ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED march 2012
If she seemed unconventional when I first spotted her it was only because of the green rubber mud boots that she wore with her pink dress. I had only the faintest idea then what kind of incredible character she would turn out to be.
I was in Portland attending the Cascade Mountain Video Show. It’s the kind of event where a conference center is turned into a giant showroom for a hundred or so video equipment manufacturers. They bring their latest cameras, switchers, tripods, jibs, remote heads and lighting instruments. Video geeks are attracted to these things like crows to roadkill. We stand together in small groups huddled around tables, eyes glazed, while sales reps show off the latest 3D effects software or newest large sensor camera. Its not unlike going to a Home & Garden show and watching a kitchen tool expert show off the latest beet slicer/dicer. Of course you get wrapped up in the moment. Have to buy one. So you buy the beet slicer/dicer and bring it home only to find out that it takes actual skill to use. Same thing at our show in Portland except the gizmos cost $30K or more and the crowds are generally smaller because these toys appeal to only a select crowd of video nerds. Most of us don’t actually buy things at the show. We make buying decisions later when the excitement of the moment has faded and we can realistically assess our needs.
The attendees are predominantly male. I’m not sure why. Maybe women in the industry get their product information in a different way. The salesmen wear suits and ties. The attendees all look like they just walked in from the golf club. Khaki pants, Polo shirts and loafers are de rigueur. Even better if you have a windbreaker with your logo. The whole room smells like a mix between Ralph Lauren cologne and some cheap hotel shampoo. So you can imagine what a curious sight Madeline would be in her green, calf length mud boots, pink girly dress over a blue t-shirt and bright yellow watch cap pulled down low covering her ears. Not a slave to fashion trends, she kinda stood out.
I knew who she was right away.
My name is Madeline and I have been reading your blog. I am interested in Forrest’s treasure and have been out looking a few times. I expect to go out again when the snow finally blows away. I wrote this about my last search. You can put this in your blog if you want.
I think that I shall never see
A treasure half as big as me.
I walked around the woods all day,
I felt like the guy from Hudson Bay.
I thought I saw it once for sure
Turned out to be a rock obscure.
Really got my blood a-pumpin
Thought for sure I’d found a big bronze somethin.
But nevermind that I left poor
I had delusions of granduer
I really am much better off
Oh what the hell, please don’t scoff
I am headed there once again
I can’t give up like a lost hen
I must pursue, I must come thru
When I meet Fenn I’ll say thank you
Ha! Thanks for the poem
Very clever. You should send it to Forrest. He is a fan of poetry.
So where are you going to look next?
I’m not sure. Maybe the same place. Just because I didn’t trip over it does not mean its not there. I looked near ———–(redacted by dal).
All the clues seem to fit plus Forrest seems to have a great sense of humor and I think this place is clever enough to avoid the scrutiny of very many searchers. Have you looked there? Do you know if others have? When are you going out again?
I have looked near there and I have heard from one other person who has searched near there as well. I agree it seems a likely spot. Pinpointing the exact location once you’re there is a bit harder. It will take some time to thoroughly search in every nook and cranny.
I am headed out in late spring. Probably May. What about you?
I was there late in the fall. Got chased out by snow. I want to go there earlier this year. Its so high up that winter lasts a good long time though. I am from Portland and by May around here its summer. Heading back into winter is always a bit depressing as well as chilling. It’s hard to look when my fingers and toes are freezing. Do you ever get to Oregon? I have photos of the places I searched. If you want we could share information about that area. Do you have photos of the places you have looked?
I am headed to Portland for a trade show next week. I have GPS tracks and photos. Sharing would be good. Can we trade files?
I can meet you here. Name the place and time. Can’t trade files. I have actual photos from my drugstore. What are GPS tracks? Do I need them? I don’t have digital anything except my old iBook.
The Cascade Mountain Video Show is at the World Forestry Center, near the Zoo. How about 3PM on the 17th?
I can meet you there. Is it a big event? How will I find you?
A few hundred people will be there but by 3pm the crowds will be diminishing. You can call my cell at ——(redacted by dal).
I don’t have a cell phone. I have a dog. Is this a dress-up event?
Not for me. Its mostly middle aged guys wearing khaki trousers and polo shirts that say CBS. I’ll be wearing my best jeans and a t-shirt that doesn’t say anything.
How have I missed this event all these years? Okay, I guarantee you’ll know its me when you see me. I’ll be wearing green boots.
So that was it. That was all the correspondence we had before we actually met. A person would have to be a slobbering, anthropophobic not to want to meet Madeline. But honestly, corresponding with her did not nearly prepare me for the real girl.
Madeline looked to be 30ish. Small at about 5’2”. Dark mysterious eyes and pale delicate skin. She was skinny as can be. If she weighed 90lbs I would have been surprised. Her teeth were perfectly straight and brilliant white. There was a small scar on her nose that was probably left over from a piercing many years earlier. Her cheekbones were high and it gave her face a sculpted look. When she talked she looked directly into my eyes and when I talked she listened closely. She seemed comfortable in her own skin and much more sensitive than my initial take from across the room.
We shook hands on the floor of the video show. Her grip was light but not mushy. There was strength there. We started right in about Forrest’s treasure and continued yapping for about a half hour, standing in the same spot. The show began to wrap up around us. Vendors started carrying out cases of expensive video equipment, signage and briefcases full of brochures and business cards.
English was Madeline’s second language. Some sort of delicate accent was buried deeply in the rhythms of her speech and the endings of her words but I could not tell what her first language might be.
“I think we better get out of here.” I said.
