|9054||11/2/2013||Moby Dickens Bookshop, Taos, NM|
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The following is a transcription of the video referenced above. Questions and comments from the audience are presented in italics. Time stamps are offered when Forrest takes a question, and at other useful places during the video.
Well I always thought I deserved a throne. Iām very glad to be here. I want to thank Jay and Carolyn and Dorothy for bringing me up here. Jay asked me to say a few things about my treasure story. Is there anyone here that knows about the story? Who in this room has not heard about my treasure story? Oh thatās pretty good.
Well, uh, in 1988 I had cancer and they told me I was going to die. Thatās a good way to start off a talk. They gave me a one in five chance of living three years. And, a lot of things were happening about that time. I was selling my gallery in Santa Fe, and I had a lot of clients that were coming to see me to do different things, and it just so happened that Ralph Lauren came to my house. He collects antique Indian things like I did. He didnāt know that I had cancer. But we were standing in my library and I had something that he wanted. It was a beautiful Sioux Indian bonnet with white ermines skins hanging on it, and split antelope horns, and it was a wonderful thing and he wanted to buy it. And I said I donāt want to sell it. He said you have so many of those things and you canāt take it with you. I said, well then Iām not going. And we laughed and changed the subject.
That night I started thinking about that. Who says I canāt take it with me? Why do I have to live by everybody elseās rules? If Iām going to die of cancer, Iām going to take some stuff with me, and I made up my mind. So I bought this beautiful little treasure chest: 10 inches by 10 inches and 6 inches high. Wonderful Romanesque thing. An antique scholar told me that it was probably Romanesque, 11th or 12th Century. Maybe it held a bible or a Book of Days. But it was wonderful; had a great patina on it. And I started filling it up with things that I thought would be attractive. There are 265 gold coins - American, mostly eagles and double eagles. Thereās some Middle Eastern gold coins that date from the 13th century. Thereās a little bottle of gold dust in there. And there are hundreds and hundreds of gold nuggets, mostly from Alaska - placer nuggets. Two of them are so large that they are the same size as a henās egg. They weigh more than a pound apiece.
And there are, in this chestā¦ I put hundreds of rubies. There are two beautiful Ceylon sapphires. There are eight emeralds. Lots of little diamonds. Pre-Columbian Wakāas. Uhh, 2,000 year old bracelets, and a Tayrona (Tyrona) and Sinu necklace that dates probably 2,500 years old. The fetishes on the necklace are made of quartz crystal and carnelian and semi-precious stones. I told myself that I wanted it to be visual enough so that when a person found the treasure chest, and opened it for the first time, they would just lean back and start laughing.
And, Iāve shown the chest to a number of people in Santa Fe and thatās what they all did. So I invite you to go look for the treasure chest. And, my plan was to, uhh...If I was going to die of cancer, uh, they said I had a one in five chance of living three years, so that told me I had a year probably, anyway. So, uhh, I decided I knew where I was going to hide the treasure chest. And I told myself that with my last gasping breath, I was going to fling myself on top of that treasure chest and let my bones go back to the dirt. It was a great plan. The trouble with it was, I got well. And it ruined the story. But I told myself, just because I got well, doesnāt mean I could not hide the treasure chest anyway. And I did that and there'sā¦ In my book, The Thrill of The Chase, thereās a poem in there that has nine clues in it. If you can follow the clues to the treasure chest, you can have the treasure chest. (Pause). And, uh, I thought about that a lot. And when I took, when I hid the treasure chest, I had to make two trips because it weighs 42 pounds. Itās small, but itās...gold is heavy. And when I hid it and was walking back to my car, I started laughing out loud, and I said, āForrest Fenn did you really do that?ā
But I had a hole card, I told myself if I decide later I didnāt want to do it, I could go back and get it. But the more I thought about it, the more I said, yeah, this is perfect. Why canāt I influence somebody a thousand years from now? A hundred years from now? Okay, next weekend. If you can find it, I think it will be worth your while. A lady reporter from Texas called me on the phone and she said, āMr. Fenn, who is your audience for this strange book?ā I said, āMy audience is every redneck in Texas with a pickup truck, a wife and twelve kids and he lost his job.ā I said, āThrow a bedroll in the back of your truck and go look for the treasure chest - take the kids. Get the kids out of the game room. Away from their little playing machines and let them breathe the sunshine and the things the forest has to offer - a wonderful opportunity.
Just this past week, I passed 25,000 emails from people, and probably 15,000 of them have told me, āMr. Fenn, we are not going to find that chest - we know that. But I want to thank you for getting me and my kids off the couch and out into the trees.ā So, uh, you know I would go on and on but I donāt want to talk too much I would entertain some questions if anyone has one. (Pause). Yes sir.
(off-microphone question about proceeds of book)
You know, Iām having trouble hearing him. Can somebody help? What?
Did I understand that the proceeds of your book are going to the cancer, uh, foundation?
Let me explain that to you. Uh, Dorothy Massey at the Collected Works bookstore in Santa Fe owns these books. Jay bought them from Dorothy. The deal I made with Dorothy was that she can have the books, but she has to put 10% of the gross sales aside for a cancer fund. I think we have about $50,000 or something in that fund now. Weāre looking, weāre looking for someone toā¦ that we can feel proud about helping. Uh, if I had my way, weād find some little minority kid that canāt afford what it takes to get well and spend our money that way. And, uh, I don'tā know if thatāll happen or not, but thatās the plan anyway. Is there another question?
I have one about the poem. If you follow the poem precisely, will you find yourself switching back?
If I follow the clues in the poem precisely, would I what?
Will you find yourself switching back? Making a loop.
This galās dangerous, you know! (pause) Would I find myself switching backā¦ I think I can say no to that without giving away too much of the clues. Uh, nobody is gonna happen on that treasure chest. Youāre gonna have to figure out the clues in the poem, and go to it. There are several people that have deciphered the first two clues. I donāt think they knew it, because they walked right on past the treasure chest. And Iām not gonna tell those people who they are because one of them particularly would faint, I know. And sheād tear the countryside up trying to figure out where theyād been. But, uh, itās an opportunity toā¦ hasā¦ doesnāt have any downsides I think. Everybody wins if you go out looking for it. Another question?
Given that you simply gave, gave it away, you, you gave this treasure away to the cosmos, to whomever, uh, did you have any heart wish of how treasure might be used for good?
Bless you. (laughter)
I donāt feel, I donāt feel that Iāve given it away. Whoever finds it is gonna earn it. And once they find it, and have it in their possession Iām out of the picture. They can do whatever they want to with it. You canātā¦ I donāt want to make rules for people after the fact. Yes sir?
How would you know that it hasnāt already been found?
Iāve been asked that question a lotā¦ I really donāt want to answer the question because that would be an answer that I donāt really want to reveal. But I can tell you that no one has found the treasure. Yes sir?
When do you think the treasure would be found? Do you think itās a ten year? A hundred year? When do you think it will actually be discovered?
You know, uhā¦ Why donāt you ask me how deep is a hole? (Laughter) Itās not predictable. But I know, I think, this last summer, there were, Iām guessing, but I think there were 35,000 people out looking for the treasure chest.
Are you concerned that once it is discovered that your private spot will be exposed to so many people, that it will no longer become special? Orā¦
Thereās all kinds of case scenarios. If a, if a person finds it, and he doesnāt want the IRS to know it, then maybe the spot will never be revealed. (Laughter) In my opinion, the type of person thatās gonna find the treasure chest is the type of person that canāt keep it quiet. Uh, but, Iām not worried about that really. Yes maāam?
You said that it took you two trips to hide the treasure? Did you hide it two times, or did you carry it the second time?
I hid the whole thing in one spot. But it took me two trips to get to that spot with the weight of thoseā¦ of the treasure chest.
From the car to the spot?
(Forrest nods). Very special spot.
Could you tell us more about whatās in your book? Like, itās not just a poem, but itās a memoir right?
Itās a memoir. You know, uh, I never did go to college. I prayed for Dās in high school and nobody ever listened. I graduated because my father was the principal. (Laughter). And so, I never did read the great books. And I talk in my book about Hemingway and, and other writers that are very internationally celebrated and so I went down to a bookstore and got a couple of those books and I started to read them and I told myself these things are no good. For Whom The Bell Tolls - I read about a third of that thing and threw it in the trash. And I started to wonderā¦ Why does everyoneā¦ I mean, you may think those are wonderful books, but Iām a little bit weird I have to admit that.
