Wisconsin Mike’s Survey


By Wisconsin Mike

First off, let me begin by thanking everyone involved with Fennboree for making this a memorable event. It was a true joy and lifetime event for me and my daughter, who was absolutely thrilled to meet and speak with Forrest.

Forrest and Christine

Nuclear Accelerator

Although we searchers participate in Blogs – Dal’s or Jenny’s or others, to share and gather useful information, human nature to socialize oft leaks in and we find the discussion trailing off the path to enlightenment, so to speak. It occurred to me that this event presented a unique opportunity for us searchers to coordinate our information and further the pursuit of Indulgence by means of a tightly focused survey. Forrest has said “I cannot imagine anyone finding the treasure without first identifying the starting point…” To wit, my focus; What are the first two clues in the poem? What follows are the results of that survey. I do hope it will help searchers and represents my ‘giving back to the community’.

Tangential Conversations - Particle Collision

The participants in Fennboree represent the greatest concentration of
dedicated searchers available.

Fennboree presents a unique opportunity to gather statistically
significant, qualified data on deciphering the poem and locating Fenn’s Treasure –“Indulgence”.

Forrest sitting on wall Fennboree III

Twenty-Six “Fenn-atics” were interviewed:

BoomerGirl Sacha Timberwolf the First
MS Elaine WiseOne Amy Bill
ccJulie The Chase  (documentary Team from TN)
Slurs JDiggins Desertphile IronWill
Dal Wildcat DaiseyMae GoldenRetrievers
Cynthia Robert Steve MarvinCandle
Renee Julie SmartBlonde FrankA

Of the twenty-six, ALL agreed with the following facts:

  1. There are nine clues in the poem and lead to Fenn’s Treasure
  2. The clues are in consecutive order, to be followed precisely.
  3. The first two clues, consecutively, have been solved.

Each was then asked the question:
Where do you believe are the first two clues in the Poem?
Here are the results:

Survey Graph

—————————————–Clue #1———–Clue #2

As I have gone alone in there——- 54%-

And with my treasures bold,

I can keep my secret where,

And hint of riches new and old.——-3% —————-3%

{Entire first stanza} ——-=————-12%

Begin it where warm waters halt——31%—————55%

And take it in the canyon down,—————————-12%

Not far, but too far to walk.————————————3%

Put in below the home of Brown.—————————-27%

Note that it IS significant that ALL participants responded that the first
two clues were located within the first two stanzas.

Take Away: Dedicated Searchers believe…
1.  Strongly that “As I have gone alone in there” is clue #1.
2. Strongly that “Begin it where warm waters halt” is either clue #1 or clue #2.
3. A significant portion of respondents believe “Put in below the home of Brown” is also a clue. (#3?)

Using the results of the survey may help you to be “in tight focus”.

~ Wisconsin Mike

75 thoughts on “Wisconsin Mike’s Survey

  1. Gosh; I see that what I consider to be the first two clues are in the median (warm waters is #1, Brown is #2). I would like to see a larger sample size, but I suspect the results would group near the same in a scatter plot.

    But I cannot imagine why some people think the first clue is the “gone alone” stanza. I consider it completely superfluous due to “the canyon down.” “Gone alone” is reiterative of the future clue “canyon down” even though it comes first.

    • Agreed! Fenn said the clues if followed in order would lead to the treasure chest, and that the clues were “contiguous”. But that doesn’t mean they are top-down. Could just as easily be bottom-up.

    • perhaps you’re right..

      I suspect that theory depends entirely on whether you’re standing upside down whilst reading backwards up – or not (?)

      wait a minute! ..now I’m confused too..

      • one question for you Wisconsin Mike: what does a nuclear accelerator have to do with the poem or treasure? Is this supposed to be some subtle hint?

        • It’s how gravity draws particles together. The crowd as a whole does a better job of picking than any one individual. The Hadron Collider threw us into a multiverse, we left the universe behind us somewhere on the outer edge of the Sagittarius arm of the Milky Way. Now we are in the Orion arm.

  2. Thanks Wisconsin Mike, I am having a blast being involved in the chase and so are many others as well. The one thing I learning is that there are many happy endings being displayed by many searchers. It’s good that everyone had a roaring great time.

  3. The following is my opinion, and opinion only. How can someone follow the clues in the poem precisely? I have thought about this question for a long time. What I have come to understand is that one can only follow the clues exactly is by either reading the whole poem, or by writing the whole poem exactly as it is. Now, that being said, there are 9 periods in the poem, which to me, make the 9 clues. That is the only way the clues can be consecutive, and contigous at the same time. Keep in mind I am only following my logic. If the whole poem is not the 9 clues, what are those words in the beginning, middle, or end for? I think all words in the poem have a purpose, and even if the whole poem does not sound, or seem, or appear to be the 9 clues, who are we to say otherwise. I am only looking at the facts. it is my opinion and opinion only.RC

    • RC, Forrest has answered this before. No, I don’t know where it is. He says, not every word in the poem is a clue, but do not discount any of the words in it.

