THE SEARCH FOR GOLD on Victorio Peak ended unsuccessfully last week. It is just as well. For the spectators, the real fun of treasure hunts, it seems to us, is far more in the dreaming, the planning and the hunting than in the finding. If someone had found the gold, the stories this week would have focused on the grubby details of who was going to get how much, if anything, after Uncle Sam and the State of New Mexico took their shares. As it is, the dreaming about the hoard of golden bars that old Doc Noss claimed he once touched can go on unabated.
The West, of course, is full of tales about hidden treasures. Depending on where you are, you can hear about those buried by the Indians or the Spaniards or early gold miners or bandits. But Victorio Peak had been a little special. For one thing, the Army controls access to it because it is located on the White Sands Missile Range; that means dreaming, as contrasted to hunting, has been all that could be done most of the time about the fortune one of its caves is said to hold. For another, two men - an Army officer in addition to Doc Noss - claimed to have seen the gold, stacked up like cord wood, within the last 40 years. And there was just enough substance to their stories to make them seem more than just a dream.
Someday, no doubt, someone, somewhere will stumble into a lode of gold, and one of the countless tales of the Old West will turn out to have been true. But Victorio Peak has now withstood the onslaught of earth-moving equipment, geologic instruments and a planned attack. We like what it yielded up: some empty tin cans a few sticks of old dynamite, a pair of red corduroy trousers and - if the treasure hunters are to be believed - evidence not only of a cavern deep inside the mountain but of an explosion like the Doc Noss said sealed his tunnel to the bars of gold. That should be more than enough to keep the dreams alive for a few more decades.