But then Pierre, err, J.D. Salinger died. And Diane Sawyerās talking about how wonderful he was that he wrote books and put them in a vault so nobody could see them. And I told myself - this is my kind of guy. So, so I went down and I bought Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Uh. And I thought I was gonna like that book because I had never heard of the guy. And I said, everybody thinks the bookās pretty good and heās nobody so, it must be a pretty good book. So I started reading it and, and I read a little bit and I put it down. And I started thinking about it, and I read some more. It took me about a day and a half to finish that book, and I wasnāt ready for it to end when it was over. I started to tell myself, uh, you know if this is a good book, if Catcher in the Rye is a good book, I can do that. (pause) Itās nothing but a guy talking to himself really is what it is. And I said, I can do that. And so, I started writing my memoir. I started remembering, and I would encourage all of you to write your memoir. You donāt have to edit it. Send it to the Library of Congress - they love those things. Start with your earliest recollections like I did. I remember when my grandmother told me about when she was a kid in Fort Worth watching the Comanche and Kaweah Indians run through their barnyard trying to catch chickens.
I have two daughters that are in their fifties who donāt know who Clark Gable was. So I wanted my kids, my family, my grandkids, to know something about my family. Something about me, and my wife, and what weāve done, and where weāve been. Kind of a peek back into our lives, and so thatāsā¦ And at the same time, I was thinking about my treasure chest. How do I bring all of these things together?
So it was 15 years from the time that I got cancer until the time that I hid the treasure chest. 15 years. Andā¦ The poem in my book, is something that I changed over and over again. When you read the poem, it looks like just simple words there. But I guarantee you I worked on that thingā¦ I felt like an architect drawing that poem. And the original version of that poem said, āTake the treasure chest, but leave my bones and go in peace.ā Or, something like that. But then I got well, and it ruined that story.
But, uh, I believe very strongly in that uhā¦ I started making bells out of bronze and little jars. In the jars I put my autobiography in the jars and seal them up tight. And Iāve buried eight of those things way out in the desert, and in the mountains. Nobody knows where. I couldn't even go back to them; Iāve hidden them so well. Who says I canāt influence the future? Who says I canāt take it with me? I donāt believe in those things. Which is, which is best, uh, laying on the ground, on a treasure chest, your bones rotting in the sun? Or laying in a hospital room with tubes down your throat and your nose and machines everywhere, people watching you all the time. Which would you rather have? Thatās my philosophy. But Iāll admit, Iām a maverick in that area.
My father had pancreas cancer. They gave him six months to live. Eighteen months later he was still fishing up in Yellowstone in those lakes and fast streams. But one night, at about ten oāclock at night, he said call me on the phone. I was in Santa Fe and he was in Temple, Texas. He said, āForrest, I just want you to know that Iām getting ready to take 50 sleeping pills.ā And I said, āDad, Iāll be there first thing in the morning.ā I had an airplane. He said, āThatās too late.ā And it was too late. But I respected him, because he wanted to do things on his own terms. Whatās wrong with making your own rules about things? He could have gone into the hospital and withered away for another three weeks or a month. Thatās no way to live. And all of these thoughts manifest themselves in my treasure chest. The thrill of the chase - I keep going back to the thrill of the chase. And you can think Iām crazy if you want to, and a lot of people have said that but, itās something that I believe in. And that treasure chest, I have said, is in a very special place to me. If I get another disease, on my last dying gasp, Iām going to throw myself on top of that treasure chest. And Iām going to dare you to come find me.
Bella, do you have a question?
Uh, Mr. Fenn, we actually have one that was sent to us. And since you were speaking about the poem, uh, Dal Neitzel has asked if you would kindly read the poem? Of which, I happen to have a copy of said poem.
Damn Dal Neitzelās always getting me in trouble. (Laughter)
Iām just the messenger.
He thinks he's safe ācause he lives on a little island, Lummi Island, out of Seattle. Iāve got his number though.
(address crowd from memory)
As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold
I can keep my secret where
And hint of riches new and old
Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.
From there itās no place for the meek
The end is ever drawing nigh.
Thereāll be no paddle up your creek
Just heavy loads and water high.
If youāve been wise and found the blaze
Look quickly down your quest to cease
But tarry scant with marvel gaze
Just take the chest and go in peace.
So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know
Iāve done it tired, and now Iām weak.
So hear me all and listen good.
(Pause, reaches for glasses) I might have to read this thing
So hear me all and listen good.
Your effort will be worth the cold.
If you are brave and in the wood
I give you title to the gold.
And I view that as a challenge. There are so many things in life that are wonderful. And so many things that are not wonderful. And this world is in trouble; I donāt need to tell you that. So, I think we need toā¦ My father used to tell me, āGrab every banana.ā And, he told me that a hundred times. Finally, he and I collected arrowheads together. And we were thinking about going out to a friendās farm that was newly plowed to look for arrowheads, but it was drizzling rain. I didnāt much want to go, but my father did. So, we were discussing and he said, āGrab every banana.ā I said, āFather, youāve been telling me that for years.ā I said, āI donāt know what you mean.ā You know what he said to me? He said, āNow that you asked the question, maybe youāre old enough to know.ā Pretty profound, huh? He said, āThe banana tree doesnāt go byā¦ The bananaā¦ The train doesnāt go by that banana tree but one time.ā He said, āYou should reach out and grab every banana on the way back.ā I thought that was pretty good. And let me tell you Iāve grabbed a few bananas in my time. Grabbed a few lemons, too. Yes, sir?
Are you familiar with the Poet, Robert Service?
The Poet, Robert Service
Youād give him a run for his money.
Well, thank you. Thank you. Well, I like poetry, and I can walk down the street and see something and I quote poetry to myself. I did that coming up here today in the car with Dorothy Massey. Iāll read you a poem from Alice in Wonderland.
How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shiny tail
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every shiny scale
How cheerfully he seems to grin
How neatly spread his claws
And welcome little fishies in
With gently smiling jaws
(Laughter). I like that. You may not know who Senator Al Simpson is. Senator from Wyoming, retired. He can quote the entire book from Alice in Wonderland. Yes, sir?
Would you want to say anything about the accumulation of that treasure and why youāre...
Jay - you got that?
So, heās wanting to know on the accumulation of what you put in the chest, were they personal type items? How hard was it for you to put some of those items in there? How did you determine what you placed in the chest?
Thank you for asking that question, Sir. I wanted that treasure chest to be part of me. If Iām gonna take it with me, I donāt want it to be a bunch of abstract items. I put things in that treasure chest that are very dear to me. One of them, probably the cheapest thing in that treasure chest, is a wonderful little bracelet. It has 22 prehistoric turquoise beads in it. The beads were found by Richard Weatherall. The first day that he discovered Mesa Verde and climbed down into the ruin from the canyon top, he picked up those 22 little turquoise beads. In 1901, when Richard Weatherall was excavating Mesa Verde, there was an Indian working for him that made a bracelet out of those 22 little turquoise, disc beads, they call it a row bracelet. It was made about 1902 or so. And, Richard Weatherall sold it to Fred Harvey of the Harvey Houses. And years later, that whole Harvey collection was given to the Hurt Museum in Phoenix. But I won that bracelet in a pool game with Byron Harvey, who was the nephew of Fred Harvey. Thatās how I got that bracelet. So I have an association withā¦ Itās the only bracelet, Indian bracelet, that I ever had that fit me. I used, I used to walk down the street showing off that bracelet worth about $350. But, you know, it was special to me.
Have your grandkids ever tried looking for the treasure?
No, but Iāll tell you an interesting story. Some of the emails I get from people - I got one last week from a lady about your age. You must be 11? Nine. Nine. She said, āMr. Fenn, if I find the treasure chest, do I have to share it with my brother?ā (Laughter). So I get all kinds of emails. This one lady said, āMy truck is not very reliable. If I go up in the mountains, on the way to get your treasure chest, and my truck breaks down, will you come and pick me up and take me the rest of the way to the treasure?ā
Do you think kids will ever find the treasure?
Do I think kids will find the treasure? You worry me a little bit. (Laughter). Uh, yeah, I think kids may have an advantage. Donāt expect me to explain that, but sure. Their eyes are better. Theyāre more agile, they have more energy, why should a kid take a back seat in the treasure hunt?
Is that your daughter there?
Sheās dangerous. Ok - more questions. Yes, Sir.
You put a lot of people on a very bold, exciting adventure. And at the same time, you have put yourself on an adventure of watching all of these people, and how are you enjoying that?
Oh tell me not, in mournful numbers Life is but an empty dream For the soul is dead that slumbers And things are never what they seem
Iām enjoying it, yeah. I didnāt expect it...You know, I always figured the treasure chest was a bomb, but I didnāt know that it had a fuse until Dorothy came along. And a couple of other people that started giving publicity to the book. And now itās out... And no matter what happens now, it belongs to the ages, I think. And sure thereās aā¦ people talk about, āMr. Fenn is that your legacy?ā I donāt, I donāt like that. I donāt like the philosophy of that. I donāt like the wordā¦ Once a person dies, that should be the end of it. If you want to say something kind about me, say it to me while Iām alive, donāt wait till I die. And letās donāt talk about legacies. Yes, sir?
