I received these photos from K and she wants to remind everyone that when searching in Canada please be careful and take plenty of pepper spray.
When I was in junior high I hated washing the dishes, especially after supper, which was our family’s big meal. So sometimes my father would assign those duties to me alone, thinking it’d be a satisfactory supplemental punishment for doing one of what he called my “personal inconsiderations,” like putting itching powder in Skippy’s shorts.
There were five in our family plus a dog, so when you threw in a skillet, rolling pin, cleaver, and potato masher, the dish washing and drying task became monumental.
But I developed an antidote that I recommend to anyone who feels down and wants to acquire a more positive attitude.
While standing on a stool in front of the kitchen sink, I’d break into song as if I were on a national stage and performing before the great kings and queens and Tsars and Tsarinas of the world. What my voice lacked in quality it made up with in quantity, and the flourish of scrubbing a pressure cooker only enhanced the drama. As the crescendo built so did my motivation and our neighbors could probably enjoy me clear down the block. Even my father had to admit that I could perform Oh Sole Mia with unusual aplomb?
Often the dirty dishes disappeared before I was ready to take my bows. Sometimes I wasn’t finished with my aria, and I’d look around, desperate for something else to wash. Finally, that done, I would step down from my stage happy, having forgotten that I’d washed and dried the dreaded dirty dishes.
That subterfuge was a great life lesson for me and over the years it has manifested itself in ways that have allowed me to stay positive – at least some of the time.
Oops, the dishwasher just stopped, gotta go.
To everyone out there on Dal’s blog, let me introduce you to someone we can all admire and whose life practices each of us might aspire to emulate. Her name is Donna Karan, who is one of the most influential fashion designers in America.
Donna wanted to go through my antique Indian clothing collection and talk about some ideas. She thought maybe I could help. Ha! We used up a wonderful afternoon laughing at each other.
In this photo Donna models an Indian legging that was made by a Kiowa woman in Oklahoma about 1875. It’s fringed and covered with green and yellow ocher. Donna thought that design idea might not be too popular with her Manhattan staff.
She was born in Forrest Hills, NY, in 1948, and at an early age began selling women’s clothing at a local boutique. That’s when she discovered herself. After attending several design schools she started moving up the fashion ladder. At age 35 she married Stephen Weiss, who became CEO of the Donna Karan design company. She wanted to manufacture “modern clothes for modern people” and was known for being, what her envious competitors called, “practical.” Around New York she was popularly nicknamed “The Queen of Seventh Avenue.” Donna was a success in the tough New York fashion market where next to nothing can endure.
At age 44 Donna launched her first perfume line and sold a fragrance that she said smelled like “Casablanca lilies, red suede and the back of Stephen’s neck.”
In 2001 Stephen died of lung cancer and Donna started wearing her wedding ring with the diamond turned in, she told me, “so I could hold it,” and that’s when she decided to start giving back.
She sold her publicly traded company for about $650,000,000, and gave personal belongings and vintage company design samples to benefit the Urban Zen Initiative, a charity she co-founded. A foundation she ran donated $850,000 to New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center.
Not bad for a little Jewish girl who dropped out of school at age 14 to chase a dream, doncha think?
Since my eulogy for Mike Kammerer appeared as Scrapbook eighty-three on Dal’s blog several folks have asked me to say something more about the man and his home. This is going to be fun.
I went through the house construction with MK and it took me three years. For two of those years it was the biggest mess I ever saw, with workers lumbering around carrying objects that looked too heavy to carry. I told MK his debacle would never come together. He just laughed at me, and it did.
The kitchen ceiling was made of Mexican bricks that were cemented in on a slant so their edges would stick out. The effect was wonderful but I couldn’t understand how they did it.
The master bathroom had a shower that was 300 square-feet in size. It had a fireplace in one corner and an 8 foot-wide waterfall decorating the back wall. I guess MK wanted to be comfortable while he cleaned up. And the same shower contained another smaller shower over there in another corner. It was glassed-in and his wife preferred that one, saying “I didn’t feel comfortable standing naked in the middle of a large room with no clothes on.” She had a quaint way with words.
The eleven bathrooms in the house had sinks that were hand-shaped from solid rock, and each one was a different style. The gym was just off the master shower and a stone bathtub was in there somewhere. The huge his-and-hers closets looked like something right out of Imelda Marcus with clothes and shoes lined up like they had been measured in.
The outside on the north side of the house looked like a small Mexican village from the 1880s. MK’s custom built stagecoach was there by the carriage house, as was a store fully stocked with mercantile goods of the period. Guest facilities that continued the country feeling seemed to be everywhere. MK could sleep 56 people. Goats, sheep, peacocks, and other petting animals were there just for fun.
