Better to see
your cheek grown sallow
And your hair grown gray, so soon, so soon,
Than to forget to follow, follow
After the sound of a silver horn.
-- Elinor Wylie
Captain Holmdahl remained at Camp Leach until early July,
1919, when he was assigned to a government surplus sales
department. Possibly because of his language skills and his
knowledge of railway equipment, he sailed to France on July 17. In
addition to disposing of railroad tracks, engines, flatcars, and bridg-
ing equipment left behind after the departure of the A.E.F.,
Holmdahl was authorized to sell various components of artillery
shells and small arms ammunition piled up in warehouses both in
France and the United States.
After a month in Paris, Holmdahl traveled to Madrid to arrange
sales of surplus locomotives and railroad supplies to the Spanish
government.  In September, his work completed, he returned to the
states, where he commanded a desk at the Purchase, Storage and
Traffic Division at the Office of the Director of Sales for the War
Department. It was a job that had dubious appeal to a man of
Holmdahl's temperament. He submitted his resignation effective
June 1, 1920, and was soon off again on further Mexican adven-
After his discharge from the army, Holmdahl, finding himself
adrift, headed south to El Paso, where he became involved in a
shooting scrape. As he tells the story, he and a friend were search-
ing for a place in which to enjoy a Sunday lunch, when they were
attracted by guitar music coming from a restaurant.
After entering the restaurant, a deputy constable named WC.
Boyle burst through the door and screamed, "Put up your hands!"
Holmdahl spun around as Boyle fired a shot from his revolver which
struck a man named W.E. Davis, apparently an innocent bystander.
Holmdahl shouted, "Don't do that," grabbed the constable's hand
and twisted the pistol out of his grasp.
The badly wounded Davis, with a bullet lodged in his side, was
taken to a nearby hospital by Holmdahl and Boyle. The Constable
suddenly disappeared when Holmdahl called the police, and Boyle
was later arrested and charged with assault to kill. The constable
later stated he had intended to arrest a felon in the restaurant, but
his revolver went off and hit Davis by accident.
said Boyle had a habit of staging "wild west
stunts" and this one had gone badly awry. Davis survived; Boyle
went to jail nursing a sprained thumb as a result of Holmdahl's
twisting the gun out of his hand. Holmdahl and friend returned to
their deferred lunch to the strains of guitar music. Even for
Holmdahl, it was not an uneventful Sunday luncheon. 
According to a newspaper account written by William C,
Stewart, a Los Angeles Times staff writer who knew Holmdahl, at
about this time, the veteran soldier launched a treasure hunting
expedition into Mexico. According to Stewart,
Holmdahl began thinking of Villa's
treasure buried by Urbina and he set out to try and find it. He
was accompanied by the reformed train robber and later movie actor, Al
Jennings, who had transferred his activities from Oklahoma to to Los Angeles.
Al Jennings billed himself as "The Last of the Great Train
Robbers" in his religious revival speeches. More realistically, he
should have been billed the most inept of the great train robbers.
As the leader of the Jennings Gang, he fumbled a series of
Oklahoma train and bank robberies from 1897 to 1898 before he
and his band were captured and thrown into the territorial prison.
At one time a county attorney in El Reno, Oklahoma, Jennings
was addicted to the bottle and the gaming tables. He often told
fictional accounts of his facing down notorious gunmen in
JllanO-a-J7laJlO confrontations. Temple Houston, the quick-shooting
son of Sam Houston, killed his brother Ed Jennings and wounded
another brother in a barroom shootout while feuding with the
Along with his two remaining brothers and another pair of mis
fits, Jennings decided to make a reputation by robbing trains and
banks. In their first "Great Train Robbery," they leaped aboard a
Santa Fe train that was stopped for water, held up the engineer and
broke into the express car. This escapade netted only a few hundred
dollars, so two weeks later they attempted another train robbery near
Muskogee, Oklahoma Territory.
They picked a spot where the railroad stacked spare road ties
and grunting and sweating under a hot sun, they piled the ties across
the track. Waving their guns ferociously, they signaled an approach-
ing train to stop. The engineer, however, pushed his throttle wide
open. At great speed the cowcatcher slammed into the ties, sending
them flying into the air and nearly decapitating several of the
Jennings gang. As the train chugged off to Muskogee, the outflung
arm of the engineer signaled his opinion of Al Jennings and his
After several more fiascos, they robbed a Wells Fargo office,
stealing several thousand dollars. The brothers Jennings fled to
Galveston and boarded a tramp steamer bound for Honduras where
they met a drunk named William Sydney Porter. Porter, who was
later known as the great short-story author, 0. Henry, was hiding
out from a bank embezzlement charge in Austin, Texas. They prob-
ably met Lee Christmas and some of his hard cases and decided
Honduras was not for them, After returning to Oklahoma, on
October 1,1897, they flagged down a Rock Island train a few miles
from Chickasha, Oklahoma Territory.