So, when you had cancer, uh, and you got well, and you decided to hide the treasure, do you think that maybe fate, maybe you got well so you would hide the treasure?
Uh, I believe that thereās a higher hand, someplace. I donāt know what it is, but, uh, I think that Iāve lived a charmed life. Uh, hereās a little kid from a small town in Texas making Dās and Fās in high school. Joined the Air Force as a pilot, err private, became a fighter pilot, uhā¦ In 19ā¦ When I was 27 years old and a fighter pilot in Germany, I went down to Supply and checked out an atomic bomb. I signed a form. I owned that atomic bomb - 61 kiloton bomb. The bomb at Hiroshima was 17,000 tons. This was 61,000 tons. And, I thought that, you know, if I can do that, uh, from my background, then look at what other people can do from their background. I had a hard tour in Vietnam. I flew 328 combat missions in about 348 days. I was shot down twice. I took battle damage a few times. I lost some roommates. I lost 22 pounds and didnāt even know it. And when I came home I was, I was tired. I was tired mentally. I was tired physically. And, I wrote a story thatās in my memoir thatās called My War for Me. If you donāt do anything else, read that story. I think itās 7500 words, but Iām very proud of that story. It tells, uhā¦ And in my new book, Too Far To Walk, (aside) do we have a copy of that? I tell another story thatās an aberration to my Too Far, Too War, uh, My War for Me story. And, uh, Iāll tell you briefly about that. I was laying on the, in the wet jungle in Laos. I had just jumped out. My wife got a telegram saying that I had been shot down and no parachutes had been seen. And so, Iām laying there trying to decide what to do. I had a radio. If I called the rescue people, theyād come to get me and Iād go home. But Laos in those days, in 1968, was pretty wild country. What if the helicopter comes in to get me and itās shot down and those 2 or 3 guys are killed? Now where am I? I havenāt been rescued and 4 guys have been killed. Those things were preying on my mind. But I was 38 years old. I was a perfect human physical specimen. I had graduated from the jungle survival school in the Philippines. The jungle - it was never hot, it was never cold. Fast running water, drinkable water, was everywhere. I had two guns. I had a knife. And, under every log in the jungle is nourishing food if youāre willing to eat it - And I was. I figured I could walk to the South China Sea in a month or six weeks. So the question is, am I going to take the challenge that will never again in a million years be offered to me, or do I remember my wife and two kids at home? So what do you do? I decided it wasnāt fair to my family so I used my radio the next morning and they came and got me and nobody was killed taking me out and.. One of the things that in my life that I think that Iāve been, not gifted of course, I hate to use the word luck, I believe thereās a higher hand. Yet tomorrow Iāll get run over by a train, but I believe in karma and some of those things. Iām not a religious person, but Iām probably the most spiritual person around. Thatās the way I define it. I hate to get on my soapbox. Yes, Sir?
I would like to know more about your new book.
My new book, Too Far to Walk, in my preface I explain where I got the word, the title to the book. And Dal Neitzel, who put me on the spot a while ago, uh, three days before it went to pressā¦ I own my own little publishing company, itās called One Horse Land and Cattle Company, two days or three days before we went to the printer, I didnāt have a dust jacket. So I sent Dal Neitzel an email, and I said go to the Madison River in Yellowstone Park. Thereās a very special place that Iām going to tell you about, and take a photograph of the water. Stand on the bank; put the flowers in the photograph. And send me the photograph. He did that, he sent me the photograph. My designer here in Santa Fe put the shadow across it. And two days before we went to the printer, I was still writing this book. When a writer sends a manuscript to a publisher, two years later theyāre thinking about going to the printer. We did this in two days. Byproduct of having your own people working for you and the people that helped me design this book are wonderful. Same people that did that book for me (gestures to The Thrill of the Chase). You canāt thank, some people, you can never thank enough.
Forrest, we got a question from your online fan base that we gotta address too.
Who is it?
This one is anonymous.
Ok. Boy Iām in trouble now.
Was the car, you walked back to after hiding the treasure, rented?
Was it rented?
Was it rented.
You know thatās the first time Iāve been asked that question. But, I canāt tell you how many times Iāve thought about that. Thatās why Iāve told people that I buried the treasure, that I hid the treasure chest when I was either 79 or 80 years old because I donāt want the exact date to be known because Iām afraid someone will go check the rental car records and how many miles did Mr. Fenn put on the truck or the car, and so I donāt answer those kind of questions, but shoot that person that sent that email.
I have a question. Back to The Thrill of the Chase, outside of the poem, how many clues or hints are in the book? Would you say 10 to 20? 20 to 30?
How many clues?
How many hints?
There are nine clues in the poem but if you read the book, uh, there are a couple. There are a couple of good hints, and then there are a couple of aberrations that live out on the edge. Yes, maāam?
You say thereās nine clues in the poem, the poem has more than nine lines. Can you share with us which exactly are the lines are the clues?
Which of the 24 lines are clues?
Uh, little girl I already know you. Youāve been out looking for the treasure.
Iām trying to help everybody else.
She already knows what the clues are. No, I donāt want to do that. Sheās scary too!
I donāt have a question, but I just want to mention since youāre so interested in information that the gentleman that emailed you from Lummi Islandā¦ Dalā¦ Lummi Island is on the far side of a reservation thatās called Lummi Reservation, so he has to go through the reservation every time he goes home to catch the ferry to go out to his island. Just an interesting fact I thought you might be interested in.
Uh, you know Dal, I didnāt know Dal until I after I had written my book. He came to Santa Fe because he wanted to talk to me about the book and the poem. And, I didnāt know the guy, so I didnāt want to meet him at my home, but I met him at the Collected Works bookstore in Santa Fe. And he introduced himself to me with a fictitious name. And he had some ulterior motives related to that. But after a few minutes to conversation, I learned that his name was Dal Neitzel and that he had worked with my nephew, Creighton Fenn, who is a professional deep sea diver. He found the Agamemnon, Lord Nelsonās flagship and brought a cannon up. He has a website that has wonderful pictures - I donāt know what the website is. But Dal Neitzel was working with my nephew when they found, I think, 79 17th century sunken Spanish galleons off the coast of Uruguay. I mean, Dal Neitzel, his water runs deep, and heās a really neat guy too. He runs a blog. I think he controls that whole blog. Itās very interesting. I read his blog so I can learn a lot about myself. (Laughter). Your friend isnāt laughing.
Coming from the online site again, Iāve been asked to ask you how many people have told you that theyāve discovered the unintended clue in Too Far to Walk and how many were right?
Well Iāve not had anybody tell me the answer to that clue. If you read my preface, it doesnāt take a genius to know what they are talking about. But there are clues in my new book that can help a person. Did I answer that question?
Yeah, that was it. Now hereās a really obscure one. Is it possible to locate the treasure chest without ever leaving your computer and Google Earth?
No. It isnāt. Did I really say that? There is not a picture of the treasure chest on Google Earth. Was that your question?
Yeah. I think that will suffice.
Because Google Earth doesnāt go down far enough.
Tell us about the childrenās book that you have planned.
The childrenās book that I have planned? Well thereās a lady that contacted me. Sheās written several childrenās books and she read both of my books and she said I want you to write a childrenās book with me. For some reason, she thought I was a child, I guess, the way I write my books. But I said okay and weāre thinking about that. I mean, I would like to do that. Sometimes, uh, Iām not a natural writer, I struggle when I write. I think my prose looks easy but I, sometimes I sit, uh, just today sometimes when I get to the end of a sentence, trying to write the end of the sentence, I forgot what the front part of the sentence was. So, I may be running out of words. I have three books in my computer that Iām really proud of. I would like to finish one. The main one is called Closet Stories of Taos. Itās about the artists and the characters but it isnāt an art book itās a gossip book. Itās about Long John Dunne, but that wasnāt his name at all. His name was Wilhelm. He killed two people in Texas, both of them justifiable, but the court didnāt think so. They convicted him of first degree murder and gave him life in prison. And the Sabine River in south Texas overflowed and they let all the prisoners out to stack sandbags to protect the house and John Dunn jumped in the river and floated on a log and far from the reach of Texas Rangers he said. And itās a wonderful story about John Dunn. But itās about Horace McHorace (sp?) who owned the first car dealership in Taos, and Tarasita Ferguson and thereās a great storyā¦ I donāt know if I can tell this story in this mixed company, but I will. There were two guys down on the plaza, walking around one Sunday afternoon. And, they were accosted by two women who wore hoods over their faces. They wanted these two men to go over to La Vonda hotel with them because they had a room over there. These two guys didnāt want to do it. Iām not gonna mention their names, but in my book I do. The two women turned to walk away, and one of the men lifted the hoods of one of these two women and one of them was Tarasita Ferguson and the other one was Georgia OāKeefe. So my book is really a gossip book. Stories about Doc Martin and the artists. Great stories about Gaspard and Fechin and Sharp, and Kaus and Victor Higgins and some of the others.
