Mystery of the Sands on Padre Island
October 3, 2012
The following is an excerpt from my Christian thriller, Golgotha Connection. Andrews St. Aubin, a newspaper travel writer, has been given a letter that sparks his memory of a story he had written on Padre Island that curves down the coast of Texas. The photograph, above, was taken by artist/photographer J Gerald Crawford, whose work can be seen in the Art Section of Caleb and Linda Pirtle.
The story was an old one, usually made better each time it was told. Andrews St. Aubin had told it himself two years earlier in a column about the haunted and misplaced sands of Padre Island. Fragments of the story had remained lodged in the far recesses of his brain, possessing little importance to anyone but those obsessed with the intrigue of lost bullion scattered amidst the restless dunes of an island that reached with a saber-like finger of sand toward the ragged shoreline of Mexico.
He had written: The Isle of Padre has become a graveyard with no tombs to mark the dead, nobody at all to mourn the passing of those poor, unfortunate souls who passed its way and never left. In 1553, a fleet of twenty Spanish galleons, laden with stolen Aztec gold and silver, sailed from Veracruz, Mexico, and into the growling throat of a Gulf-fueled hurricane. Only insanity could have persuaded them to head into a raging churn of sound and fury that ripped the fragile boats apart and spilled eight hundred people, as well as some fifty million dollars in misbegotten treasure, across the frenzied surfs of Padre. Only two survived. One, a priest, trekked the demon sands back to Mexico and the refuge of the church that awaited him.
The other hid for months among the solace of the dunes and prayed without ceasing for someone to come and carry him away from a land that had no shade, no shelter, only water and none of it fit to drink. A band of noblemen, along with a few old reprobates and a derelict or two, all sailing beneath the unwashed flag of the church, did sail to Padre, but they did not come for him.
Their sole intention was to rescue the gold and silver stolen by the storm. Indeed, some of it was recovered. No one ever knew just how much. Records in Spain only revealed that an ill-tempered King was “bitterly disappointed” with the amount of riches that was finally carted into the sanctity of his throne room.
As the centuries passed, hunters kept digging the sands and baptizing themselves with salty gulf waters, seeking in quiet desperation for wealth that the army of Cortes had taken from the Aztecs and given to the sea. The taking and the giving had been paid for with the sacrifice of so many lives.