Holding the crew at gunpoint, they broke into the baggage car,
which contained two large safes. Planting four sticks of dynamite
alongside them, they lit the fuses. There followed a mighty explo-
sion which blew the baggage car to smithereens. The safes,
however, remained intact and invulnerable. Frustrated, the bandits
went through the passenger cars at gunpoint stealing watches and
money from the passengers.
A few months later, a lone deputy located the gang, arrested
them, and brought them to the jail at Checotah. Following his trial,
Al Jennings was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Federal
Penitentiary at Columbus, Ohio. There he was reunited with Porter,
who had given himself up.
After five years, Jennings was pardoned. He wrote several books
grossly exaggerating his career as a robber and gunman, and then
began a more successful stint as a evangelical preacher and lecturer.
He also played a number of small parts in Hollywood Westerns. 
How he met Holmdahl is not
known, but it was, indeed, a
strange pairing. About the expedition into Durango, Stewart wrote,
"They' collected a motley group of Mexicans for a bodyguard and
set out for Urbina's old ranch. Before they could reach the spot a
group of Mexican laborers stumbled on the fabled cache." Then
the local police invited the treasure hunters to leave, pronto. 
With Jennings' luck, Holmdahl
was probably lucky to get out of
Mexico alive, much less find the buried gold of Tomas Urbina. The
buried treasure business was to crop up on a number of occasions
in later years. Did Holmdahl really believe he could find Villa's or
Urbina's treasure? Was he running a confidence game with
Jennings? Or was he using the "treasure hunt" as a cover for other,
more secretive, activities? The answer is anyone's guess.
Perhaps some inferences as to Holmdahl's activities can be
gleaned from the newspaper clippings he kept. One such story
found in his effects was from the San Francisco Examiner, headlined,
Gun-running Plot Exposed. Adventurer
Blamed in Conspiracy.
Federal Officials Seek 'Master Mind' Attempting to Send Munitions to
The story asserted federal police officers in San Francisco and
Los Angeles were "close on the trail" of the man who was behind a
plot to smuggle contraband rifles and ammunition to Central
American rebels. According to police, the guns were received at San
Francisco, trucked to Los Angeles, and then loaded onto fishing
boats. The newspaper reported,
While a dozen or more men may be
involved in the asserted plot, most of them are merely paid employees.
The Federal officers here are said to be primarily concerned with
capturing an American adventurer who is believed to have engineered the
purchase of the contraband weapons. 
Among other adventures, Holmdahl cruised Mexican and Latin
American Pacific coastal waters in a large yacht named Paxinosa.
The craft, pictured in a Los Angeles newspaper, was described as a
two-masted ketch of twenty-one tons equipped with an auxiliary
gasoline engine. The story naming the owner and guests listed one
"E.L. Humdahl [sic.] formerly a colonel of the Maderista forces in
Mexico" as a passenger. The story headlined, "Craft Paxinosa Veers
Southward For Cruise In Deep Waters," and reported they were
"completely equipped and provisioned for deep sea cruising ...
around Lower California and west coast ports and other places of
It is, of course, possible that Holmdahl was relaxing on a plea-
sure cruise in southern waters; or perhaps he was reconnoitering.
Perhaps the Examiner story did not pertain to Holmdahl. It is curi-
ous, however, that he would keep such a newspaper story for more
than forty years.
The Urbina treasure fiasco apparently didn't satiate Al Jennings'
desire to associate with Holmdahl. In early February 1926, the two
and a Los Angeles businessman, Fred T. Hughes, bought 32,400
acres of land on a hacienda named "Corral de Piedra," ("Rock
Corral").  Located at Rosario, sixty miles south of Parral, it was
aptly named. The land was supposed to contain two placer mines
and one hard-rock mine, with deposits of gold, silver, and copper.
Jennings, from his revival tent in Lawton, Oklahoma, in a news-
paper interview, piously announced he was quitting the pulpit and
that he "would no longer pilot sinners down the sawdust trail to
God." After a failed campaign for the Democratic Party's nomina-
tion for governor of Oklahoma (he finished third), Jennings went
into California real estate. He said he told the Lawton police chief,
"My conscience is clear ... I told the chief the truth about
California real estate ... I've quit highway robbery jobs." 
It is unclear how the mine worked out, but apparently the part-
nership was soon dissolved. It was only a few weeks later that
Holmdahl was back in Durango on an adventure that nearly cost
him his life.
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