side United States troops in this campaign. Willie was now using the name Willie Watson, (his wife’s maiden name).
The next war to come along was the Vietnam War. By this time Willie was living down under in Australia. Willie did not particularly support the United States and the SEATO forces. He believed that this was a war of finances only. He believed that there were surplus ammunition supplies that needed to be used up and replaced to line the pockets of the wealthy, and other alternative reasons. Willie was torn on the question of signing up for the Australian Army to fight in this “Police Action”.
What finally convinced Willie to join was when he began learning of the many atrocities that were being committed throughout all of Asia against the Asian people. Yes, the fact was that fat cats in the munitions business would be getting even richer, but he felt that some good could also be done to help the Asian people. After serving in Vietnam Willie was forced to have his eyes opened and knew that everything about this part of the world is corrupt and vile. Aside from the American Civil War, the Vietnam War was the most vile abuse of humanity that Willie had ever witnessed.
Willie was longing for California again in 1978. He missed California too much. After all; it was his primary residence for over 200 years. California is where his roots are. It was also in 1978 that he took all his memorabilia out of storage and opened “Willies Antiques and Western Memorabilia”. Two weeks to the day after Dr. Michael Trowbridge died at the age of 77.
Dr. James Trowbridge had continued to be obsessed with the case until the very end. Dr. Michael had destroyed all records except what was in James’s head, but James had written down everything he could remember. James had gone as far as to have a secret operation where one of his colleagues (one of the nation’s leading neurologists) operated on James’ pituitary gland in any effort to reproduce the effects. The operation was a failure, of course, but James did try to recreate the same damage as caused by the accident. If James had had all the files and information from his dad, he could have possibly had somewhat better results, but it was destined to fail from the onset. Any way it was looked at however, Willie felt safe in coming home to California.
As Willie and I sat talking, two thoughts entered Clay’s head almost simultaneously. The first thought was that he was sitting on top of the greatest story ever given to any author. A story that he didn’t know what to do with because of the effect his disclosure would have on Willie. The second thought was that his article on the San Andreas Fault had been published last month with two of the photos in it. What if Dr. James Trowbridge (who is now dead) had convinced some federal agents to take his claims seriously and those people were alerted by the article? It had been almost 50 years since Dr. James contacted the Office of Scientific Investigation, (which had now been renamed), but if someone had believed his story, they would certainly still be searching after only 50 years for the man with eternal life.
Clay expressed his concerns to Willie, but Willie did not share his fears. Willie said the odds were against such an occurrence. First of all, he had eluded detection on many occasions, including military service. Dr. James Trowbridge would have had to have gotten a federal agent to believe him, (and that was unlikely) and by now any agent working in 1941 would have reached mandatory retirement. Also, the magazine Clay had published in was a specialty scientific magazine, with a very small circulation, and was very unlikely to be seen by federal agents.
Clay disagreed with Willie’s evaluation, but he’s certainly older and wiser than Clay. Clay couldn’t help but remember a movie he’d seen with Robert Redford, “Three Days of the Condor”. A movie in which the government had special agents that read everything that was ever published anywhere in the world to look for secrete information. This was portrayed as a fiction movie; but what if it wasn’t.
Clay and Willie took a few minutes to discuss Clay’s concerns about what to do with this story, and how it would effect Willie if the word got out. Willie could tell that Clay had genuine concerns and told him not to worry about anything concerning this story. Willie was certain that 99.9% of all people would consider this a work of fiction. “Feel free to use all the accurate facts, dates and names to. If that’s what you want. And don’t worry about any story you might write affecting my gold mine. There have been people looking all over the Sierra Madre mountains for hundreds of years for gold. Sierra Madre is a huge land mass with lots of places to look. And besides, I’ve got millions and millions stashed all over the world in various accounts” Willie said.
Willie also pointed out that he had lived over 250 years, primarily in California, and the State has gotten way too crowded, even in the desert.
“Of course, I’ll have to come back from time to time for old time sake, but living in the United States just isn’t what I need any more” said Willie. Too developed. Too populated.