Question? Ok then, I will ask another from the online world.
Will you quit going back to the computer?
Ok, this will be the last one. Other than the one you mentioned, are there any other hints in Too Far To Walk that would help solve the nine clues?
Well thereās a major clue in the book, but I donāt think it will help you find the treasure chest. Iāll tell you what the clue is. In the back of my book, thereās a map. And Iāve said that the treasure chest is hidden in the Rocky Mountains. Hereās a treasure chest (I think he meant āmapā) of the Rocky Mountains. If you knew where the treasure chest is hidden, you could find it on this map. But the map stops at Canada. The Rockyās keep going up there, but I said itās in the Rocky Mountains, which would include Canada. When this book was printed, I didnāt realize that Benchmark Maps, who made this map, stopped at the Canadian border, so thatās a clue, but I donāt think - itās not going to help you much.
But thatās not THE clue.
What did she say?
She said, āThatās not THE clue.ā
There are no clues in this book, but there are some hints. What I tell people to do, if youāre really serious about looking for the treasure, get the Thrill of The Chase and read it. And then go back and read the poem over and over and over again. And then go back and read the book again, but slowly looking at every little abstract thing that might catch up in your brain. That might be a hint to help you with the clues. Any part of some, is better than no part of any. I donāt think thatāll help you much, butā¦
If somebody finds the treasure, and they reveal themselves that they have found it
If somebody finds the treasure, what?
If somebody does find the treasure, and ruins your plans to throw/cast your bones upon the chest, will you find a new location and do it again?
How do you answer a guy who asks a question like that? I donāt think so. I mean, Iāve had my run. A lot of things you canāt plan. You know, making plans is antagonistic to freedom. I used to tell a story in my Too Far To Walk book about in Santa Fe I had a Piper Malibu Barrage. Carried lots of fuel. It had a 43 foot wingspan. And I could go out there all by myself, push the hangar doors open, because I didnāt want anyone to help me, crank that airplane up, get permission from the tower to take off, and head north, and then turn my radios off. I had no idea where I was going to land, what I was going to see, I didnāt even care. I had six or seven hundred miles before I had to think about that. But I had GPS and I had maps. Iād find a little town up in Wyoming or Idaho or someplace in Montana, and look on my map and see if they had a rental car or an airport. And if they did, Iād land and rent a car and go out and sit by the lake, or the river. I did that, I think it was in Lander, Wyoming. The little Popo Agie River runs through Lander. How can you not stop where the little Popo Agie River runs through the town?
My best friend who passed away a couple of months ago lived in Lander.
She lived in Lander?
Iāve been to Lander a few times. Itās a typical little town, I mean you have to love Lander. Thatās grass roots America.
As a matter of fact, I have a granddaughter that is in pre-med at Texas Tech University. I told her that I would pay for all of her college to get a medical degree if she would promise me that when she graduated and got her license, that she would go to a little town like Lander, set up a shingle and make house calls. And she has to do that for two years. She promised me that she would do that, so thatās where I am with this whole thing. Yes, sir?
Forrest, did you have nine clues before you wrote the poem? Or, did nine clues appear after the poem?
Theyāre contiguous. I knew where I wanted to hide the treasure chest, so it was easy for me to put one foot down and then step on it to get to the next foot. So thatās what I did. But I changed it over - I donāt know how many times. I looked up the meaning of words. You know we really donāt know what some of our words mean. For instance, what does the word āseveralā mean? S-E-V-E-R-A-L what does that mean?
It means more than two, but not many more than two. Isnāt that a way to define a word. More than two, but not many. So, I doubt that anybody in this room knows that. I mean, I wouldnāt know it except Iām a writer and sometimes I look things up. There are lots of words in the English language that we canāt define and consequently we use them erroneously. How in the hell did I get on that subject?
Is there anything in the chest you would like back?
Is there anything in the chest I want back. Yeah, I want my little bracelet back. And Iām glad you asked that question. Her name is, uh, M-A-C-I. Well, anyway, Iāve had about 35 men, or people, send me an email that says, āI found your treasure.ā Iām looking at it, of course I donāt believe it. But I write them back and say, āCongratulations. Will you sell me my bracelet back?ā and they say, āWhat bracelet?ā And this one guy said that to me - that he had my treasure chest. I said, well, āIām interested sir, did the hot water affect the patina on the treasure chest?ā He said, āThank you!ā and hung up. He thought I had given him a clue and heās gonna go look in all the hot water up and down the Rocky Mountains. Peopleā¦ Everybody has their own gig. I keep saying that. I believe it. Yes, maāam?
50:02 Have you given comparable treasure to your grandchildren, sir?
Do I have comparable treasure for my grandchildren?
My family is taken care of. But Iām another maverick in that area. The last thing I want to do is make my kids or grandkids wealthy. I was in the art business for so many years, and I saw what inherited money can do. Itās the thrill of the chase. Itās the thrill in doing it yourself. I bought all my grandkids cars when they got their driverās license. Iām paying for all their education. And then, they are on their own. First of all, Iām really not that wealthy. I mean, I can live on the interest, and thatās the definition of a wealthy person I guess, I mean.... Lots of things, uh, uh, I have everything I want but I donāt want very much.
How did you come up with the title? Too Far to Walk?
Youāll have to read my preface. I explained it in my preface. Well, let me read it to you. Iāll read a dedication. This book is dedicated to all that have pushed me against my will, and made me a better person. Hereās my preface. I put a small rubber dinghy in the Madison River a few miles from West Yellowstone, Montana and fished downstream to Bakerās Hole. That part of the river was in the quietly forgotten western edge of Yellowstone National Park. There were no roads, no trails, and no Rangers to tell me I wasnāt supposed to do that. The river distance was about 10 miles and the best fishing was in the bends where the water turned greenish deep and beautiful. The small boat containing my camping gear was tethered to my belt and as I leisurely walked in the quiet river, I spent three days there casually casting my fly and enjoying the solitude. The river experience cemented my connection to that special country, and I promised myself that someday I would make that trip again. That day never came for me, and my disappointment still casts a lonesome shadow across the Madison River. For me now, itās just too far to walk. And thatās where I got the title. Yes, sir?
Forrest, may I suggest that you tell the audience for those of us who arenāt searchers, tell the audience, who is not searching why the phrase ātoo far to walkā is so important?
I didnāt say it was too far...err. Important! That part of the preface is a metaphor for my entire life. Looking back, Iāve done some things that Iām not gonna brag about, but Iāve also not done some things that Iād wish I had. As a matter of fact, in the Thrill of the Chase, I talk about writing my obituary. My, uh, what do you call it, (epitaph?) Yeah.
I wish I could have lived to do The things I was attributed to (Laughter)
See there? She feels the same way about that. Well, I had my gallery for 17 years in Santa Fe. And, I had no education. Iād been a fighter pilot all my life. So when I opened my business, I didnāt have a painting. Knew nothing about business, knew nothing about art. Thatās why I had to start from scratch. My first two shows, I didnāt sell so much as a book. And I finally told myself, I had a little bit of money left, that Iād saved 20 years in the Air Force. I said Iām going to spend this money advertising, and if that doesnāt work Iām gonna slam the door and go do something else.
And it started working for me. I learned to play Monopoly at my art gallery. And every time I sold a painting, I took the profit and bought two paintings. Then I took the profit and bought four paintings. Over a period of time, it took me two years before I could finance my gallery out of accounts receivable. But I learned a lot along the way. Thereās so much to learn. I learned that when I needed somebody to work in my accounts receivable and accounts payable office, thatās a very important job. In the business, everything depends on cash flow. So this lady came to see me. She wanted to work for me. I needed somebody in accounts receivable and accounts payable. So, I said let me think about it overnight. So about eight oāclock that night, I went to her house and knocked on her door. She let me in. I wanted to see what kind of housekeeper she was. If thereās stuff laying all over the floor, sheās not going to work in my accounts receivable. But I want her working as a salesman out front. Different personalities have different things. You know, Iāve always said that salesmen, like school teachers, have shelf lives. And itās about six years. Dorothy will say thatās not true. If you own your own business itās a little bit different, but I learned a lot in the art business. I learned a lot about people, I learned a lot about business, and I learned a lot about life.