The church, a replica of the cathedral in Santa Fe, stood stately in its place on the far end of the plaza by the gate. He built it to get married in, and gave $25,000 for the wooden 17th century Spanish, hand-carved door.
The outside on the south side of the house was inhabited by the swimming pool, hot tub, bathhouse, and about fifteen large sit-on rocks that had their underneaths carved out to house speakers for the audio system. One never knew they were there until one strolled by and the stones started playing music. When the well pump shorted out MK trucked water in from sixty-miles away to fill the swimming pool. Flower gardens, fruit trees, grape vines, and large western bronzes abounded the pool area.
MK was a calf roper who aspired to the rodeo, and he was pretty good. His collection of horses and longhorn steers was housed in what I called the Kammerer Hilton. It was located on the fenced-in west end of his 175 acres.
When entering the property from a county road, two blocks from the Eaves Ranch movie set where John Wayne made movies, you passed MK’s five bedroom house that was built many years ago by the Underwood typewriter family. Then another 500 feet, and adjacent to a lushly lilypadded pond, was the front entrance to the villa. A larger-than-life-size bronze (MK bought the entire edition of fifteen) stood like a sentinel beside a small stream that fed the pond, which I stocked with damsel and dragonfly eggs, game fish, crawfish, snakes, frogs and turtles. MK gave Peggy and me a smaller version of the bronze. Ours weighs only 65 pounds. The tacked-on plaque reads, “Code of the West by Herb Mignery, dedicated to Forrest and Peggy Fenn, keepers of the code and folks to ride the river with.”
When Mike divorced his second wife he was suffering from several maladies, one of which eventually took his life. I “made” him hire Susan Bodelson who was a very special woman, and coincidentally, a registered nurse. She came from a family of ten children, seven of whom worked for me at one time or another. Her brother Danny made the illustrations for my TFTW book.
While Susan was pampering Mike back to health they had a whirlwind romance and eloped without telling anyone – not even me. He loved camping with her in the Pecos wilderness on rainy days and nights, and then more rainy days and nights. Many dinners under the stars were private to them alone and when they surfaced to enjoy a libation at Vanessie’s Piano Bar they sat close, and probably wondered why they were there at all.
But their life together was short lived, an account I spoke to in my eulogy. When Mike died I fabricated two ½ inch hearts in wax, cast them in silver, linked them forever together, and strung them on a chain for Susan. One had her name on it and the other, his. Inside a hollow in her silver heart I placed one of Mike’s small cremated bone fragments, and sweated it over with a silver plate. That was seven years ago and Susan has not moved on like she should have. Her heart remains with Mike and she still wears the little necklace I made for her. I think she likes it. ff
I don’t know if many of you will appreciate this scrapbook item. It’s my eulogy for Mike Kammerer. He was a man who stood singular in most crowds; a self-made man of rare bark who built a $15,000,000 home. When he died he left another $75,000,000 in a checking account in Jackson, Wyoming. He had three wives and his two divorces happened because he didn’t know how to say he was sorry. He loved Peggy’s hot muffins and often called her to ask if he could come to dinner. She always said yes.
This story was presented before about 300 close friends outside his home by his pool. It reveals what I thought of the man. It has been edited only slightly to fit this occasion.
Final words for MK
I wondered what I could say at a time like this about a man like Mike. And then I thought about the time he and Susan closed the Indian school at Santo Domingo Pueblo and took all of the children to the Natural History Museum in Albuquerque – and then sat with them on the grass and ate pizza.
And I thought about his support of the under appraised teenagers from Wyoming who come annually to camp at San Lazaro Pueblo to excavate and learn the disciplines of life. The hundred thousand dollars Mike invested in those young men and women paid dividends that continue to grow as they emerge from children at risk – to productive citizens. And when their transportation broke down Mike gave them a new seventeen passenger van.
Nothing about Mike Kammerer was common – rather he was a man of extremes – and his personality touched the spectrum at both ends. He was always full of new ideas and no challenge was large enough to retard his charge. I remember his chase to find Amelia Earhart – his desire to produce nitrogen fuel cars – and of his plasma destruction process to destroy solid waste. I look back now with beautiful memories of a hundred lunches and dinners – and can still hear the melancholy echo of a thousand forgotten laughs.
His mind was like a bee in a meadow of spring flowers as he darted from one challenge to another – this beautiful home – his huge four engine airplane that could land in the middle of any ocean.
Each of his projects was the best one – since the last one – or until the next one. Even so, his knowledge of the subjects he faced each day was conspicuously exceeded by his enthusiasm for what he was doing. His aspirations were huge – and his relentlessness – his impatience with conditions which impeded or slowed his progress was matched only by his over flowing reservoir of vitality.
Mike was happiest when he was under his cowboy hat. During the last ten days of his life I lunched with him twice and each time he wore his hat and roping boots and spurs. When I asked about wearing spurs in the restaurant – he just spread a wide grin at me. That was Mike all over.