Maybe Bill might want to go back “Down Under” again, or Europe, or maybe Asia or South Africa, South America, or some Pacific Island. It’s a big world and lots of it is still under developed. And the biggest kicker Willie said was that even if someone believed Clay’s wild story, Willie would outlive them, so none of it mattered.
Clay turned off his tape recorder and sat motionless. He felt that if he got up and left the room he would discover that the whole story had only been a dream. He certainly knew that he didn’t want to leave Willie. Six hours of talking to the most fascinating man on the face of the earth was certainly insufficient time for any writer.
Clay still had a million questions about the true (unadulterated) history of the United States. Events that Bill had lived through, the people he had known, and what about other wives and children Bill had had. Relationships besides Betsy. Willie had alluded to the fact of other loves and families. While looking around Bill’s private room he saw several photos of lovely young women. There was one in particular. An older poster showed her with the name of Rachel Quinton. She was dressed in clothing of the “Roaring 20s” era. What was the story with this dazzling flapper? There was also an extremely beautiful Indian woman with three handsome boys. All three of the boys were obviously of mixed blood.
Clay did not want to leave, but the door unlocked and Willie’s old employee, Ahote entered the room and strongly suggested that Clay leave. Willie looked at Clay and said, “Don’t worry, we’ll talk again.”
Clay had only gone a few steps past the door when he remembered that, in his haste, he had failed to inform Willie regarding his fears about the Feds. When he turned back to the door (which had not gone completely shut) he could see Ahote walking toward Willie. As Ahote approached Willie , Ahote’s stooped shoulders began to straighten up, the old man’s slow wobbly gait transformed into the stride and confidence of a young man, and Ahote pulled off the gray wig and tossed it aside.
The two men hugged with great love and affection, then Ahote asked Bill, ”Why did you share our story with this guy my hermano?” Willie told Ahote that Clay had already figured everything out, and he only filled in a few facts. Willie also emphasized that he trusted Clay, and that he would fill Ahote in on everything a little later.
Then Willie told Ahote, “Do not be concerned dear brother. I did not tell him our story, I only told him my story. He believes you also died in the cave in.”
Willie and Ahote are brothers? Ahote had not been killed in the collapse like Clay thought he had. Willie had never told Clay that his brother had died. He inferred it when he said his brother was lying in a puddle of blood, and Clay assumed he had died. This is why Willie knew for a fact that the Doctors Trowbridge were not correct in their assessment of why Willie had perpetual life, because he and Ahote both were living without dying, and Ahote had not received any injury to his pituitary gland.
Sleep did not come easily to Clay that evening. Not only was his head spinning from the story of Willie (and now Ahote), but he could not relax because of his story that had been published earlier. The two pictures with Willie in them. What if some agent read his story? What if the agent had somehow put two and two together? What if agents were on their way at this very moment to apprehend Willie? And what about Ahote?
Clay decided that his top priority would be to convince Willie and Ahote to leave California immediately. Willie said he was planning on clearing out anyway. What does a quicker departure matter to a man who’s 250 years old? Willie and Ahote have no idea what the Feds will do if they get their hands on them. They’ll spend the rest of eternity as guinea pigs. Even after the government learns the secret to eternal life they probably won’t let them go.
“ I can’t let that happen!”, said Clay.
It had been a restless night and a bright light was shinning in Clay’s eyes. No matter how hard he tried to ignore it he couldn’t. Suddenly he sat straight up in the bed and looked around the room. It was almost 10 A.M. Clay never slept past seven, but since he’d been unable to fall asleep last night he had overslept. Yes he had slept, had he indeed slept and all of this was a fantastic dream. Clay wasn’t sure that yesterday had even taken place . After all; that was a pretty farfetched story. Maybe everything Willie said was only a dream. Clay hit the play button on his recorder. Sure enough; there was Bill telling his story. It had not been a dream!
A quick shave and shower put Clay on his way to warn Willie and indirectly Ahote. After Clay had driven a few blocks he thought to himself that he must be getting paranoid. He thought his was being followed by two men in a plain looking sedan. A very common tactic of law enforcement agents. He made a couple of redundant and unnecessary turns before turning into McDonald’s for an Egg Mac Muffin to go. The sedan was gone, but three blocks later he thought he saw it again. This was too much of a coincidence for Clay.