So many writers, I donāt want to be critical, but I know so many writers that are so much better than I am. Theyā¦ Everything is researched perfectly. Everything is correct. The commas are in the right spot, and you go right down the center line. And I told this writer today she should be writing Encyclopedia Britannicas. Itās no fun to read. Everythingās there, but itās no fun. I said - when are you gonna walk out to theā¦ How do you know where the edge is if you donāt go out there and look? I never wanted to go down the center line. I wanted to bounce off the curbs and I think Iāve done that. I got caught a few times, butā¦ I think ifā¦ If I had my life to do over, I said in my, one of these books that, if I had my life to do over, Iād change nearly everything. Why do the same thing over and over again? You know? You read in these different magazines, they ask a different question, āWhat would you change in your life?ā
āI wouldnāt change anything, everythingās been perfect.ā I think thatās such a, a, an idiot thing to say, I think. Why do the same thing over again when you canā¦ Nothing wrong with slamming a door and starting out new again.
Out of the night that covers me Dark is the pit from pole to pole I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul
I think thatās a good place to stop, donāt you?
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Everything is Stories - 003 As I Have Gone Alone in There
FORREST FENN: Well, when I was nine years old, I found my first arrowhead with my father. He was an arrowhead collector, and so was my football coach in high school. So we did all that together. Most of the arrowheads you find out in the countryside are broken in half in two. And people say, āOh thatās broken. Thatās terrible.ā But to me, that means a lot to me. That means that the projector was on the end of an arrow. It penetrated the body of a deer maybe. Hit a bone and broke right in front of where it was hafted. So to me, that thing has a history that a whole arrowhead doesnāt have. I think itās the wonderment of being out there, of seeing nature, and visualizing what used to be. The Rosetta Stone was buried for 2,000 years before somebody found it, and I said in my book, āDonāt you know that guy is proud? The guy that carved that thing.ā
Well it was 1988 when I acquired the treasure chest and started filling it up with thing. I paid $25,000 for the treasure chest, and I started filling it up with 265 gold coins. Most of them are American Eagles and some Double Eagles, mostly Double Eagles. My goal never changed. My goal was to take that treasure chest out in a very special place and put it there. Iāve never said that I buried it, but I never said that I didnāt bury it. I just donāt want to give that as a clue. And, let people go looking for it. If you can find the treasure chest, and open that lid for the first time, itās going to be the most wonderful thing that you ever saw.
I crafted a poem thatās in my book. It has nine clues in it, and I changed that poem over a 15 year period. People read that poem and itās there, āHe sat down and wrote that poem in 15 minutes.ā It took me 15 years. The poem is not so much written as it is an architectural plan. Itās been crafted. It reads very simple. Here, hand me that book.
I dare you to go get it. If you can find it, you can have it. And nobody knows where it is but me. If a train runs over me this afternoon, it will go to my grave with me.
My name is Forrest Fenn. Weāre in my home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Iāve lived in it since 1988 and I think it will be my last abode. The Santa Fe trail runs about 50 feet from my library window and I have an old 1880 Army ammunition wagon sitting right in the middle of the Santa Fe trail. It goes right through my pond. Iām very happy where I am. Santa Fe is a wonderful place to live. Iāll be 83 in two weeks. Iām going out at the top of my game. Some people are collectors and some people are not. My wife is not a collector, but I collected everything. I used to collect match folders and beer steins. I donāt know what it is, but if you have an old photograph of your mother, what makes you like that photograph? Antiques - thereās the mystery of it. The unknown that plays on your mind. The mystery of who they were and who made it and what they did. You can conjure back anything you want to about that.
Itās the thrill of discovery - the thrill of the chase. On we go / the virtue lies / in the journey / not the prize. And I believe that.
MARK HOWARD: Thereās a lot of people that really enjoy the idea of a treasure, you know? Just like I enjoy the idea of it. From my perspective, of course, Iām a goldsmith and having 20 pounds of gold to work with, thatās my palette. Thatās what I enjoy and thatās what I do, so that would be extreme freedom for me from $1300 an ounce gold, you know, which is what I have to pay today. My name is Mark Howard. Weāre here in Santa Fe, New Mexico, or outside thereof, and this is my house, and as far as the treasure goes, Iām going to probably look again although the past two times, because itās whipped me, I said to my wife, āYou know, maybe I shouldnāt go again.ā And it only takes me a couple of weeks to say, āNo, I think I gotta go again.ā I like the treasure hunt. Itās like when we were kids. Like Treasure Island and all those stories you read when you were a kid, and you thought, āGod, Iād just love to go out and do something like that.ā And this kind of fed into that, and I said, okay. I was, what, 57? Iām going to be 60. If Iām going to do this kind of thing, Iād better do it now. Thereās some historical points in there, historical artifacts in there. All those interest me too. I really love the antique stuff. One of the things I really want is that damn box. I really want that box, because this is from like 1150 A.D.
FENN: The box is a beautiful cast bronze box that Iāve been told was 11th or 12th century. Itās 10 inches by 10 inches and 5 inches deep, and weighs 42 pounds. The gold is what makes it heavy. 265 gold coins, some pre-Columbian gold figures that are 1500 to 1800 years old. Thereās a wonderful necklace in there made by Sinu and Tairona cultures with carved jade figures and carnelian and quartz crystals carved figures. Itās wonderful - 2000 years old. Itāsā¦ Itās worth looking for. I put a little bracelet in there that I won in a pool game with a guy. Itās the cheapest thing in there. Itās probably worth, well with all the notoriety itās had now, itās probably worth $750. It was worth $250 when I put it in the treasure chest. You canāt just go out and buy a bunch of gold nuggets. There are hundreds and hundreds of gold nuggets in that treasure chest. Thereās a little jar of gold dust from Alaska. I couldnāt put a Porsche in the box, or Iād have done that. I was limited by so many cubic inches in that treasure chest.
HOWARD: He often says if it takes 2,000 years for someone to find it, thatās just fine by him. Itās not fine by me, but thatās okay. I think Iāve been out only maybe 20 times. Started here in Northern New Mexico, and at one point I went as far as Yellowstone. Then I went into Colorado, and Iām still kind of bouncing around looking for the treasure. Almost anybody that found it, with the exception of the people that are crazy, would probably let it go. I certainly would. My idea is to put Jim Weatherellās bracelet on, and walk up to his house, you know, and knock on the door, and heād know immediately. I wouldnāt have to say a thing; he wouldnāt have to say a thing. That way, heād never have to say anything to anybody else either. Thatās, uh, you know, thatās a daydream.
FENN: Thereās something that I donāt know whether itās in the treasure chest or not. It was a crazy idea. But, going about the question you asked earlier, āDid I want to know if someone had found the treasure chest?ā So I said, āYeah, I do.ā One reason is so people wonāt be spending all their money looking for something that isnāt there any more. So I put an IOU - I wrote out an IOU. āTake this IOU to my bank in Santa Fe, and collect $100,000.ā I figured for $100,000, the guy that found the treasure chest would not want to keep it secret anymore. So now the IRS is getting in the act and everybody knows. But if someone finds it 1,000 years from now, my bank wonāt be there, and there wonāt be any money in the account even if they did, so, I think I took that IOU out. But I donāt remember whether I did or not. Itās in there in spirit.
There are two gold nuggets in that treasure chest that weigh more than a Troy pound apiece. I used to take them out and hand them to people that would almost drop them because theyāre so heavy. Iād go on the Today show, you know, Iāve been on five times...
JANET SHAMLIAN: ...Talk you into, somehow, giving us another clue this morning....
FENN: Well Iām not going to put an X on the map for you.
And I think weāll do it maybe anotherā¦ and I give clues. The last clue I gave them was that itās not in Utah or Idaho. But thatās not going to lead you to the treasure chest.
...The clue is that the treasure is higher than seven, uh, five thousand feet above sea level....
SHAMLIAN: ...The treasure is higher than 5,000 feet above sea level....
MICHAEL MCGARRITY: I think itās in New Mexico. Now, the issue was: was it buried? We finally got Forrest to admit that no, itās hidden. So, itās quite possible itās not buried, just simply hidden. My nameās Michael McGarrity, Iām a novelist. Weāre in Cathedral Park, which is next to the Basilica a block from the famous Santa Fe Plaza. We like to get together once in awhile and have lunch and tell stories. Socializing is something that usually happens when someone throws a party, or thereās some special event to get folks together. This is the stuff that myths are made of, that legends are made of. And weāve got our share of old mine treasures being hidden on the White Sands missile range. Vittorio Peak, or down in the Gila, now weāve got the Forrest Fenn treasure.
FENN: Thereāve been some people very close to the treasure chest. There have been people that have figured out the first couple of clues and walked right past the treasure chest. I think itās there - I havenāt checked on it, but Iām 99.9% sure itās there.
MCGARRITY: He has said publicly, that people have come within 500 feet of the treasure. Now, the question is: is that true? I mean thatās a great teaser, and I would have used it myself even if the person that got closest to it was five miles away. I still would have said that. If itās found, and I asked him this question, if itās found, how are you going to know its found? Now heās convinced that he will be contacted, right? If I found a multi-million dollar treasure, I wouldnāt want the IRS to know about it, would you? No! Iād take it home and Iād sell one gold nugget at a time. Heās a character. What else can I say? Heās an interesting guy. He has a certain flamboyancey to him.
