SUBMITTED NOVEMBER 2015
Continued from Part One
Alex queried, “What is so funny?”
I explained, “Forrest mentioned in one of his scrapbook writings the song ‘One Tin Soldier’ and this is a very special song that brought me to tears when I first heard it. It is an anti-war song where the valley people want the hidden treasure that the mountain people are rumoured to hold under a rock. The King of mountain people tells the valley people they are willing to share the treasure, but instead, the valley people wage war and kill all the mountain people and they roll the rock over, and underneath it reads ‘peace on earth.’ That message hit me like a ton of bricks and clearly illustrates why Forrest feels we should learn to leave other people alone.”
To promote the horrors of war in the name of peace can be hypocritical in so many ways, and I was beginning to comprehend the message that this quest was delivering. For trivia purposes, and to impress upon my son, I proclaimed that this song was number one in Canada in 1969 but for some reason only 34th in the United States. We joked that this was because Canadians understand peace better, but conceded it was more likely because we are meek. As I told Alex that the shiny knight is a good omen for our quest, I noticed several bee hive-shaped “coke” ovens and we felt that we were hot on the trail when we realized Forrest was not referring to Coke, the beverage, when he made frequent references to Coca-Cola and his childhood soda pop cap collection, but rather to coke, the coal and tar-like substance.
After driving fourteen miles south, we reached the town of Marble Colorado. Alex smirked with apperception when he mentally linked the significance of marbles in “My Spanish Toy Factory” to this town.
“Alex, do you know what Forrest’s favourite sandwich is?”
“Nope,” he replied.
“Pastrami with apple sauerkraut on marble rye,” I replied in my Alex Trebeck voice. He seemed unimpressed with my repeated references to sandwiches, but I couldn’t help but feel confident with Forrest’s interwoven, subtle hints that now confirmed marble.
We drove to a small tranquil lake on the far edge of town called Beaver Lake. This was the “home of Brown.” It was stocked with Brown trout, but I explained to Alex that it was not the trout that made this the “home of Brown,” but rather the name “beaver” that defined it. Again, I received the now ever too familiar look of skepticism. This time, I took my time to recapture his attention since cell phone coverage was at least thirty minutes away.
“Look, I realize the beaver’s colour of brown is a stretch,” I explained, “but that is not the clue. ‘Home’ means origin and the origin of the word ‘beaver’ was derived from the Euro-Indo word ‘brown,’ and thus, technically beaver, originated from ‘brown’ thus its ‘home’ is the word brown.”
Forrest’s poem used “in the wood,” to reference Eric Sloane’s book, Reverence of Wood, and Russell Osborne’s Journal of a Trapper, as the beaver was prominent in all of those references and beavers love wood and are known as the “carpenters of the wild” because they build their homes with wood. Of the three references, the strongest is from Russell Osborne because it is all about trapping these cute, furry, little animals and was the most cited animal in his book.
Alex once again nods with a grin of approval at this line of thinking. I also explained that Mr. Fenn mentioned the number five and nickel many times, and in keeping with our “follow the money” strategy, the beaver is prominent on our Canadian nickel. Of course, we were biased and affirmed that Canada was “worth the cold.”
We jumped back into the sleuth-mobile and maneuvered it to the “put in” point below this lake on the south side of the tiny town of ninety-eight people. When we arrived at our quaint log cabin, the electricity was out and my prearranged tour to retrieve the trove was cancelled because the operation was shut down while they cleared the snow.
Just a couple of days earlier, the town was enjoying 70ºF weather, the grass was turning green, and the leaves were sprouting. This setting now appeared to be a winter wonderland. We couldn’t contact Gina because the Internet was out along with the power. To make the most of our time, we toured the rest of the town of Marble, which took about three minutes, and then we hunkered down for the rest of the day.
After lunch, I sensed Alex’s curiosity as to why this place was so mystical. I asked him to join me out on the balcony and pointed up the mountain pass to the east.
“You see that mountain in the distance? The one with the vertical white scar on its face?”
I continued, “That is Treasure Mountain and folklore says that Napoleon sent a French expedition out to the Rocky Mountains to find gold to fund his ambitions. The expedition consisted of about thee hundred men and four hundred and fifty horses. They landed at New Orleans and passed through Kansas en route to the Elk Mountains where they amassed between $5 and $33 million in gold near Wolf Creek pass.”
