r In a quiet room at the end of a long hallway at the Central Utah Veterans Home in Payson resides one of the most charming characters you are likely to meet in this lifetime. Wayne Hamby is quick to share a tale of adventure and excitement; this is a man filled with a zest for life and a grand outlook for the future.
Award-winning author Hamby spent his military career on the East Coast – in New Jersey, to be exact. While the rest of the nation was gripped with the fear of possible missile attacks, this man slept next to the missiles. This little oddity on the old resume is just one of many.
In the beginning, his travels throughout Latin America were on behalf of the Book of Mormon Institute, part of BYU’s research department. His vivid stories on artifact research caught the attention of the Osmonds, who then commissioned him to write stories for their Spotlight magazine.
Stories are something Hamby has in spades. I was lucky enough to spend a few hours interviewing this soft-spoken gentleman. I heard all about his travels on Yungas Road in Bolivia. Google that. Its insane. They also call it Death Road, as they should. Hamby described his close call when battling both typhoid and hepatitis and the time he rented the president of Bolivia’s compound because “the timing was right.” This was just the beginning of a long career abroad. From artifact research to engineering to gold refining and diamond mining, Hamby is exactly what you would expect from a man who was willing to take big risks and live life on a leap of faith.
A selection of his many tales can be found in his new book “Jaguars and Cannibals: True Stories of an LDS Treasure Hunter.” The majority of these stories are based on his time in his beloved Brazil, a country he adored and resided in for more than 15 years. It’s an amazing country where he met and married his wife and raised his children and one time almost shot a man who was trying to kill him. Each story has a dash of exhilaration and a twist of humor. When asked why he sought out such crazy escapades, Hamby will tell you he didn’t. Instead, he “just lived in a place where these things happened.”