FENN: But I put other things in there too. I pulled a couple of hairs out of my head. Because somebody can do a DNA, they can do a carbon-14 test. You know, thereās another thing that I put in the chest that Iāve not told anybody about, and Iām saving it for the person that finds the treasure chest. In other words, this is not something that I put together in an afternoon. I spent a lot of time thinking about it.
MARY WOLF: My name is Mary Wolf. Iām the co-owner of the Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico. Forrest Fenn has been a loyal and constant customer of the bookstore since the bookstore opened in 1978. I got to know him best, probably, in 2010 when he came to the store to talk to Dorothy and myself about The Thrill of the Chase, the book that he was about to release and publish.
FENN: I wrote a book called The Thrill of the Chase and thatās the philosophy that permeates that book. You know, thereās a lady writer from Austin asked me, āMr. Fenn, whoās your audience for this book?ā I said, āMy audience is every redneck in Texas with a pickup truck and 12 kids. Heās lost his job and has the thrill to go out and look for things.ā I said, āThatās my audience.ā Throw a bedroll in the back of your truck, get a six pack, and hit the road looking for a fortune! I mean, itās the thrill of the chase. Thatās what weāre talking about. Take your wife. Put all the kids in the back of the truck and head out!
WOLF: The Thrill of the Chase has had a huge impact, obviously, on our business. Forrest is not tied to the bookstore in any way contractually; however, he gave us this book to sell. He paid for the first printing, and then gave us the book because he didnāt want anyone to say he was making any money from this store, which he hasnāt. Weāve paid for the last printing, and weāll pay for the future printings. And we are already in the 5th printing coming up, so weāre going through the books. First of all he can well-afford to hide a treasure of that value, and what really drives him is to leave a lasting mark on a whole generation of people and recreate a love for adventure and a passion for discovery that he has in his own life. And I think itās beautiful. I think itās a beautiful story. He has an amazing story.
FENN: Well, I was born in Temple, Texas in the heart of Texas 60 miles north of Austin. My father was a school teacher. When I started first grade, he started in the school that I started first grade in. He was a math teacher, and the next year, they promoted him to be the principal. And then I went to a Junior High School, and he moved over there and he was my principal again. So I passed all those courses because my father was principal. Iām not sure for any other reason!
I remember the first time I saw TV in Temple, Texas there was a big truck out behind, on the city square behind the city hall. And they invited people to come into city hall and look at the television set that was being transmitted from a hundred feet away. It wasnāt a very good picture. And then, a couple of years later, color TV came along and boy, thatāll never work! And I remember riding back from Yellowstone to Temple, Texas with my football coach in 1946 when they dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
HISTORIC VOICEOVER: When can we tell when the atomic bomb will explode?
FENN: And boy, that was the end. The beginning of the end. President Eisenhower told everybody to go out in their backyard and dig a bomb shelter and stock it with food forā¦ and everybody did.
HISTORIC VOICEOVER: Always remember, the flash of an atomic bomb can come at any time no matter where you may be.
FENN: Every generation thinks that theirs will be the last. When the bow and arrow was invented, everybody said boy, the end is coming! And then when the Chinese invented gunpowder, that WAS the end.
MCGARRITY: Santa Feās a place that attracts unusual people. Forrest certainly qualifies in that regard. Heās a very unique guy. His record in the military is just an incredible one. You could call him a war hero. I mean he enlisted in the Air Force, I mean he can tell his own story.
FENN: I joined the military on the 6th of September 1950. The Korean War was brand new, and I was going to win the war! I started out as a private and I retired 20 years later as a major. The military in all their wisdom said that I had an aptitude for electronics, and I didnāt have the slightest idea what I was doing. But I went to an Advanced Radar Maintenance school for nine months in Biloxi, Mississippi, and I graduated but I still didnāt know what I was doing. I had a mean sergeant that didnāt like me and I didnāt like him so I went down to personnel and I said, āHow can I get out of this place?ā They gave me a bunch of forms to fill out and I could go to jump school, I could volunteer for submarine or I could go to pilot training. I said, āIāll take the first one you can get for me,ā and it was pilot training. So they put me in this little machine - it looked like a phone booth turned on its side. And it had a stick in it like an airplane has. It was on springs. If you turned the thing loose, it falls over and you crash. So the secret is to hold the airplane steady. And this guy said I was the best he ever saw doing that, I mean it was the simplest thing Iād ever been in. And I said, āIf thatās all there is to it, Iāll take it!ā So they accepted me into pilot training.
When you fly in fighter airplanes, the old saying is if the fighter pilot makes a mistake, he doesnāt have to worry about it. But when you get in that airplane all by yourself, itās a whole different ballgame really. Thereās nobody there but you. Itāll sober you up. I was in Vietnam for a year. I flew 328 combat missions. I was shot down twice, and took battle damage a few times. I lost some roommates. Getting shot down was routine. I didnāt get killed, but I had an airplane full of bullet holes, and it was totally destroyed. I did land the thing. I landed at a little airport that was used mostly for forward air controllers, little putt-putt airplanes and helicopters. I put the tail up on this F-100 I was flying and I engaged the barrier because I knew I wasnāt going to stop otherwise. But I pulled that thing the wrong way and I touched down at about 150 knots I guess and I stopped in less than 200 feet. I came away with the idea that we need to learn to leave other people alone. And I think we killed 10 civilians for every military person we killed because weāre dropping bombs and strafing, you donāt see the bodies laying there, but itās a terrible thing. We need to stop doing that.
When I was 27 years old, no college, I was in a fighter squadron in Bitburg, Germany. They took me down to supply, and I checked out an atomic bomb. 61 megaton atomic bomb. I think the bomb at Hiroshima was something like 17,000 tons? Well this was 61 kilotons. I owned that thing. It had a crew chief like an airplane has a crew chief and itās on a dolly. But the dolly couldnāt move one inch unless I was standing there supervising. I was all over Europe and South America and all over this country, and we had a gunner school outside of Tripoli, Libya - about 35 or 40 miles. On the weekends, I would get a jeep and go down to the Sahara Desert where the big tank battles were fought during World War Two. Itās just like they left that country, you know? You can see skeletons laying there and a German helmet and a burned out tank and bullets laying around. I canāt tell you how many times I would see a hand grenade laying on the ground there, with a flint projectile laying next to it thatās 1500, 2000, 3000 years old. Youād see wars laying on top of wars.
They grew me up in the Air Force. You get a haircut once a week, whether you like it or not, and I could see myself growing in the Air Force. They gave me so much authority, you know, I retired - you have to serve 20 years to get retired pay, but you have to retire at the end of the month so it cost me 24 extra days. I served 20 years and 24 days. And I got out the first minute I was eligible.
I had a wife and two daughters, two young daughters, and my retired pay was $800 a month. I could get by with that in 1970. We did alright but I wanted to do better than that, and I just wanted to go someplace where the world would stop and let me out. Santa Fe was the only place I knew where I could wear blue jeans, a short-sleeved shirt, and Hush Puppies, and make a living. One of my rules was that I didnāt want to do anything, where my best customer gave me $100 - talking about restaurant business, one hour Martinizing, I mean you go on and on and on. Theyāre labor intensive. Primary employee doesnāt show up - heās drunk or something. I was a collector of Indian things and antiques and that sort of thing. So I wanted to deal in luxuries.
JD NOBLE: Iād known about him forever. Heās a local legend. He had an amazing gallery here in town and really brought it to the ultimate Santa Fe gallery. If you had to choose one of the major galleries, his gallery would have been the one. Iām JD Noble. Iām part owner of the Hatsmith of Santa Fe. I was looking for some photos of some old Indians that I knewā¦ I knew Forrest had some photos of these old Indians from Taos. And so, I called him up one day and said, āHey, I would like to have lunch with you and talk about these old Taos Indians.ā So he says, āYeah, yeah, I want to show you something.ā We had lunch and he says, āWell, I donāt really have any photos that I can help you with, but I do have thisā¦ā And he unrolls this flyer for the new book on the treasure. And so man, I am hooked right away. So my trips are usually no more than two days. Iāll go in and camp out. If I canāt find it in two days, I come back, then I go out again.