I continued the story, “The relationship with the local natives soured and the French men were attacked. In desperation, they hid the gold and tried to escape. The warriors hunted them down and killed all but one man who managed to make it back to Kansas. He had the map of the buried gold in his possession; he made a copy and sent the original back to France. The French failed to retrieve the stash and a man named William Yule, after whom the creek that runs into the Crystal River at Marble is named, came into possession of the map and attempted to locate the gold, but he too failed. This is the myth of how Treasure Mountain received its name.”
I knew I had his attention because Alex had stopped trying to creep back into the cabin to retrieve his computer. I further explained, “A family, who are direct descendants of the original sole survivor of the Indian attack, reportedly possesses the other treasure map. They claim they have found seven of the eight landmarks on the map, analogous to the nine clues which we seek, and they can’t find the blaze or final clue either.”
Alex smiled at my joke.
I continued in my best Keith Morrison voice, “Then one day, one of the family members was hunting for Elk and a storm came up. He took shelter in a small opening in the ground, which turned out to be a twenty feet deep man-made cave. The man climbed to the end of the tunnel, which was blocked by a landslide. Shining his Forrest Fenn recommended flashlight around the passageway, he noticed a carving in the rock face, which he recognized from the map as the missing eighth landmark. The next day, many of the family members returned to the cave to excavate the landslide, and they tunneled twelve feet further. They lined the tunnel with wax candles and were about to light them when a rattlesnake suddenly lunged at one of them. Frantically, they scrambled back to the entrance when a swarm of bats poured out from the hillside squeaking and diving aggressively at the surprised party. Undaunted, they knelt down to light the first candle at the entrance to the tunnel when the candle at the far end of the tunnel inexplicably flared up by itself! While the stunned group gaped at each other in horror, a huge owl dive-bombed the shocked party within inches of their heads. Terrified by these unusual events, the family fled the passageway and returned home.”
Energized by my Treasure Mountain story, we retired inside the cabin and I showed Alex a drawing from Scrapbook Forty by Suzanne Steimel and the caption of Forrest thinking, “Best Guardians Ever.” I didn’t mention the subliminal link to this caption and the poem’s words “ever drawing;” instead, I pointed to the animals in the bottom left and right corners of the drawing and asked Alex, “What do you think those animals are?”
Alex grinned as he acknowledged the existence of the rattlesnake and the owl. Our growing enthusiasm escalated when I raised my hands, made quotation marks with my fingers and asked, “Do you think the French gold is ‘guarded’ by these animals in this drawing?”
Then I asked something that made both of our hearts skip a beat, “Do you think that the ‘old’ in the poem’s ‘hint of riches new and old’ and the ‘treasures’ in ‘with my treasures bold’ is plural because Forrest Fenn found the French gold and the two treasures are co-located?”
Something eerie happened that day on Treasure Mountain many years ago, and we enjoyed dreaming about how Treasure Mountain could be the real Forrest Fenn secret. This entertaining discussion led us to conclude that a great puzzle must have a circular connotation and this certainly met the requisite “Of course, why didn’t I think of that!” element. Hiding his treasure on Treasure Mountain certainly embodied the element of surprise, and we intended to reveal that surprise.
That evening, under the dimly moonlit landscape, we read Mr. Fenn’s “My War for Me” story and how his tripping over that aluminum grave marker of the unknown French soldier made a significant difference in his life and I reckoned that life-changing ordeal is what was special to him. I then quoted Forrest: “To be suddenly connected through a rainbow arc of rod and run of line to something as purely wild as God’s own trout produces astonishment at the cellular level and, at least for a moment, blurs the border between man and nature. It is a bond which renews itself time after time and is the addictive essence of the sport.”
I speculated that the rainbow that he referred to in his poem was the rainbow arc of a fishing rod and this hint was linked to another important arc, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Mr. Fenn’s good friend, Jackie Kennedy, and her husband—the President of the United States at the time—visited the Arc de Triomphe to pay their respects to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which was located beneath the Arc. There she was, exposed for the first time to the eternal flame or eternal “blaze.” Two years later, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, she too would ask for the construction of a similar eternal flame in Arlington National Cemetery to reside by her husband’s gravesite as a memory in his honour. This trail of history had now led us here on our path to discover the truth.
