One More Dive: The Treasure Is In Sight

This is my autobiography; I’m calling it one more dive. Hopefully, this will clear up any misconceptions about my actions.

The story ends on July, 17 1982. That’s the part of the story, you’ve probably heard about. I’m sure, you feel you know everything about me, if you followed the papers.

Of course, that was not the first time I would hear, “get down on the ground, with your hands behind your head”, but this was the last.

The media really milked that story, “Bank robber caught with over $1M in treasure”, it was tailor-made for ratings. You can’t really blame them.

But to call me a bank robber, really does my life, and intentions injustice. I’ve spent my life digging up other people’s stories. Like many others, I may have hidden a few treasures of my own. Often time passes, and you forget where things are buried.

Stories like these are too often lost to the sands of time, it’s too late for me, I am now old and weak. Hopefully my son or grandchildren will read this and search for their own riches out there, decipher the clues in this letter, a wealth of riches remains buried just below the surface.

Here we Go

First off, I never hurt anyone, outside of Nam. Sure, I had difficulty adjusting after I came back, like so many others.

I tried to maintain jobs, tried to provide for my family, but it just wasn’t happening. Everything was slipping away from me.

My career kind of found me on accident, when I went to cash a check at the bank one day.

I forgot the name of the place, it got gobbled up in one of those mergers. Anyways, I was in line, waiting patiently and got to the teller without issue.

I didn’t scream at the lady, just raised my voice, and let it be known that, “I am not leaving here without my money.”

I never intended to be a, so called “Bank robber”, but really, the business was just too easy for me to pass up.

The Sea

When I was a kid, I would ride my bike to the beach. My friends and I would fish in the surf all day long for Jack Crevalle, Nurse Sharks, and Barracuda.

We got older and started surfing, the rush it gave me was awesome. I guess its that same thing that ran me headfirst into war.

That’s pretty much the only thing that had kept me apart from Cindy. We met in high school and I have a tendency to get addicted to things, so it just kept going.

In 1975, I took my first dive, nothing too special, a Loggerhead reef off Jupiter, FL. It was about sixty feet deep, lots of Goliath Grouper were stacked up on the reef, it was so cool.

My new found interest in diving was thanks in part to Mel Fisher; a famous treasure hunter. I don’t know if you’ve heard about the Atocha, but this treasure that he found got me hooked on diving.

Anyone who scuba dives knows it isn’t cheap, especially for a guy who has difficulty holding down a job. I couldn’t even be a fry cook, without getting fired.

Some of my dive buddies and I started scouting out locations and marking areas, where we might find some of these lost treasures.

When you are diving everywhere from St. George island in the Panhandle, down to the Keys, and up through Sebastian, the costs are going to start to pile up.

Overdue Bills

Cindy and I got married March 17, 1972; we didn’t have a choice, she was pregnant.

Everything was perfect for a while until; I got another notice. The factory was closing down, just my luck.

My wife didn’t want to be married to a deadbeat, and my kid was asking me about Christmas this year, that’s why I found myself at the bank, kindly requesting a loan, December 4, 1977.

I only asked for the $200, I needed to get me through the week. The teller, Mary, got scared and quickly cleaned out the cash drawer, and I left the bank before I even realized what happened.

“Bank Robber”

I drove home and was counting the money, when I heard the sirens coming down the street. I was perp walked through the neighborhood, for all to see. I did a little time behind bars, really got me thinking about how corrupt everything is that they send me to war, now they send me to the slammer.

This whole misunderstanding took a while to straighten out, especially since, I’m not sure what my court-appointed lawyer learned at law school, cooking?

However, none of this was important; I used this time to figure out the best way to extract money out from this corrupt banking system.

I have done way more good deeds than the bank could ever do, some people will call me a “bank robber”, but I think there is much more to the story than that.

