SUBMITTED December 2015
Continued from PART II
A cursory search didn’t reveal the treasure chest, so I went to the middle portal and pressed my nose against that window-like opening to see the workers below scurrying like ants, reminiscent of Mr. Fenn’s grandmother watching the Native Americans chasing chickens from her house.
Searching the exterior of the quarry was not why we were here, thus we planned to enter the quarry because Forrest “went alone in there.” We had a marvelous view of the entire valley, the snow-capped mountains, and the adjacent pile of huge waste blocks of marble, which were screaming “heavy loads.”
Alex wondered why we weren’t searching the Yule Creek waterfalls. I explained to him that we were not to go where an eighty-year-old man wouldn’t, and that terrain down there may only be five hundred feet away but it was fairly steep and rugged. I had a different concept in mind for water high and I couldn’t help but wonder if the reason some searchers had gotten within five hundred feet was because they went right by the quarry and straight to the waterfall. As we sloshed and mucked our way into the narrowly blasted quarry entrance, I marveled at Forrest’s skilful adaptation of the magician’s sleight of hand to lure the searcher to the decoy waterfall.
The tour of the mine was fascinating: the walls were made of quarry scants dug down nearly two hundred feet from the time production began over one hundred years ago.
Photos from this exact quarry were used to model, “The Pit,” in the movie Divergent. I became ever more confident when I replayed Forrest’s words, “Out of the night that covers me, dark as the pit from pole to pole …” taken from William Earnest Henley’s poem, “Invictus.”
This quarry was at precisely 9,500 feet, which coincidentally matched the exact elevation of a picture taken with his two burrows, Buttercup and Lollypop, from Dal Neitzel’s Scrapbook Six.
During the tour, we entered the important middle portal and our guide explained how the quarry was excavated with “room and pillar” construction similar to the Romanesque treasure chest and its prominent architectural pillar features. I was even more convinced tat we were in the right place when I remembered Forrest’s comment, “I felt like an architect drawing that poem.”
I explained to Alex the historical importance: “In this exact place in which we stand, and underneath all that tarry soot, is the purest white marble in the world.”
The missing, but logical, tea colour from “Tea with Olga”—white—now manifested its importance. This marble was so durable that it was used to make many of the important monuments and buildings in the United States, including the famous Lincoln Memorial. The word “marvel” is often used in the context of monuments, proving the appropriateness of the poem’s words, “marvel gaze.”
The poem’s words, “treasures bold” also became apparent as those words highlighted (bold) the fact this quarry is referred to by many as a “national treasure.” Subsequently, the title Yule Marble Quarry: Our National Treasure was appropriately chosen by Ron Bailey when he produced a DVD of this quarry, which strongly supports the poem’s hint, “give you title to the gold.”
“Alex, do you know the real reason why this place is so special to Forrest?” I asked. “Buttercup and Lollypop?” Alex joked.
After chuckling to myself, I responded, “This is the exact same spot the tomb block for the Unknown Soldiers was quarried as well as most of the grave stones in Arlington Cemetery.”
Alex perked up as I noticed the neurons in his brain had linked the path of the French soldier’s grave marker in Vietnam to the French Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe, and now the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the United States.
We took a few moments to reflect on all the great sacrifices that the children of this nation had made for our freedoms. Mr. Fenn commented about his Vietnam War experience:
When I came home I was tired. I was tired mentally, I was tired physically and I wrote a story that’s in my memoirs called “My War for Me.” If you don’t do anything else, read that story. I think that story has 7500 words and I am very proud of that story.
His chapter, “My War for Me,” explained why he visited the faithful and symbolic waterfall on his last day in Vietnam to give thanks as he promised he would if he survived the war. While there, he tripped over the crude aluminum grave marker of a French soldier that had an arcing rainbow-like inscription that had a significant, life- changing meaning to Forrest. That Vietnam scene was being replayed in a metaphorical way at Yule Marble Quarry.