  4. I don’t understand the yellow bar graph. Y-axis = % of participants, but what does X-axis represent? 54% of participants think the first clue … ? Also, you said: “It IS significant that ALL participants responded that …”. Is the “significance” your opinion or is it based on a recognized statistical test? If test, which stat test did you use?

    Still, it’s an interesting study; it’s a resourceful use of the event. Congrats on that.


    • Thank you Ken.

      The Y axis represents each line of the poem with #5 representing the belief that the entire first stanza is a clue.

      Regarding statistical methods, in a non-scientific sense, any survey in which all respondents are in agreement is significant. In this case, the poem consists of six stanzas and all participants chose either the first or second stanzas for clues one and/or two. Some of the statistical methods utilized were representative sampling and Likert-like scale interpretation. Disclaimer: I am not a statistician.

      ~ Wisconsin Mike

      • Hi Wisconin Mike — I think you meant the X axis represents your list of 9 possible locations for the first and second clues, and the Y axis is the percentage of respondents that made each choice: blue for clue #1, red for clue #2. (The graph is perhaps partly confusing to people because there just happened to be 9 possible choices for the two clues — the same number of total clues in the poem.)

        Interestingly, my current favorite possibility for clue #1 was not among the choices — at least not in its entirety. My closest match I guess would be all of stanza #1, though it only actually uses a part of that stanza. I’m wondering if others have the same difficulty in accurately answering the survey for clue #1?

  5. Since nobody has found the chest in 5 to 6 years, I think we can say that so far, not only has the majority of searchers been wrong, but 100 percent of searchers have been wrong. Ergo, I might be more inclined to seek out the thoughts of maverick searchers and others whose views are not highly regarded.

    In terms of location, one of FF’s comments was something to the effect that >>> “I think it’s going to surprise people”.

    Ken 🙂

    • @ken – your inclination would seem a curious approach. Wouldn’t the 100%-of-wrong set still include mavericks? Or is your reasoning related to mavericks just being contrarians, and so therefore the search areas they (we) are considering would be less searched?

      • “Wouldn’t the 100%-of-wrong set still include mavericks?”

        Yes, it would. But a subset of mavericks would be outside the most popular search logic, and thus would be inside less popular or generally unknown logic to most searchers. Hence, FF’s comment about “surprise”.


        • I would thus agree with Jeremy (below) in that what is popular is not necessarily correct, especially given that the whole point of the chase is that the winner, by definition, will be in a minority of 1.


          • What about the searcher who has maybe solved 4 clues according to Fenn? Surely that person could be “wrong”, but not 100%. Others also have continued to get the first 2 clues (perhaps unknowingly) but still got them correct only to pass by the other 7….This tells me that your assumption may be incorrect Ken. It may be conclusive that the main stream of searchers is partially on the right track. Just off by a few degrees maybe…

    • Mike, you should expand this using Google Forms:

      Aggregate, anonymously given information doesn’t divulge anything about anyone’s solution, and I think more people would be willing to answer more questions. There’s a lot of perennial ones that come up, and it’d be interesting to get the community’s pulse on them.

      I don’t think, in a treasure hunt, that what is popular tells you anything about what is correct (I’m an individualist), but it certainly is interesting.

      Plus, I kind of want to take a survey myself.

    • “too far to walk” is an indication of looking back in time. (my very strong opinion). FF wants us to learn (knowledge). Imagination is more important than knowledge because imagination leads to curiosity and learning which leads to knowledge. The greater the imagination, the more we seek to discover and the more we learn.

  6. I thought it was a very interesting survey. I tried to describe it to others, and I didn’t do it justice.

    Mike, you do show some very interesting information. I, too, am surprised at the variety of answers, and the similarity of answers as well.

    So, from your survey, most everyone agrees on certain things being clues, and then others are all over the place.

    P.S. My Hickory Syrup arrived. I think you need to put a warning label on the bottle that says “Not intended as a drink.” LOL

    • Sacha,

      Great to hear your syrup arrived! Thank you!

      An interesting aspect of survey sampling of a population is that as the sample size approaches the population, the results focus in on what the entire population believes. Further, there is some statistical evidence that when a large group is surveyed regarding an answer, the most common answer from the entire population usually approaches the (only) correct one!