FENN: When youāre dealing with luxuries, normally youāre dealing with better people. Youāre dealing with people that can write a check that wonāt bounce. I broke all the rules of custom. I would take anybodyās check for any amount of money. And normally, I wasnāt interested in looking at a Driverās License. You know I go to New York today, and they wonāt take my travelerās check. Well, I took a check for $375,000 from a man one time and told him I didnāt want to see his driverās license. He couldnāt believe it. He couldnāt believe Iād take his check. Seventeen years in the business, I had two bad checks. The big one was for $600. And the guy that wrote me the check for $600 he did it deliberately thinking he was going to get by with it. Didnāt say anything to him. I didnāt call him, I didnāt write him a letter. But 30 days later I sued him for $600, attorneyās fees, interest on the note, and $25,000 punitive damages. He was calling my wife trying to get her to talk me into dropping my lawsuit. I finally settled with him. I think I got attorneyās fees $75, Interest on the note was $1.75 or so, and I said come into my gallery again, and Iāll take your check for any amount of money, but next time, itās $1,000,000 punitive damage because you have a track record.
A guy came into my gallery years ago. He had a little tiny human skull, about the size of a big orange. He said, āThis is Napoleonās skull.ā He said, āI want $1,000 for it.ā I said, āThat canāt be Napoleon's skull, itās too small.ā He said, āOh, it was his skull when he was a kid.ā So, you know, thatās what you have to put up with when youāre a trader. You know, I almost bought the skull! The story was too good to turn down! I ran my gallery for 17 years. My first two shows, I didnāt sell anything. Not even a book. And I finally decided, I had a little bit of money left, Iām going to spend my money on advertising. When that moneyās gone, Iām going to slam the door, leave this town and go do something else. Probably flipping hamburgers someplace. I tell people to - if you have a daydream, then thatās where your aptitude is. Go do that.
HOWARD: I think what people need to know is, if they know Forrest Fenn, then they know that heās a historian and ethnographer and archaeologist, anthropologistā¦ I think part of it is, one of many parts of it is, like, looking to match wits with Forrest. Heās very intelligent. Heās very logical. Heās very creative. And heās very crafty. I had many of the misconceptions that everybody else starts out with. Misconceptions by - you have a certain perspective, and when you read this book, itās from your perspective that you look at whatever clues are there, and then try to find this treasure. But, you canāt look at it from your perspective. You have to divorce yourself from that and look at it from the perspective of Forrest Fenn. So first you have to know the man. You have to read the book, and then I read every book that he mentioned in the book. Including things I hadnāt read in years, like Catch-22 and The Great Gatsby. I looked at each one of them trying to say, āOkay, is there a clue in each one of these books as well?ā
WOLF: If you know Forrest, then you know that, primarily, heās an adventurer, and a great explorer of life, and a great collector of things. The thrill of the chase really sums up what his whole life has been about. Itās about pursuing the āhard to reachā, going places other people donāt go. Obtaining things that other people arenāt able to obtain. And doing it in a really loving and careful way. I think that the treasure is just indicative of how Forrest thinks, and he has one of the most amazing art collections in the United States. So he was going to leave a legacy behind anyway, but this speaks to his larger desire to leave a legacy for the world.
FENN: People think I did this for my legacy. When youāre dead, a legacy is not worth much to you when youāre dead. So that was never a consideration of mine, really. I donāt care if anybody remembers me after Iām gone. You donāt have to acknowledge me while Iām alive as far as Iām concerned.
MCGARRITY: I used that word with him - legacy. He kind of gave me this strange look like, you know itās not about legacy, Iām just having fun. I said, āOh now wait a minute, Forrest, come on, thereās a little bit of the legacy thing. Leaving something behind. This is of legendary proportion. Thatās what legacy means. Letās talk about it from that standpoint. Taking a beautiful antique bronze box and filling it with jewels and coins and gold and nuggets, and burying it, and writing a poem so people can go and find it. If thatās not about legacy, tell me what it is.ā
FENN: I learned I had cancer in 1988. I had a small pain in my left groin, and it persisted for a number of months. So I was talking to a doctor at a party one day, and he says, āWell, you ought to go over and check it out.ā The first time I knew I was in trouble, the nurse, they gave me some stuff to drink, and they were looking at my kidneys on this machine, and the nurse said, āHey girls, come over here and look at this.ā And I had a dead kidney and my doctor said, āWell, just because your kidney is not working is not reason enough to take it out, but since you have a pain, letās take it out.ā And I said, āWhat are the chances of it being cancer?ā He said, āfive percent.ā A one hour operation turned into five and he gave me a 20% chance of living three years.
I was standing right here in my office with Ralph Lauren one time. He was a friend, and a client. And I had something that he wanted. I told him I didnāt want to sell it. He said, āYouāve got so many of them. You canāt take them with you.ā And without thinking about it, I said to him, āWell, if I canāt take it with me, then Iām not going.ā And that night I started thinking about it and I, you know, I had a 20% chance to live, thatās not too good. My father called me on the phone one night. He had pancreas cancer. They gave him six months to live. Eighteen months later, he called me on the phone and said that he was going to take 50 sleeping pills that night. I had an airplane. I said I would be there first thing in the morning. He said, āThatās too late.ā And it was. And I respected him because he did it on his own terms. Why do you have to do it on somebody elseās terms all the time? So I decided that if I was going to die, and the odds certainly said that I was going to, then I appreciated what my father did and the last thing I want to do is die in a hospital bed. I said in my book, a hospital bed gives you temporary postponement, and youāre miserable the whole time. The poem originally said, āTake the chest and leave my bones alone.ā I ruined my original story because I got well. Why not hide a treasure chest full of wonderful things and let somebody else have the same thrill that Iāve had all these years? For 70 years. 75 years. The gold in the treasure chest weighs 20.2 Troy pounds. Itās full of emeralds and diamonds and sapphires and 200 something rubies. When I hid my treasure chest, walking back to my car, I had this strange sensation. I asked myself out loud, I said, āForrest did you really do that?ā And I started laughing at myself out loud. There was nobody around, but in the back of my mind I told myself if Iām sorry later, I can go back and get it. But then the more I thought about it, it started evolving in my mind, I became really proud of myself. You know, once in awhile you do something that youāre really proud of. It hasnāt happened to me too many times. But I was really glad that I hid that treasure chest.
My wife doesnāt know within 18 months of when I hid that treasure chest. But the clues are there. Theyāre not easy to follow, but certainly not impossible.
WOLF: I have no doubt that itās out there. I know that some people think that thereās no way that he could have done this or would have done this, and I think that people who believe that donāt understand, uh, what drives Forrest. He really, really is driven by wanting kids having the same sort of experiences today that he had growing up even though theyāre growing up in a very different world. And so, he really wants kids to get out and bond with their families and go out and explore nature and get out there and experience the thrill of the chase.
FENN: We have a problem in this country with our youth today. Weāre obese. Graffiti. Drive by shootings. Disrespect. The teenagers today are going to be our senators and presidents in the future, so what are we doing to prepare those people? And Iāve got to blame the churches. I blame school teachers. I certainly blame archeologists who have a wonderful thing to offer, but theyāre so full of jargon and everybody has their thing going and weāre mostly oblivious of the problems that somebody else sees but itās not my problem. Thatās the attitude today, and I think thatās a terrible attitude. In a very small way, I was hoping to get kids off the couch, out of the game rooms, and away from their texting machines and out to smell the sunshine and see whatās going on out in the countryside.
MCGARRITY: I think thatās Forrestās whole intention. Get their kids. Take them out, and show them the outdoors and have an adventure. It doesnāt matter if you find it. Iāve had some amazing times out in the mountains just looking for it.
WOLF: We have heard numerous times, āThis is the first time we have taken a family vacation. All of us. This is the first time that we have all gone somewhere and spent this much time together.ā And we hear that from the kids too. Like, āThis is the first time weāve ever gone anywhere with mom and dad and done what mom and dad are doing.ā And thatās really powerful. Forrest loves to hear those stories. Frankly, thereās just as much chance of a six year old from Kansas finding it as there is somebody in Santa Fe who has been dedicating their months to figuring out the puzzle. And if they wander across it, they will find it.
FENN: Again let me say that Iām not thinking of something āLetās go do it this afternoon.ā Iām thinking about a thousand years from now. Nothing has happened that was not predictable. Iāve called 911 three times. They arrested a guy at my gate and put him in handcuffs last week. Took him off to jail. Iāve had death threats. You know, when you look at politicians they get death threats every day.
HOWARD: And you know you canāt guess what these people are going to do. And people get in their head, āItās my treasure. I deserve it. Iām going to go get it.ā That can be a little scary.
FENN: So Iāll be 83 years old on the 22nd of this month and I told a guy the other day if torture and death are the only two things that you can threaten me with youāre in trouble. Iāve been down the road a few miles you know? I donāt want to leave my wife with all of these things. The vultures would circle this house and so Iām selling some things now. Iām not tearing down my walls, but things that are laying down. Iām just trying to ease the pain for my heirs. I think over spring break in Santa Fe there were about 6,500 people in Santa Fe related to the treasure chest. And, this summer, before the summer is over I spent some time estimating. I think there will be 43,000 people looking for the treasure chest in New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming.
