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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Outgoing (05/05/11)

TITLE: The Devil's Elbow
By Virgil Youngblood


John Singer halted the grulla pony on the crest of a wind shaped sand dune. The Devil’s Elbow lay below him, that slight outward bend in the coastline of La Isla Blanca, the White Island. Ships caught in violent storms, in the confusing sea offshore where the north and south bound Gulf currents collide, had often been tossed in pieces onto the beach. No one knew that better than the horse’s rider.

The north wind, howling unceasingly for three days, had an icy bite to it. Even so, the morning sky was washed in blue without hint of rain. Pulling his coat tight Singer reached down and retrieved a bronzed telescope from a saddlebag. Raising it to his eye he scanned between the shore and waterline.

The relentless wind had pushed the foam-topped waves away from the beach, exposing sand flats and little tidal pools usually hidden beneath salty brine. Slack high tide was ending. The ebb tide would vacuum water off the hard sand, exposing even more beach. An extreme low tide was going to occur. A day like this was rare. Singer remembered the treasure he found the last time it happened.

At first he had thought it was only a board he could use, partially buried on the ridge between the second and third gut (channels paralleling the shore). But it was much more. It was a gift, he decided, from the Espiritu Santo (Holy Ghost). In April 1554, almost three hundred years earlier, a violent storm scuttled three of four Spanish naos. They were outbound from Mexico to Spain with gold, silver and exotic treasure. They sank offshore along this coastline.

Surely it was the Espiritu Santo that had gifted him with $80,000 in treasure now safely hidden in a white sand dune he called “money hill.” Other coins and jewelry, some from a pirate’s stash, were hidden between two oak trees near the ranch house. With luck, on a day like today, his wealth would increase.

Singer grinned, thinking of his brother. Isaac’s made a fortune with his sewing machine invention. But I haven’t done bad either. After a storm cast their schooner high upon the beach, his family had fallen in love with this remote island. They built a small house from shipwreck lumber, planted a garden, acquired cattle and lived off the land.

Padre Balli, settling here earlier, had attempted to convert the cannibalistic Karankawa Indians to Christianity. To honor Padre Balli, some began calling it “Padre’s Island.” The majority of the Karankawas, refusing conversion or confinement, chose suicide.

After the padre died, Singer bought the priest’s ranch using some of the treasure he had found.

Offshore, white sails reflected the morning sun, drawing his attention. The view in the spyglass knotted his stomach. Union gunboats were patrolling the coast. The Civil War could no longer be ignored. If soldiers landed on the island ...

Wheeling the pony, he jabbed heels into its sides, racing for the ranch house. With his family and all the necessities they could fit in a small boat, they rowed hurriedly across the shallow Laguna Madre to find sanctuary on the Texas mainland.

It was four years before Singer and his family returned to Padre’s Island to retrieve their stash. The house was gone, the lumber used for firewood by the Union soldiers. A hurricane had rearranged the sand dunes. There were no oak trees. Try as he might, Singer did not recognize any landmarks or discover his hoard.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Padre Island National Seashore, the central part of Padre Island, is about 80 miles in length and 2 miles wide in places. It is the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world, as pristine today as when John Singer roamed its shores.

When the tide ebbs after a storm, a drive down the beach is a delightful way to discover what the turbulent waves tossed ashore or uncovered. It is prime “scavenger hunt” time. Silver coins and pieces of wrecks are still being found. John Singer’s treasures, and that of many shipwrecks and pirates, are waiting for someone to find them.

The island is the real treasure. Come enjoy God’s handiwork. Stand on Devil’s Elbow and shout, “Hallelujah!”

* * * *


Ebb tide: outgoing tide
Nao: a type of cargo/passenger ship
Espiritu Santo: the name of a sunken Spanish nao
Padre: a Spanish Catholic priest
If you find an artifact, leave it in place and contact the Texas Antiquities Commission.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Beth LaBuff 05/15/11
Intriguing, interesting, fascinating -- all these and more. Your descriptive detail made this come alive. I enjoyed this slice of history.
Sydney Avey05/16/11
I love that you employed a history lesson to dramatize the working of an ebb tide. Also the way you engage the reader. The one parenthetized comment might have been added to the footnotes instead. It stopped the action for a second.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/16/11
This is a thought provoking piece. I liked how it made me question who I am
Theresa Santy 05/17/11
Lovely piece, drenched with fascinating history.
Leola Ogle 05/18/11
I loved this. It created great visuals of the scenes as they unfolded. You have a gift for story-telling. Well done! God bless!