      The survey above did not mean to indicate that those surveyed had the entire poem deciphered, but rather, was focusing in on the only two clues that Forrest has confirmed as being solved at this time.

      (P. S. I’ve been told the syrup makes an excellent Old Fashioned)

      ~Wisconsin Mike

  7. Mike – I thought the survey was a very good idea. If you do one again – perhaps you could add “none of the above” to the answers.

    You see I do believe the poem guides you – but not in the way most think. I feel that you find the nine clues only after you figure things out. I have heard a few others feel the same way. I probably couldn’t have answered your survey.

  8. Genius idea to survey the crowd.

    Surprised no one thought of 2 “And with my treasures bold” or 3 “I can keep my secret where.”

  9. Thanks, Mike, for posting the results. I’d like to add a tiny survey I took throughout the weekend with Fenn searchers. I asked several people if they thought the drawing on page 99 of TTOTC was drawn by Forrest, and could indeed be his “treasure map”. Dal replied, “not likely because he doesn’t think ff can draw that well…look at the stick figures on the prize maps .” He also reiterated in his opinion. I asked Amy same question. She replied that she strongly does not believe he drew the picture. Her reason had to do with artsy lingo that I now can’t remember. Hmmm…so I left Fennboree accepting the fact that ff had nothing to do with page 99’s drawing.

    But wait…yesterday I talked to a friend of mine who actually asked ff about the drawing at Fennboree. My friend said that ff said it was drawn by a Vietnam war correspondent with the initials JF who he has since lost contact with. End of story…or is it? What if the drawing was drawn decades ago by someone else, and ff just added the “FLY TAOS” words? Remember, he wrote his autobiography which he stashed inside the olive jar which is inside Indulgence in such small print the reader will need a magnifying glass to read it. All this is in my opinion. cynthia

    • Cynthia, thank you for posting this. Not too long ago I emailed that question to Forrest, but received no answer. I feel better knowing that JF was a VietNam war correspondent instead of not knowing anything. I wanted to take my book to Allen Polt and have him sign my book as well, but ran out of time. I looked at all the photos in the book to see which ones were not by him and there were a couple of them that I wasn’t sure on, like page 57. It almost looks as if someone signed it, but I think now, that it is just squigglies.

    • Hi Cynthia – I must be blind or something, but where do you see the “FLY TAOS” words? Just curious. BTW, I enjoyed meeting you at Fennboree!

        • Thank you pdenver. I greatly appreciate that. ‘-)
          Wow. That’s pretty crazy. Looks like there’s a word in front…what do you suppose it says? My magnifying glass doesn’t go down that far!

          I’ve always thought it interesting that Taos rhymes with Laos.

          • Melanie, It is almost impossible to make out the word before FLY…maybe it’s the same propeller symbol that’s just above the initials JF. Previously, I thought the word might be “GO” …so it is saying “GO FLY TAOS”. I actually drew a line between the SF airport symbol on my roadmap and the Taos airport symbol. One of my search areas fell right on that line. Just looked for Fenn’s chest there again Wednesday.

          • Ha – I could barely make out FLY TAOS! I think it was you I recall recounting one of your solves using that line b/t airports. Maybe Fenn didn’t fly a straight line and “took the scenic route”. Lots of interesting ground features to see from 10,000′ – 12,000′. Have another look, but a bit off the straight line next time. Good luck to you.

          • Melanie, I think he was flying much lower when maybe he spotted his “special” place from the air. In Seventeen Dollars a Square Inch, he wrote “…We (Eric Sloane) spent a lot of time together, sometimes with him as my co-pilot in my plane as we flew at treetop level to Taos…” I agree with you, though, that maybe he took the “scenic route.” That’s why it’s imperative we search under every rock and bush between the 8.25 miles north of the northern limit of Santa Fe and Taos. I have a lot of rocks and bushes remaining!

  10. Forrest may not have drawn the illustration on page 99, but he certainly could have told JF what he wanted depicted, and had him make modifications until it met ff approval.

    Item two – I would have said, “All of stanza #1 = clue #1 and “Begin it where warm waters halt And take it in the canyon down, Not far, but too far to walk.” = clue #2

    Just my opinions – Good luck to all searchers and STAY SAFE


  11. In my opinion, two of the three things you state as facts are not. And only 1 out of 26 figured out where the first two clues are in the poem. Good survey, though. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Thank-you Mike,. It was fun discussing our poem ideas. Your daughter is one of the most amazing young girls I’ve ever met. She was wise and in the woods beyond her years at Fennboree. I learned a lot from her Saturday at the potluck:)

    • BoomerGirl,

      Thank you for helping her to feel welcome. She is already talking about coming back next year and her dream of presenting Forrest with his bracelet (after we find Indulgence).