The next day, we awoke with much anticipated excitement. While eating our breakfast, I thought I would amp up our spirits with a little treasure hunting intrigue. I pulled out Google Maps and I showed Alex a couple of pictures taken from Google Earth. The first one was of Beaver Lake—my “home of Brown.” Above it was a pareidolia of the road surrounding the lake and when viewed from space it looked exactly like a crocodile or an alligator. I explained that a “crockie” and “waters” are a type of marble, which smoothly linked the previous clues to “home of Brown” and, of course, Alex shrugged his shoulders with disinterest as he wolfed down his breakfast. I mentioned to him that Mr. Fenn recited a poem from Lewis Carroll’s, Alice in Wonderland at one of his book signings:
How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spread his claws,
And welcome little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!
Lastly, Forrest confirmed that his book too far to walk also contains hints so we examined the “Mountain Man” chapter. Two things Forrest said we needed to find the treasure are a sandwich and a flashlight. We used the sandwich as our key first clue in the first book, so it made sense to use “flashlight” as an indicator in this book. In this chapter, “flashlight” also appeared in the first paragraph, indicating that a hint will follow. Later in the chapter, the word “put” as in “put up or shut up,” appeared in the clue, “put in below the home of Brown.”
Alex questioned, “So what?”
I concluded by stating, “The ‘Mountain Man’ chapter is about Forrest camping and challenging ‘beaver trappers’ to a marksmanship contest—suspiciously similar to his BB gun hunting stories. Of course, Forrest lost the one hundred dollar bet and exposed Mr. Fenn’s attempt to beguile the treasure seeker because he falsely stated that John Hamilton is on the $100 dollar bill when, in fact, it is Benjamin Franklin. Hamilton is on the ten dollar bill.”
This hint highlighted the connection to Franklin and the misspelling of “doller,” which accelerated momentum to the follow-the-money theory.
Forrest advised treasure hunters to possess a good map so I showed Alex a map of the road that leads to the world famous Yule Marble Quarry. While he studied the drawing, I explained to him that we needed to put in below the “home of Brown,” or Beaver Lake, (clue four) at the bridge just south of Beaver Lake. “Put in” is a nautical term; thus, we put in with our imaginary kayak here at Marble, which was used to travel to “where warm waters halt.” We were now at clue five and needed to take the road from the put in point and follow the clues in order. I expressed to Alex that this was the place in which Forrest had said that we would need to use a little of our imagination, so I asked Alex to think back over one hundred years to when the quarry was first discovered. The present day road was, at that time, a railroad track, or an electric tram, which was used to haul the heavy marble blocks or “heavy loads” down from the quarry to the mill. The incline was very steep and dangerous and that train had killed several men when the brakes failed. One of those men was the very first owner of the mine, Chandling Meek. That is “Meek” as in, “from there it’s no place for the meek,” which required us to take the route that Mr. Meek should not have taken, which is the old rail grade. It was at this time that I flashed back and thought to myself, how many times did Mr. Fenn casually slip into conversation the word, “train” and specifically:
•“What is wrong with me just riding my bike out there and throwing it in the “water high” when I am through with it? You don’t know how many man-hours I have spent on that subject. Thanks for the input but I think you should mobilize your club and hit the trail searching for the wondrous treasure. Besides, I’ll probably get hit by a train.”
•“I dare you to come get it. If you can find it you can have it. And nobody knows where it is but me. And if a train runs over me this afternoon, it will go to my grave with me.”
•“The train doesn’t go by that banana tree but one time. He said you should reach out and grab every banana on the way by.” [Moby Dickens book signing]
“Dad, Dad… Dad!” Alex’s voice slowly brought me back to reality.
I questioned, “Ok, Alex what do you see in that next photo?”
“Nothing,” Alex replied.
“Turn it sideways and tell me what the road draws,” I instructed, as I noticed the sparkling glint in his eyes ignite like phosphorous striking water.
“A horse, a horse’s head!” he proclaimed in a voice that was reminiscent of celebrating his first childhood bonspiel win.
“Yes, Alex that’s correct but, more precisely, it is the left or nigh side of the horses head,” I replied in a matched tone.
