Places: Buzzard’s Roost, Cement, OK
Published: October 27, 2009
Modified: November 3, 2009 at 3:57 pm
It’s so windy up here I’m afraid the photographer is going to die. Chris Landsberger is standing atop the roost, a jumble of limestone boulders perched atop a knoll in Cement. He’s got a tripod to help his balance, but this wind — wow. It’s charging at him like the Sooners defense, fast, powerful and vicious, and all it’d take is a momentary stumble to send him plummeting 50 or 60 feet.
It’s risky, for sure, but that’s what makes this so cool. I’ve seen “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” so I’d be disappointed if this wasn’t at least a little dangerous. We’re hunting buried treasure. It’s not supposed to be easy.
Buzzard’s Roost (or Buzzards Roost or Buzzard Roost, depending on the source) is a real-life outlaw hideout in the Keechi Hills, not that any outlaws can be found here anymore. Frank and Jesse James climbed these same rocks in the 1870s, carving signs and symbols on the stones, secret runes to remind them where they’d hidden caches of money, ammunition, maps and gold. They’d planned to reclaim it all, but time and circumstances worked against them, and most folks in this part of southwest Oklahoma believe there are riches yet to be found.
Back in the 1930s, treasure hunter Joe Hunter unearthed a tea kettle on or near the roost. Inside it was “a pocket watch, a copper treasure map, a ring, a bar of smelted gold and other metals, and coins,” says James Dodson, who led us here. “The main thing was the map, and the kettle itself was a clue on the map.”
I’ve seen a copy of the map. I’ve seen the pocket watch. They’re potent talismans, imbued with history and possibility, and it’s easy to understand why men — mostly men — walk these hills today, flipping over rocks, examining trees, searching for some lost clue that will unlock outlaw mysteries.
The wind blows, and Landsberger makes his way to safety. We’ve walked in the footsteps of Jesse James. We’ve seen his hidden signs.
Now if we could just find some treasure.
— Ken Raymond, Staff Writer