Of course, the day I got out of jail; I was going to rob a bank, but the thing is, I am a treasure hunter and thats all people need to know. There’s rumors that I have treasures buried all across this land, so much so that I’m starting to believe them myself. But that’s the thing about these kinds of stories, they often get lost to the sands of time.

Free at Last

The treasure coast of Florida is the place I like to call home, a perfect place for an adventurer like me to grow up. It was great to smell that salt air, after my brief incarceration. 

When you get out of prison, the first thing you wanna do, is call up your buddies, and get some beer and some girls. We’re not saints, but we’re not bad guys. Anyways, this was the crew, like modern day pirates we were gonna get ours.

Robbing a bank used to be a lot easier, but like I said, this is not a story about that chapter of my life. Besides, I only robbed that one bank, at least that’s the way the jury saw it. The great thing about America is being judged by a jury of your peers, how could people who were robbed by the banks hold me to account for doing what they wish they could.

This story isn’t about that thrilling chapter of my life, the bank robberies. This story is more about the way Florida used to be, a place where an outlaw could evade the system. The community was what was really exciting, the reason I was able to be free. Eventually, I would live in the forest, and move freely in a world which most did not see.

My First Gold Piece

My friend Pete and I had spent so many days hunting, looking for some kind of gold, something to prove we could do this, anything. I had some money stashed away from some business I had attended to, but money was getting tight once again.

The dumb things we do, when we are flush with cash. The regret of buying rounds for the whole bar, does not put the money back in your pocket, but the women made it all worth it.

After all the dives, and countless hours of snorkeling, looking for something, all of the sudden there it was. I was walking along the beach with my cur dog, snotty, and saw a tiny shimmer off the sand. I brushed aside the dry sand and found a rare coin.

A big storm had just rolled through, we had actually been in the eye of the storm. Meteorology was nothing like it is now, back then we just figured out it was over when the wind died down. 

You may think Florida has just been wasteland, but we are sitting on a part of history right now. Florida has always been a crazy place, pretty much an East coast version of the Wild Wild West, still a lot to be discovered out there.

They say success is where preparation meets opportunity, it seems to be that way for me, things have a way of working out when I least expect it.

That 1715 fleet coin was something that would keep the good times rolling, for a while, we were living large. That was when I bought my first Chris Craft trawler boat. We could dive, fish, and explore all day everyday.

Unfortunately, like always, I would take the money, try and start a business or invest in something that didn’t pan out. Often, I would spend the money on some nice lady. Maybe that’s one of the reasons i got hit with the divorce papers.

Living Off the Land

Even when times were tough, we had an abundance of seafood, lobster, yellowtail snapper, and grouper. We pretty much got into communal living because we knew it would take a team effort to get a haul like Mel; he pretty much made hundreds of millions of dollars, diving. It costs a lot of money to be living the dream.

When Ponce De Leon landed in Florida, he named the place as such because it is Spanish for the flowers, which were in abundance. Florida has always been able to grow lots of fruits and wild berries. Coconuts are always growing along the coast. A person could sustain themselves on what the forest provides.

It was around this point that I met Jim Morrissey, a guy who had been living off the grid since the fifties. He lived up in the Ocala forest, but often he would be seen in the Everglades.

He didn’t own a car, so no one knew how he would travel so fast. The people called him the ghost, shapeshifter, because of his ability to just appear out of thin air. He taught me how to take the biggest gators down. Stories have made the rounds about him being able to sic the animals to do his bidding.

It turns out some people hold a secret. Have you ever heard about the Coral Castle? 

The Coral Castle

The Coral Castle is a rock garden filled with a bunch of mysteries. Somehow, this small man named Edward something built these humungous limestone rocks into a masterpiece that boggles the mind. No one knows how this was done, these stones must have weighed 4,000 pounds, anyways. This guy carved these rocks, extracted them and aligned them with precision.

On top of that, Ed thought the original area he built wasn’t right, and moved to a new location ten miles up the road. Legend is a friend named Jim lent him a truck or something to help him move these stones. This must have been in 1940 or so.

