Fool's Gold

Our intrepid correspondent follows a scheming ex-con to Mexico in search of treasure. They find bupkus.

If these ideas seemed too lofty, too far-fetched, neither David nor Bill voiced doubts. Bill simply nodded his head, voiced an "um-hmm."

"It takes a village, like Hillary says," said David solemnly, all the while chomping on a toothpick hanging from his mouth.

Now that we were miles from nowhere, Reeder addressed one of my questions: If this gold-mining project is so good, why hasn't it been done before?

Here's Gary Reeder. He's a thoughtful kind of guy. He thinks a lot about God and money.
Peter Calvin
Here's Gary Reeder. He's a thoughtful kind of guy. He thinks a lot about God and money.

"Do I have to say another word?" said Reeder, traversing bumpy dirt roads.

David sighed heavily. "Uh, we've got to get it going so we can reap some reward off it."

"We're reaping rewards," said Reeder, "you just haven't seen 'em. The pictures that I'm bringing back from this, the stuff that I'm gonna publish on the Web site, letters that I'm gonna be writing people...I'm going to have them so excited...all the Cornerstone people'll be jumping bushes," he said, laughing.

Reeder said to David, "Your wife said, 'What does Gary Reeder know about minin'? It doesn't make any difference if I know anything about mining or not, I can always find somebody who does. All I gotta do is raise the money to make it happen, and people'll be happy."

We soon reached a mountainside. Walking up a steep incline, we saw a hole in the side of a mountain, pointing to some mining that might have been done years ago. There was nothing to indicate this was anything more than an abandoned mine.

Kenneth hiked up the path, sweat trickling down his brow. Wearing a Hightower Auto Wash shirt (he was once a manager at the Fort Worth store), he lifted a rock. "See this here," he said of the multicolored piece. "Gold is black, copper is green. See the color?" He lifted his hand, swooped it in a half-circle around the surrounding mountains. "You see the vein, as it continues?"

Bill nodded, listened attentively.

Kenneth said to start the project, they would have to drill and use a dynamite blast to bring the mountain down. There were 50,000 tons of ore here, he said. "This is very rich in gold," he said, standing in front of a cave that smelled of urine. "And this is just one of them."

"Yeah, bring it all down," said Bill softly.

Reeder now came up the path, sweaty and panting. "The silver's all through here," he said, sounding as if he were an expert. "It's everywhere. But gold, too."

I stood at the edge of a cliff with David and asked whether he believes this project is for real.

"Yeah," he said in a hushed, solemn tone. "That's what they say...Just Kenneth's knowledge of mining and knowing how long that he's been into this project, and it all makes sense...He wouldn't spend 10 years of his life if there wasn't something to it."

Later, we gathered around a hut on top of the mountain. Reeder sat in a chair and looked out at the expanse of desert.

"Do you have to have an environmental study out here?" he asked Kenneth.

"Uh, environmental..." said Kenneth. "The good thing out here, the permit is easy because there's no people."

"I can have a million dollars in three weeks," said Reeder.

"Well, in that case, we can start producing in less than four weeks," Kenneth said without a pause.

On the way back, I rode with Kenneth in the red truck, asked him a bit about himself. He said there was a legitimate reason the mine we just visited wasn't in use. "Until 1986," he said, "the large mining companies, they stopped buying from independent small miners because they don't have a place to sell their ore, and they don't have the sophistication to set up their own processing plant, and that's what we're trying to do." He said that a family owned the mine we had just visited, that he was negotiating a price. For how much, he wouldn't say. "Well, I'd buy it for a penny if I could," he said, laughing.

Along the way, we stopped near a ranch. Reeder got out of his car, saying he needed to use the bathroom. "You can go over there," said Kenneth, pointing to a patch of shrubs and trees. The idea didn't sit well with Reeder. "No," said Reeder, sneering, "I need to sit and be comfortable."

We were supposed to visit one last mine. But Reeder, who'd eaten heartily of the hotel's food, had developed a nasty case of diarrhea. "I need to get to a restroom real bad," he said, and went to a nearby ranch.

Later I got in the truck with him. He said he could be in production in a month; all he needed was two, two and a half million.

"I'd just ask for it," he said. "There are plenty of people that would give it to me...It's not hard for people to give you money."

If this region of Mexico was home to wealth, our time there had shown it was a well-kept secret. There were no high-rises, just small, concrete boxes lining narrow streets. I didn't see any fancy cars either, just beat-up chunks of moving metal best suited for the scrap yard. Here they crowded the roads, with drivers ignoring the "alto" stop signs posted along the way.
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