MCGARRITY: On the one hand, itās given an award for increasing tourism in the community right? I was walking in a shopping center just after the book came out and there was this huge 4x4 extended cab Dodge 350 Ram Charger. And in the back there was a 4 wheel drive all terrain vehicle. And this big Texan gets out. I know he was Texan because he had license plates from Texas. And he says, āCan you tell me how to find Forrest Fenn? Iām looking for Forrest Fenn. Iām here to look for that treasure.ā
WOLF: We have met people from, probably, four continents and ten countries, who have come here. We have families, older people, young people, college kids who have come together. People who have started teams working on the puzzle. Crowdsourcing. Solutions to the puzzle, and then sending delegates out here to look.
HOWARD: Iāve run into people whoāve told me they spent their life savings coming out here. Literally coming from Florida one guy came. Spent at least $12,000 on airfare. That was his life savings. A lady come in from Mississippi. She was an old client and she said, āWell, when I find Forrestās treasure,ā sheās 40 pounds overweight, five years old than me and sheās rich and I say, āOkay, you go!ā you know? āYou go girl!ā What the hell.
FENN: Iām right at 22,000 emails from people related to the treasure chest. They tell me where they are and where theyāre going and want to know if theyāre hot or cold. Thousands of emails from people that have said thanks to me for getting them out of the house. I had a man send me an email who said, āMy brother - I had not spoken to my brother in 12 years. He called me on the phone and said letās go look for the treasure chestā, and so theyāre connected again. I see a lot of that - that kind of thing. Itās very rewarding, you know, itās a by-product of something that I did. Iām the big winner in this thing, because I feel a sense of satisfaction.
WOLF: About the best one that I heard was a gentleman who said that if he found the treasure, he would give the bracelet back to Forrest and then he was going to re-hide the treasure somewhere else, and write his own book. And just kind of keep it going because he was having so much fun looking for it. And heād been looking for it for six months and he kind of wanted to find it, but he kind of didnāt want that to end.
HOWARD: ...come to my shop, I had the guy from Florida that I mentioned came to my shop, and he brought me a detailed map. Layed out on a piece of cardboard. Told me what he was thinking. And said, āWill you go get this for me and split the treasure with me?ā I said, āLook, thatās not my thing. I know where I want to go.ā And he got offended and left.
MCGARRITY: You know, I really kind of wonder if some people have found it. My last adventure out, somebody had beaten me to it. To the spot. I had been there once before, but I was unprepared. And I came back, and waited for the weather to get warm, and went back. Somebody had left a message that they had been there already. Done in pink chalk. With a big X on a rock and said, āIt is not here.ā I think itās a diversion because I still want to go back because thereās many many, uh, I canāt tell you where itās at. People - somebody else already figured it out too, so whoever it was, we were both thinking and putting the clues, and thatās just interpreting the clues, which are so vague.
FENN: Iāve given clues to everybody. Iāve never given a clue to an individual. The first clue that I gave that wasnāt in my poem was because I made this guy mad and he demanded another clue. And I said, āThe treasure chest is hidden more than 300 miles west of Toledo.ā I donāt think he knew that I was pulling his leg. There was a guy out here someplace, dug a hole 18 inches deep and 9 inches wide and they arrested him.
FEMALE VOICEOVER: ...charges for digging near a descanso looking for Forrest Fennās box of gold and jewels.
FENN: Please tell me whatās going on here. Nine inches wide and eighteen inches deep and they arrested - all over the paper, theyāre quoting the police officer that theyāre going to prosecute this guy.
MCGARRITY: There are people saying, āOh wait, wait, wait. Heās sending these people off to trample our wilderness.ā What wilderness? Come on. About the only real wilderness we have, most people canāt get to. And thatās up in the Pecos which recently burned. You know, most of what we have in terms of national forest is not wilderness. But, āoh no, itās going to send people out and theyāre going to dig up, uh, plants and disturb the ground and be where they shouldnāt be.ā
FENN: No matter what you do, somebody is not going to like it. There are always just disgruntled people. Somebody picks up an arrowhead worth $8.00. And they āstole that from the government.ā So I guess the government is going to come and get them and arrest them. Too many PhDās in government. Bureau of Land Management came in and searched my house four years ago. Somebody told them I had taken something out of a cave in Arizona that was on government land. Well it wasnāt on government land, it was private property. But, even if everything they said was true, the statute of limitations had run out 47 years ago. So four years passed, and I got a letter from them that absolved me of everything. That was the end of it. It builds character. I just wonder what Iām going to do with all this character.
MCGARRITY: And heās very bright. Thereās nothing at all about this man that doesnāt speak to how smart he is. Heās a curious guy. That curiosity has led him to a point in his life where he is extremely well off. Lives a beautiful lifestyle. He likes to tell stories. He likes to confound people. He likes to put little things out there that has folks guessing.
HOWARD: Iām not there to try to pry information out of him. Thatās not to say I donāt look carefully at everything he has said to me, because, heās that way. There could be something there. But I donāt ask him any specific questions, and he doesnāt volunteer any specific information. It wouldnāt be fair. Heās really interested in this being something that, where the playing field is pretty level for people. But itās going to take somebody thatās intelligent, who looks at all these in different aspects, I think, to find it. I donāt think anybodyās going to stumble upon it.
MCGARRITY: This last spot that Iāve been in, I really feel like itās there. Iāve already hit Forrest up; he denies it. But uh, you know, he tries to get me to go back to one of my first spots, and thatās a diversion, I know.
FENN: I still have about uh, something like, 4,000 arrowheads. And I tell people Iām saving those, because after the next war, Iāll make a fortune selling my arrowheads to different armies around the world. Einstein had said, āI donāt know what weāll fight World War III with, but World War IV is going to be fought with sticks.ā And the technology is changing so fast. I mean, if your computer is two years old, itās archaic today. Technology is not going to help you find that treasure. But your mind and your body and your attitude changes as things change.
HOWARD: Itās been a lot of fun and Iāve been a lot of places. Iāve been on top of some mountains and Iāve been in a lot of hot springs and when nobodyās there, thatās great I just take it all off and throw myself in and wait awhile. Iāve had Bighorn Sheep right near me. Bald Eagles fly right over my head. Iāve been up in the mountains for the first snowfall of the year, which at that point, in that place, was September 30.
FENN: The greatest thrill is going by yourself. You donāt know where the edge is unless you go out there and look for it.
HOWARD: I always bring something back. Generally speaking, itās something I found along the way that interests me a feather, a mineral specimen, you know, an artifact that somebody lost long ago.
FENN: Yeah, I have some advice. Read the book. And then study the poem. Over and over. Read it over and over. Maybe even memorize it. And then go back and read the book again looking for hints that are in the book that are going to help you with the clues that are in the poem. Thatās the best advice that I can give. You have to find out - you have to learn where the first clue is. They get progressively easier after you discover where the first clue is.
WOLF: Forrest has given some good advice. I mean, Forrest has told people to enjoy themselves, but not get into danger. Donāt get into trouble. Donāt go into places that a 79 year old man couldnāt get to carrying a 42 pound box. But, then again, you havenāt seen Forrest. He might not be your average 79 year old man.
HOWARD: One thing I need to tell people who think theyāre going to go do this, you better be in shape. If you think that this guy at 79 was a pushover, you got another think coming.
MCGARRITY: You were asking me earlier about the reason, I was at a point in my life where I was ready for some adventure. And this was just perfect.
HOWARD: I mean I believe I know where it is. I just havenāt found the blaze. And thatās going to be the toughest part.
WOLF: Iāve seen a lot of stuff I wouldnāt have seen if I hadnāt been out there looking. And, while, a couple of times I thought, āOh yeah, I got it. I know exactly where it is.ā When I came back empty handed, I didnāt feel disappointed somehow. I came away with just more excitement about going out again.
MCGARRITY: Well Forrest contends that his real mission in life, when he wrote this book, was to get people up and off the couch and out doing something in the wild. Right? And I just roll my eyes. I said, come on. But he sticks to it. He sticks to his story.
WOLF: He is, um, passionate about adventure and he is passionate about sharing that love of adventure, and treasure seeking with other people. An American archetype if you will.
FENN: I think the thing that, as much as anything, is that first little arrowhead that I found when I was nine years old. I still have it, yeah, sure. My autobiography is in the treasure chest. I put it in a little olive jar. I rolled it up. Printed at Kinkoās. I have to use a magnifying glass if I want to read it. The olive jar had a metal lid. And metal will rust. Itās tin. And so I dipped it in hot wax to make it airtight and watertight. 10,000 years from now, that autobiography is going to be just like it is when I put it in there. Thereās an old saying, āYou can never go home.ā How many encores can a person take? I mean, Iāve played my hand.
I donāt feel like I gave you anything.
INTERVIEWER: Oh I think we got plenty.
FENN: (reads poem)