I went on to explain how this led us to the sixth clue, “The end is ever drawing nigh.” “Nigh” clearly implies near, but it also could have meant the left side of a horse. Drawing is consistent with our train analogy, in that to “draw” is to “pull”—as in a train pulling heavy loads—but it also meant to draw as in a picture, and this old railroad bed “draws” the picture of the left side of a horse’s head, similar to the drawing of the crocodile. Forrest’s many hints of horses, like his childhood adventure with a horse called Lightning, are too numerous to mention. Suffice it to say, we were gaining momentum. Before the use of trams, horses were used to draw the heavy marble blocks from the quarry to the mill. Alex nodded with approval as our enthusiasm escalated.
“Alex, the seventh clue is: there’ll be no paddle up your creek,” I stressed.
“What creek?” Alex asked.
“Yule Creek. You know, the one that was named after the man who searched for the French gold?”
This creek contained class V+ rapids and was where the very best, or better said, “brave,” kayakers came to play and “no paddle” linked to a kayak because “it” is a kayak. There was definitely no paddling up the steep and fast-running creek. In the poem, the use of the word “it” flows elegantly and consistently from “where warm waters halt” to the “home of Brown” clue and then to the beaver’s tail, or paddle, and then to the creek as it is a kayak.
I continued, “Yule is a pagan religious festival observed by the historical Germanic peoples, and pagans are definitely not “meek” from a Christian point of view. The multiple meaning theory states ‘no paddle’ meant we are not to follow the creek, but rather the old train rail grade.”
“Marble” is also the name of the town and was significant to this puzzle in many ways because Forrest told a story about him making marbles in Mrs. Ford’s Spanish class—the same story that had signalled our starting point, “where warm waters halt.” The word “marble” even sounded suspiciously like “marvel,” as in “marvel gaze.”
Considering that Mr. Fenn said, “Hear me now and listen good,” and applying that same logic to, “There’ll be no paddle up your creek,”—and imagine hearing it with a Texan southern drawl—it sounds very similar to “up Y’awl or Yule Creek.” Many searchers have pointed out the suspicious use of the word “your” as in “your creek.” There is absolutely no reason to use it other than to spin it off of the classic saying, “Up shit creek without a paddle.”
Alex demanded, “Where is water high?”
“Be patient,” I encouraged.
After finishing our breakfast, we drove over to meet with the Colorado Yule Marble Quarry management team. I presented three litres of Canadian maple syrup as a token of my appreciation for taking the time to host our tour. Daneile was the charismatic head manager who spoke with an Italian accent. He had visited a quarry near where we lived, and we marvelled at how small the world could seem. I sensed he ran a tight ship, and I didn’t want to impose, so I instructed Alex to listen carefully and follow his instructions.
Soon, we were fitted with the necessary safety gear, and we were introduced to our safety-man who was to guide our tour. I quietly explained to Alex the significance of the word “quarry,” because Mr. Fenn had remarked in an interview, “It is not the quarry they sought, but the thrill of the chase.” Alex didn’t believe the that the trove could be hidden in an active quarry, so I explained that there is a special place in this quarry that had not been touched in one hundred years.
Tours were no longer allowed at this quarry due to government mining safety reasons, so we posed as marble product customers to gain legal access. This was a necessary part of our plan that I had concocted during my legal research, which implied that if a searcher trespassed and discovered the treasure chest, ownership would remain with the property or locus owner. Our plan had us discover the gold while on the tour, and thus, technically we, the finders, would be the rightful owners of the treasure chest. Of course, Mr. Fenn warned that there may be ownership issues, and I had assumed that there might be some issues, but at least the law would be on our side.
The stunning scenery captivated us on our drive up to the quarry; the view was absolutely stunning and I was reminded once again that this adventure was about more than finding the treasure. There were no human trails along this route and this road was the only route to the quarry.
Upon arrival, we climbed out of the truck and glanced up to see three magnificent, large cavernous windows in the quarry’s vertical marble rock face. The quarry was similar to a mine because it was not open from above, but light and the elements could enter through the huge, window-like portals, thus allowing the paradoxical statements to hold true:
•the treasure is wet;
•the treasure is exposed to the elements; and
•as I have gone alone in there.
I immediately thought of Mr. Fenn’s story about the man who sold native jewelry in the portal at Santa Fe, as well as the other story, “Me in the Middle,” and the many references and hints to the word “middle.” I quickly climbed to the middle portal and discovered something that made my heart race.
I screamed with excitement, “Alex, he was here in 1975!” I pointed to two Fs carved in the rock on top of the number “75.”