From scout camps in the 1970’s (1) to present day conversations,
I have heard different versions of this story, yet they are all similar. I summarize them here:
The Lost Cricket
Mountains Gold legend:
In the late 1800’s a cowboy is tending cattle on the flatlands of the Black Rock Desert in
central Millard County, Utah. As can happen in that area, driving winds from an approaching storm stirred up the black desert
sand and fine dust. It wasn’t long before it was a blinding sandstorm.
In no time he lost
sight of his livestock. To make things worse, while leading his horse on foot, he stumbled and fell, lost the reins, and the
animal bolted. The cowboy was on his own.
Seeking shelter from the choking and stinging sand and with no real sense
of direction, he made his way over the rough ground and random sagebrush, sometimes crawling on all fours. As he would later
discover, he had traveled south into the foothills at the north end of the Cricket Mountains. Encountering a number of small
rock ledges, his salvation would come when he happened upon the entrance of a shallow cave and crawled in.
of the fury of the storm, despite his raw hands & face and stinging eyes, he relaxed as best as he could, but only briefly.
Prepared to wait out the storm, but not knowing how long that might be, he began exploring the cave that was now his shelter.
In those days caves such as this could be home to everything from rattlesnakes to cougars. It was wise to find out if he was
in there alone.
Moving deeper into the cave, his eyes had not fully adjusted to the dim light, he tripped over an
old leather bag that was almost completely buried in the sand. Cracked and aged, the bag crumbled as he tried to lift it,
spilling out the contents.
What spilled from that bag is the stuff of this legend. Grain sized placer
gold, pounds of it. The excitement of the find was overwhelming. He began scooping the gold, and filling his pockets, first
his pants, and then his jacket. As he scooped gold from the first bag, he unearthed more bags. They were still intact and
also loaded with gold.
This inspired him to dig deeper. Below the bags he began to unearth bars, crude metal bars that
appeared to be silver, but according to him far to heavy to lift on his own. Excited at the find, but still hostage to the
storm, all he could do was wait, explore, and dig for more. Exactly how much he uncovered is not known.
is where the “LOST” portion of the story begins.
In time, the storm subsided and the cowboy
was able to exit the cave. It was late in the evening. Finding his horse was the first priority, figuring out where he was
came next. He never did find his horse, but in the fading light, he was able to identify a familiar landmark locally known
as “The Cinders”, a series of volcanic cones some 20 miles distant to the southeast. Seeing them, he knew the
Mormon settlement of Fillmore was not far away, just a bit farther east, and that meant safety.
decision had to be made. With no provisions, just pockets full of gold, the options were to spend a cold night on the high
desert huddled in a cave with no fire or food, or set out and begin the long walk to Fillmore.
advantages of staying; he could better document the cave’s exact location in the light of day. The disadvantage, a real
possibility of freezing to death or another storm keeping him trapped in the cave for who knows how long.
to the legend, he decided to leave that night. After mentally landmarking the cave, and with his pockets loaded with gold,
he set out on what would be a more than 30-mile trek.
Though he knew the direction, getting there would
not be as easy as you might think. The cactus and sage covered foothills, alkali flats, sand dunes, and ancient broken lava
flows. Throw in a few rock ledges, a number of dry washes, a couple of shallow stream crossings, and the dark of an almost
moonless night, and you have some idea of what this cowboy faced in making his way to the distant settlement.
had barely set out when the weight of gold in his pants pockets ripped his suspender button and he began loosing his pants,
and his gold. In the darkness, it was impossible to find the lost grains, but knowing the great amount still hidden in the
cave, he did not give this loss much thought.
The hike would take its toll on both
the man and the gold. With each up & over, and down & around, a little more gold was lost from both his pants pockets
and jacket pockets. The extra weight of the gold though lessening with each loss, was still estimated by some at nearly 20
Slow but steady in his progress,
daylight would come long before he made it to town. Still, by late afternoon he was there. Though bruised, exhausted, and
thirsty, his first stop was to a merchant that dealt in gold as well as cash for payment.
exact dollar amount is not known, but legend tells that the cowboy walked away with the equivalent of “Several years
top wages” after selling what gold remained in his pockets. Like any good merchant, the store owner had paid only a
portion of the gold’s value to Hill, making a tidy profit for himself when he in-turn re-sold the gold to a local assayer.
his new found wealth and a bit of recovery time, the cowboy re-provisioned himself and set out to take possession the bags
of gold and hundreds of pounds of silver bars he had left behind just a few nights earlier.
Where's the gold?
Would that it were so easy. He wandered the northern end of the Cricket Mountains for weeks never finding the cave
that had sheltered him that stormy night.
Though frustrated, he was not prepared to give up. Reasoning that if he
could see the cinder cones from the ledge, why then could he not see the ledge from the top of the cones. Crossing the wide
valley yet again, he made his way to the top of the tallest cone and had relatively clear view of the distant valley.
hours at the top, the cowboy scanned the region over and over again, searching for the low ridge that held the cave entrance.
Knowing it had to be there, but never able to locate it, he was finally forced to give up this first attempt.
returned to Fillmore, resting for a few days before buying more provisions. After a day or two he set out once again. For
weeks on end he scoured the region, searching relentlessly for the cave and its riches. He knew it was there, but try as he
might, he never could find it.
It would be months before he would give up altogether, but eventually he
was forced to. Sadly, the legend tells nothing of his ultimate fate.
He never found it, but that
doesn’t mean that someone didn’t.
More than 50 years later a Mexican sheepherder appeared
in Delta, Utah, telling a very similar story. He too had found gold, placer gold, and a lot of it (at least 20 pounds). His
find was supposedly in the House Mountains range, another 30 miles west of the Cricket Mountains. That story is told in “The Lost Mexican Placer” legend also profiled on this site.
these two men find the same gold 50 years apart or is there more than one lost cache in Utah’s west desert? If it is
the same, the sheepherder probably got it all. If not, then a small fortune waits for someone, tucked away in a shallow cave
somewhere at the north end of the Cricket Mountains.