All of his thoughts about dying and leaving this earth without being remembered were linked to the unknown soldiers in the Arlington Cemetery. The marble tomb block contains three carved statues on its east side. They represent and are named Peace, Victory and Valour. Peace is holding a dove which represents the poem’s “go in peace.” Victory symbolizes finding the treasure. Victory is holding the hand of Peace and extending an olive branch towards Valour. Valour represents courage or bravery as in “brave and in the wood” and “treasures bold.”
This special spot made more sense than any of my words could ever describe. All the debate about the “olive jar” and his statement, “It is important that I drink a martini at least once a year so I can continue to remember why I don’t like them,” had nothing to do with physical olives but rather the metaphorical olive branch and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, because it has three wreaths of olive branches carved on it, defining the clue “take the chest and go in peace.”
I pointed up to a brown stain resembling a bathtub ring. “You see that rusty brown line on the marble wall Alex?” I asked.
I went on to explain how Forrest told a story about a thirty-six inch bathtub and hints of “ringing” bells and a brown stain left on his britches when he slid down the iron fire escape. Back in 1975, when Forrest carved his initials on the outside wall where we stood that day, the quarry was flooded with water because it lay dormant for many decades. That water left a stain resembling a bathtub ring. We imagined, as we peered up at the window-like portal, that Forrest once stood up there yearning to be down here where we were standing. I imagined being alongside Forrest as he visualized the workers carving the massive marble blocks from the cavernous walls. He could only peer down at the peninsula of marble where he wanted to hide the treasure one day. The still and limpid pools mirrored an image back into his retinas that burned into his mind forever.
Around the time that he discovered he was going to die from cancer, this dormant quarry came back to life once again as the pool of “water high” began to recede.
“This, Alex, is the perfect example of Forrest the Magician’s use of sleight of hand,” I proudly proclaimed. “Everyone has been distracted, their attention diverted to the waterfall, while he slipped the nickel into his ‘quarry’ pocket, totally unnoticed.”
Alex’s interest grew as he acknowledged that this was the real “water high” or “high water” mark and “draw” completed the circle of interwoven clue links.
“You can see how the poem leads us right to the treasure. The only path up here leads us right to the high water mark—precisely where it intersected the raised and abandoned part of the quarry to which we must go,” I confidently proclaimed with a smile.
I requested that our safety guide provide access to this abandoned part of the quarry and he said, “Absolutely not! No one is allowed up there.”
As fascinating as the quarry tour was, I quickly came to the realization that my dream of discovering the trove with my son had come to an abrupt halt as those two little words instantly pricked my balloon of confidence. Three months of planning and research went out the window, all due to new quarry ownership, changes to federal mining safety laws, and the fact that this simple twenty foot climb that any child could do was covered in snow and ice. All I was left with was a whole new appreciation for the words “worth the cold.” My heart sank to a depth never felt before as I drifted into depression.
It was an awfully solemn and quiet drive back down the mountain. We appreciated the tour and felt privileged to be a part of what only a few have ever been able to do, but that fact paled in comparison to the huge let down we had just encountered. With heads slung low and shoulders slumped forward, we slowly shuffled back to the car.
The agony of defeat was excruciating; months of research, consulting lawyers, appeasing ownership laws, and devising the ultimate plan had just been wiped out by a single trivial event. I felt my treasure-hunting career coming to a rapid halt—and we are not talking a “warm waters” type of halt either! The realization that I had, once again, disappointed another family member became too much to bear. I had just been dealt four cards and a joker and I had to play them whether I liked it or not…
Wait a minute! I hadn’t traveled all this way to fail—not on my watch! This maverick was about to make the biggest bluff this million-dollar poker game, “The Thrill of the Chase,” had ever seen. This was the biggest gamble of my life and I yelled, “This will be our finest hour!”
I stormed back to the quarry office and kicked that door open. I didn’t even knock …