“Do you have your pictures and PGS tracks?” She asked.
“GPS, and yes, I do.” I said.
“Okay, my pictures and maps are in my trailer. I’m in the lot out front. We can talk there.”
Madeline led the way out the door to the lot. Few vehicles were left. My white truck was in the middle. A few blue sedans were sprinkled around and in the back sat a red, 1950ish, GMC pick-up, in mint…I mean MINT condition. Madeline was walking right toward it.
As if the truck was not a 10 all by itself, it was attached to a little, red & white, round travel trailer, also vintage and immaculately restored. It had a nameplate that read Shasta on the side.
“This is a beautiful rig.” I said.
“Thanks.” She said. “I restored them myself.”
I walked over to the truck and looked in the cab. It looked like it just came out of the showroom. There was a blanket folded neatly on the passenger seat and an off white plastic Jesus stuck on the metal dash.
“Both the truck and the trailer?” I asked.
“Yep. Bet you’re surprised a 92lb chick could do that.” She said as she turned the key in the trailer door and pushed it open.
I turned back toward the trailer. She pulled a lever inside the door and a step unfolded from under the trailer. She held the door open for me.
“As a matter of fact I stand in complete astonishment whenever I meet anyone who can restore old trucks. I wish I had those skills.” I said. “I am envious not only of the vehicles but also of the talent.”
I stepped inside. It was the cutest darn thing you ever saw. Checkered cafe curtains on the windows. A black and white linoleum floor and a cozy kitchen with a booth. A bunk bed was at the hitch end and a small room that I imagined was the bath was carved out of the floor space. There was a comfy chair, a wool throw rug and a built-in lamp and end table. An Irish Setter slipped off the chair and came over to great me.
“That’s Red.” She said. “Red, this is Dal.”
“Hiya Red.” I said. Red offered her paw. I pumped it once and smiled at her.
“You can have the chair sweetie.” Madeline said to Red. “We’re going to use the kitchen and talk for awhile.”
Red jumped back in the chair, rotated around a few times and finally settled with her head on the arm so she could keep an eye on me I suppose.
The space was small, maybe 80 square feet. probably less cramped for a 92lb, 5’2” person. It was also immaculate. Nothing was messy.
“This is beautiful.” I said. I hoped it sounded as sincere as it was.
“Thanks.” She said. “Red and I live in it.”
She motioned toward the booth.
“Have a seat.”
I slid in to one side of the booth and took my laptop out of my computer bag.
“Truly?” I asked.
Madeline slipped in on the other side.
“Its our home.” She said. We travel around a lot but even when we’re back in Portland this is our home.”
“So you stay at campgrounds?” I asked.
“When we are out on the road we do. I own a nice lot just outside of town. I landscaped it and have a veggie garden and some fruit trees and a driveway where we park when we’re home. But we still live in the trailer. I drew up some plans for a small house I’m going to build on the lot. But so far I have not been over to the county Planning Department to get permits…Maybe this year I’ll start…Maybe next year. Would you like some tea?” She asked.
“Sure.” I said. “A conventional wood frame house?” I asked.
“Not really.” She said. She got up and took a kettle out of a cupboard and filled it with water from the tiny sink. She put it on the two burner stove, turned a burner on and lit it with a lighter from a drawer under the stove. “I have some ideas for alternative, low impact housing. It’ll be a challenge to get Planning to hand over a permit. My ideas are a little ahead of the ‘classic home’ curve.”
While she was up I took secretive glances at a black and white photo on the wall next to the light switch. It had caught my eye when I walked in but I didn’t want to stare at it. It was a disturbing photo of what appeared to be a dead, teenage girl laying on the street. Her clothes were ripped off her body. Blood was pooled around her head on the concrete. Her mouth was smashed and I could see her teeth were missing. There were several gaping slash wounds on her body around and on her breasts. There was a broken beer bottle on the ground between her bare legs. Her eyes were open. It looked like a police crime scene photo. Printed on the bottom of the photo was a number and a date, 26/12/96. The photo was an anomaly. Horribly out of place against the cafe curtains and hobbit-like, perfectly neat, little trailer. I didn’t know what to make of it. “Not my business.” I said to myself.
When she sat down at her place in the booth again Madeline brought a box of photos and took off her yellow watch cap and placed it on the seat next to her. To my utter amazement her head was shaved. I tried not to gawk. A large red and blue scar traveled from just above her right ear across and back to the base of her skull. Other than lashes and brows she had no hair at all. I tried not to show any sign of surprise even though I was off my guard completely.
“Not my business.” I said to myself again.
I turned my laptop around so Madeline could see the screen. I had a topo map of the area she and I had both searched, displayed on the screen.
“Oh good she said. Can you zoom in to the area near the river below the falls?”
On we went. We must have exchanged ideas and knowledge about that area for the better part of an hour. We both consumed two cups of green tea. Red slept on the chair the whole time.
By now I was no longer fixated on her shaved head. I’d become used to the idea. She looked as normal as anyone looked to me. But the disturbing photo was vexing. I could not ignore it. Every time I looked up it was right in front of me. I was tired of it.
As I thanked Madeline for sharing information and for the tea I slid out and zipped up my jacket. She went over to the door to let me out. I pointed at the photo.
“That’s you, isn’t it.” I said.
“It is.” She said. “Not one of my prouder moments.”
“You lived.” I said, stating the obvious.
“Barely.” She said. I keep it there to remind me what’s wrong with drugs and child prostitution.”
“Where was that taken.” I asked.
“Quebec.” She said
“I admire what you’ve accomplished.” I said.
“Thanks.” She said.
I meant it.