      ~Wisconsin Mike

  13. “As I have gone in there alone” can represent a starting point in the poem, but is it actually a clue that FF may have already given out with an answer?

    IMO – this seems to be an introduction to the poem and nothing more. We already know where FF has gone – into the Rockies. And he probably went in alone. Thus, if this is the first clue, then I would say it has been solved.

    If you continue reading this first stanza, it seems to me its just continues with more of an introduction, and thus has introduced you to FF and a treasure chest he has referenced as a trove.

    Now, just because they are in the poem, it doesn’t mean that they are not a clue. Let’s say all you have is the poem, because you don’t have TToTC, one could read the poem and see that FF has told us where to go and look when referencing his interviews, then the first stanza would be a clue and solved.

    there = a place where FF hid Indulgence – “The Rockies – within four states”
    Alone = FF by himself and no others

    Thus….through elimination……IMO – Begin it WWWH” – is the first prominent clue that will help you begin the search. Is this clue number one or number two? I guess if you really need to know that there are nine clues in the poem…..and you come up with one short, then “in there alone” could be one you’ve missed counting.

    Did that make sense to anyone? :o)

    Good luck to all!

      • I think the missing word – “it” – is a reference to the quest…..in which FF already expressed it with ‘my secret where’.

          • Do you mean…’take “it” in the canyon below’?

            We are still on the quest….so yes…..”it” reflects the quest or the path you’ve selected as the quest.

            One could deem it to have this dual meaning, I guess perception plays a major role.

            I also believe this to be clue #2.


    • IMO – stanza 1 appears as a basic introduction to the fact that FF went alone to hide the TC. But after intense study of the poem, I finally believe I understand stanza 1. “I” is FF, but “I” represents something else too. It is what “I” represents that helps you to see a second clear, straightforward meaning. It gives a lot of information that helps explain the other stanzas and gives hints to the answer of several of the clues in other stanzas. I believe stanza 1 is absolutely essential.

      • Well, the “I” in the first stanza works equally well (perhaps better) as personification of [I]ndulgence itself. This idea has been proposed by many, but it doesn’t seem particularly helpful in deciphering the clues.

  14. Oh no no noooo…but the first stanza holds sooooo much! More than 2! 🙂

    Great job mike! Applaud your tenacity! 🙂

  15. Glad you asked for the first two clues in the poem and not if the starting area was a clue in the poem, because IMO that’s given in the book, not in the poem.

    And its not easy either, It has 3 (or 4) things to figure out. Once I recognized number one and figured it out (a large well known area), number two was somewhat easy because of a lucky GE search of that area. Locating #2 confirmed my interpretation of #1. But subsequent sentences are loaded with innuendo which I think contain two other geographic places (or maybe a compound place) which needs better analysis than I can bring to it… I think interpreting them requires some local knowledge and/or some BOG observation. I might as well be in India.

  16. interpret/translate/interpret/translate….I don’t think there is a single phrase that can go without close scrutiny from within and without. There’s a lot to digest in the three little words: I can keep. moi opining!!

  17. Wisconsin Mike, Thanks for this information. I love the graph. The graph is a great way to look at these results. I’m shocked at the 54% for “As I have . . . “. Wow, great work, Wisconsin Mike!

  18. I was very interested with seeing Wisconsin Mike taking his survey of fenners at ‘boree. Nice to see the results of his work!

    • I will add I don’t think you can be confident in identifying the correct starting point by using the first two clues, IMO.

  19. Hi Wisconsin Mike: An interesting addendum to your Fennboree survey would be for searchers to answer a two-question survey: (1) which state they believe the treasure chest is located, and (2) which stanza contains the first clue. So 28 possible answers if we allow for the possibility that some people might believe the first clue either isn’t in one of the six stanzas, or it isn’t confined to a single stanza. For clarification on what is meant by “first clue,” let’s define that to
    mean the first clue you encounter while reading the poem normally. (This may or may not be the first clue you would encounter when executing your search.)

    Actually, better make that 35 possible permutations to allow for searchers
    who have not yet decided which state contains the chest. So something like this:

    1. Which state do you believe the chest is located? Choose from [MT, WY, CO, NM, other/undecided]

    2. Which stanza contains the first clue if you read the poem normally? Choose from [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, other]

    Judging from Mike’s results, most of the permutations will have zero takers
    (e.g. MT-6, WY-6, CO-6, NM-6, other-6, MT-5, WY-5, CO-5, etc.) Survey results would give you an idea of how many others have solutions completely different from your own.

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