By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
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By Michael Roberts
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Part of her thinks he may have had some idea what he was getting into. "The last few months [before he left], he kept telling me that he loved me and appreciated me," she continues. "And he didn't say a lot of things like that. I don't know if that was a coincidence, or if he knew the danger he was going into, like he might not see me again."
Teton Ken is today's version of the Lost Dutchman. An actor who specializes in depicting the fabled miner, Teton certainly looks the part, having grown a gray beard so bushy it obscures most of his facial expressions. He lives in a trailer that doubles as a staging ground for his act, moving it from one area tourist trap to another. He's the sort of grubby old coot whom kids love and yuppie parents watch with a wary eye.
Teton, whose given name is Ken Eddy, has lived in Apache Junction for a decade and embodies the town's attitude toward the Dutchman myth, literally and figuratively. He plays the part of ol' Jacob Waltz at community events while privately regarding the Dutchman stories with bemused detachment.
Actually, Teton doesn't just play up the myth for the kids who stop by his trailer for story time and a mule ride. Like a lot of locals with experience in the Superstitions, he's been known to guide full-grown men into the bush on treasure-hunting expeditions. For a fee, of course. "The number-one rule is, we stick to the proven trails," he says. Trails that any real Dutchman hunter will tell you lead toward nothing. On the other hand, sticking to such trails is a good way to make it out alive — which is Teton Ken's main goal.
So, seeing how he is the Lost Dutchman, maybe Teton has some insight into the legend. Geologically, there shouldn't be any gold in them hills, at least not a huge deposit in the heart of the range, as Dutchman hunters believe. It's not that there's no gold in the general area — in fact, millions of dollars' worth has been pulled from the nearby hills, and a few pieces of gold-lined quartz show up in the Superstitions from time to time. A mine fitting the Dutchman's description, though, doesn't appear possible. But might there be one rich vein?
Teton pauses. "Let me put it to you this way: There could have been a fluke."
Steve Jakubowski, an assistant park manager at Lost Dutchman State Park, says that although the postage-stamp-sized plot in the gigantic Tonto National Forest isn't the focus of anyone who is serious about searching for the mine, many wannabe prospectors spend a few nights there. "We get gold hunters all the time. I've seen people come in here in $100,000 motor homes, and I've seen people come in here on foot after catching a ride. They are all looking for it," he says. "A lot of them are not the most organized. They're not going too far off, but they want to find the Dutchman's gold."
Some have experienced a "find," Jakubowski says, which is how die-hard prospectors are minted. "They have a big pendant with a piece of gold on it, and they love to show it to you, too," he explains. "That's what got them going. They find one piece like that — one big piece of rock gold in quartz — and they're addicted to prospecting."
Which is to say that small amounts of gold have been found near the Superstitions, though nothing like the Dutchman's lode.
If prospectors are addicts, Louis Ruiz, a salty old shopkeeper who runs the Blue Bird Mine store, is a twelve-stepper. "A mine is a hole in the ground owned by a liar," he spits.
Sure, Ruiz says, he spent time out in the mountains hunting the Dutchman. Then he started developing an interest in geology, concluding that the main range of the Superstitions has been stripped of valuable minerals. Now he believes Waltz actually got his gold by poaching the nearby Bulldog Mine, one of many old-time shafts in the area. "I just came to the conclusion, after wearing out boots, that it ain't out there," he says of the Dutchman. "It wasn't a waste of time — I had a good time out there hiking and saw some pretty scenery."
He's not the only Dutchman hunter who'll tell you "the gold is in the hunt," which is maybe the only thing that all hunters can agree on.
The current owners of the Bulldog Mine, for example, don't agree that it could be the source of the Dutchman's ore. How do they know? They've had it tested against some purported Dutchman ore, which they own, handed down from old Dick Holmes. Considering he's a relative newcomer, born back east before moving to Arizona in the '60s, it's a little surprising that Ron Feldman and his family are the top outfit in the Dutchman-hunting game. But then, they own the OK Corral riding stables, which take city folk on tours of the area, complete with history lessons from their guides. The gold is truly in the hunt for the Feldmans, who charge $1,200 a head for one of their three-day Dutchman-themed riding trips.