It doesn’t take long for Covenant Community Capital Corporation summer intern James M. Harrison to learn where Houston’s oldest secrets are buried:
. . . for having not known a soul in Houston 24 hours ago, I feel like maybe I’m doing decent. Part of why I feel this way is thanks to Leon, a homeless man at the Amtrak station who sat and talked to me for an hour while I waited for my ride to come.
Leon is a treasure-hunter, a “modern-day Indiana Jones.” He walked up to me and said, “I’m a rock collector, check these out” and proceeded to show me some of his latest finds. Rubies, emeralds, amethyst, and gold, so he claimed, all embedded in pieces of railroad track ballast. He didn’t want to sell them to me, because he knew that I couldn’t afford any of them. “I charge top dollar,” he said.
I asked him where the rocks came from. “The Rocky Mountain,” he said. “These stones just fall off the train when it rolls through.” He also told me about a secret mine in Colorado that he knew about called “The Gold Nugget,” and explained how he and his friend were going to go up there and excavate the largest piece of gold in the world. “It’ll fill up six railroad cars,” he said. I asked him how he was going to do it, and he replied, “I don’t know man, but two hands are better than one!”
Leon is also a hunter of dinosaur bones (“there’s a few down there in that parking lot,” he told me), 16th century books, and ancient coins, among other relics. He talked my ear off.
Leon the treasure hunter was the first person I met in Houston. I think he introduced me to the place pretty well. “Treasures are all over this city, you just have to look at what’s under your nose,” he said.
Photo of parking lot at Amtrak Station, 902 Washington Ave.: James M. Harrison