Clay convinced himself that the Feds would not have spent their time locating Willie. It would be much easier to tail him, and let him lead them to Willie. It also occurred to Clay that the second follow up story on the San Andreas Fault was probably funded by the government. The first report was thorough enough not to need a follow up. The Feds had sent him out here with a blank check. The damn, lousy Feds; and he was sucked right into it.
The tapes! What about the tapes? Clay decided he had to get back to the motel room before the Feds got their hands on the tapes. He’d hidden the tapes where he didn’t think anyone could find them, but he’d feel better when he’d taken care of them properly.
But first he had to lose his tail (if he had one). While doing an article on police training procedures he had learned some tricks that would help him out. Police are taught that 80% of all people trying to outrun or evade the police make only right hand turns. If an officer is pursuing someone and loses them, they are taught to make right hand turns until the find the assailant again. Therefore, Clay would make a series of two lefts and then one right to lose his pursuers. Another trick he had learned was to go the wrong way on a one way street. This causes two things to happen. Assuming that your pursuer is from another city, as Federal Agents usually are, they become disoriented and cannot tail you as easily. Secondly, the feds can’t read the street signs when going the wrong direction, to let other units know where you are. And if they slow down enough to read the signs behind them, this also gives you a better opportunity to elude them. Clay did all of these tactics.
When Clay arrived at the motel he was relieved to find the tapes where he had stashed them. He took them with him to hide in an even better place. The next thing on Clay’s agenda was to telephone Willie.
“I’m sorry, the number you are trying to reach is unreachable.” Announced the recorded message.
Clay got back in his car and took off towards Willie’s, but he did not want to drive up to Willies Antiques and Western Memorabilia, so he went to a local ranch about 3-4 miles from the store. He told the owner that he was a friend of Willies, and that he wanted to surprise him by showing up in cowboy duds and riding a horse. The rancher rented Clay as horse, saddle and duds for $50. This was not exactly neighborly to charge that much in Clay’s opinion, but whatever.
After some time on a quarterhorse, with a choppy uncomfortable gait, Clay arrived at Willie’s. There was no one there. The place was boarded up and looked deserted. He couldn’t believe the almost instantaneous transformation. Obviously Bill and Ahote had done this before and were ready to move instantly.
It made Clay feel good to think that Willie had escaped; it saddened him to think that maybe, just maybe, Willie and Ahote might have thought he betrayed them in some way.
Clay thought to himself, “I should have known that the Feds wouldn’t be able to catch Bill, after all, the man has lots of experience at this sort of thing.”
“I hope that someday, somehow, Bill can safely contact me and lets me know he knows that I was there for him,” Clay said to himself out loud.
There is an interesting sideline to these events. Clay’s publisher that had given him the assignment from the Feds never asked for receipts from the trip, and never asked for the follow up story either. This, of course, confirmed Clay’s belief that the Feds were behind the follow up earthquake story.
As a few weeks passed Clay would often think of Bill and Ahote, the hidden secrets, the untold stories, the mysteries that will never be unlocked. Clay hoped that they are well, he hoped they were happy, but most of all he hoped that the Feds cannot block the publishing of these events.
“If the two of them ever read this story I hope they believe that I had nothing to do with any betrayal.”
Back when Clay and Willie were talking about his life experiences, Willie suggested that Clay learn photography and developing. This way he would never be stifled in his career by needing to have a photographer with him on his assignments. This sounded like sound advice to Clay and he did exactly that, and was very glad that he did.
A few months after returning home Clay received a phone call from a different publisher. He told Clay that he had an assignment for him that would require travel abroad. Clay took the assignment, and then another, and then another. All assignments had full paid travel expense and open ended budgets. The assignments took Clay all around the world, where he had new and exciting adventures.
There have been extensive rumors about Clay and these assignments, but, Clay said, “I cannot confirm or deny, these rumors that I have had secrete meetings on every foreign assignment I’ve been on.”
All works should be considered FICTION whether true or not.
This work is copyrighted.
Go to the “What’s Up” section of this Blog to submit your unpublished manuscripts
Invite your friends to visit our blog at asliceofgolf.net