Some say my friend Jim might have gained some secrets, knowledge lost to time. This might attribute to his ability about how to move easily, like the wind. Anyways, the coral castle has a door, that weighs thousands of pounds, yet can be moved with only a finger. The design aligns with the stars and sky to create a watch, the whole thing is unexplained. It is definitely worth a visit to see what I’m trying to explain.

Florida does hold many stories in its soil, along the way I’ve met many people who have helped me dig some of those stories up.

Jim Morrissey

Jim was a vet, just like me, only he was a World War Two veteran. He was older than myself, so he knew Florida in a way that pretty much didn’t exist anymore.

He lived in a wood shed in the Everglades, the type of guy who didn’t want anyone around him. I was out hunting one day and ran into him skinning a nice buck he had got, we hit it off right away, Jim would hunt hogs with a bow and arrow with the skill of a Seminole. He was proficient with knife attacks, for sport he would kill with his bare hands.

He is probably one of the only people who could sneak up on a Florida Panther. Even if the animals saw him, they would not panic, it was almost like some bond was formed.

He was the type of guy who thought Alligator Alley was going to be the end of the world. There was ,and still is, literally nothing out that way.

He was shell shocked, he had been in the battle of Iwo Jima, even though, he wouldn’t talk about it unless he got drunk. One of the names for the battle was the meat grinder, if thats any indication of how much it sucked. The island was heavily fortified by the Japanese, with miles of tunnels. Hand to hand combat and knife fights were common for duration of the three month battle, many people met brutal deaths.

Jim took me in and taught me everything about living off the land, the wild berries I need to pick, and the plants that will heal any problem. Many of the people of the forest, a lot more than you know about, taught me things that helped me survive. The bond was tight, we all helped each other out.

There’s a lot of history in the Everglades, most of it is lost to time, but there still is a group of people out there living, homesteading, the land.

The Ocean is Unknown

Even to this day, much of the ocean is unknown. The equipment needed to run operations like ours and the know-how is not cheap. 

An experienced diver like myself, can conserve air and stay down longer. This skill helps out because you have to get off the beaten path to increase the odds for the good finds. The trick is to move as little as possible underwater and to always remain calm. Breathing exercises and underwater rock running turned my lungs into machines, ready to take on the deepest of the seas.

 Still, most of the areas we explore remain ninety feet or less under the surface. Many good finds have been located in these areas, to this day people randomly find treasures when they are out having fun. I just read about a family who found over 50 coins, one of the rare coins from the 1715 fleet was worth $500k on its own.

We always check each others gear before the dive, every time I fall backwards off the boat into that deep blue water, I know excitement awaits.

I always take the time to clear my ears, you do this by holding your nose and breathing out pretty hard just under the surface to release the pressure from your ears.

Sometimes, when you are diving the visibility can be low, it is difficult to find exactly where you are. Getting to the bottom is crucial at these times, this will help you with your orientation. Often this is when we find the best stuff after the sands have been stirred up because the shifting sands will often expose something long hidden.

Underneath the water, any passing boats will sound like they are all around you. It will be difficult to figure out where they are, because of this danger, safety is paramount.

Most of the time, we can only dive for about forty minutes, unless we are using Nitrox in our air tanks which lets us get in longer dives.

For hundreds of years the sea collected treasures whether owned by Spanish Conquistadors or swashbuckling pirates, the waters off the coast of Florida would lay claim to many lives. The sea would always take back what was hers, their control of the gold was only temporary.

Occasionally, hurricanes would arise and take out entire fleets holding vast fortunes, their bounty would spill all over the sea before being lost to the sands of time. The sea is often dangerous, with waves appearing from nowhere, frequent attacks did not make difficult journeys any better.

Pirates, like Sir Francis Drake, came here and attacked places like St. Augustine. The Sea Dragon as he became to be known took our riches and plundered our land.

It is our job to take it all back, if only temporary.

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