On the 9th of May, he and Susan (his wife) went into their bedroom to watch a movie. He said that he would be content to spend the rest of his life with her between those four walls. And when he was slumped at her feet he was still wearing his roping boots and spurs. He never opened his eyes again but he was where he wanted to be – at home, with the one he loved. I know he still has a smile in his heart, and I hope his hat and boots and spurs are with him now, as he strikes his final trail.
There was a high octane quality about Mike – an overt, manly charm. But what his good friend Sally Denton remembered most were his “incredible blue eyes that could alternate from an impenetrable glacial lake to the most inviting Caribbean lagoon.” Those are her words, not mine!
During these last two years Susan was a moderating force in Mike’s life and he told me just a few days ago that he wanted to be a better person, – a better husband – a better father – a better friend.
He said that when he was a young man his father was displeased with him – and thought he was worthless – and asked what he had done in the last year that was worthwhile. Mike just said, “Well, I made a million dollars for one thing.”
Mike was at his best when he was quiet and reflective and we often spoke of ways to simplify our lives. But fickle is the finger that points at winners – so we find ourselves here today to celebrate the life of Mike Kammerer. And although he has passed from our view he will never fade from our memory. His childish, giddy laugh was volcanic and could erupt and spread across his face like a tidal wave – making you laugh and want to be with him.
So now, I sense Mike’s agreeing presence and remember him as being a man of great vision that was taken from us in the moment of his greatest blossom – and left us with a grove of evaporated hopes and demolished dreams. But from Mike’s seeds have grown a beautiful symphony of creative combinations in the form of his children – Rudy and Kristen, and their life partners, Yvonne and Tina. And while the world is poorer with the passing of Mike Kammerer we are still blessed to have his wife Susan and her children – David, Corinne, Perry and the wonderful Eric. We are thankful to have wallowed in Mike’s brilliance for a time that was way too short. But all things that belong to man change, and we must be part of that change, however painful it is.
For life is a game of poker,
And happiness is the pot.
Fate deals you four cards and a joker,
And you play whether you like it or not.
In closing let me say that I hope your memories of that indelible man are as vivid as mine. If you look into the full moon you may see him sitting beside the great council fires of history – arguing with Rasputin – or Shakespeare – or Sitting Bull. All of that is within him. Mike is not resting – he has too many ideas and too many things to do.
During my late pre-teen years I was really into reading funny books. They weren’t funny but that’s what they were called. Later they were renamed comic books but I will never subscribe to that unfortunate change.
Across the street from my house and down on the corner of French and Main was a magazine distributor. I forgot his name. Many of the publishers sent their periodicals to him and he’d deliver them around town to every newsstand where magazines were sold. It was a small mom and pop operation.
At the end of each month all of the unsold magazines would have their covers removed and returned to the respective publishers for credit. The employee who made that happen was an elderly black man named Joe. I absolutely loved that old man, and after school I’d often go over to see him and we’d talk about all sorts of things while I helped him tear covers. His grandparents had been slaves and his tales of picking cotton on the Mississippi river bottoms were right out of Mark Twain. When I told him I’d like to have worked alongside him in the fields. He said, “Hush boy, you froth too much,” or words to that effect. Funny that I would remember that about him.
Joe, whose life experiences extended past both extremes, lived alone in one room that had an unshaded light bulb hanging from the ceiling. His space was so small that he sat on his bed while he worked. Joe was fluent about life on the foggy shores of civilization and I was thirsty to learn what he knew.
He told of being in a store in Hillsboro, Texas when it was robbed by Bonnie and Clyde. As the gangsters fled, a piece of paper fell from Bonnie’s coat pocket. On it was a poem she had written. Joe pulled the poem from his bible and let me read it.
I never heard Joe complain and maybe it was because he knew how to make things work. As a kid he greased wagon wheels, and for a while he walked door to door in town trying to sell turkeys. When he was successful he’d go buy one from a farmer on credit and deliver it to his client for a small profit. Then he’d walk a few miles back to pay the farmer.
Occasionally I could beg Joe into letting me go home with a couple funny books that had their covers removed. I didn’t care about that. The retail price was a dime and I couldn’t afford even one. He had to take all unsold magazines to the dump and would get in trouble if he couldn’t account for all of what he called “dead ends.” I’d read them at night and take them back to Joe the next morning before school. I had many funny book heroes but my favorites were Sub-Mariner and Captain America.
Occasionally my mom would make a mincemeat pie for me to take hot to Joe. They were his favorite, and once a month or so she’d invite him over for supper. I don’t remember what happened to Joe because my mind has mostly faded into the rest of my life, but he was much more than just an asterisk in the family scrapbook of those years. He was a mentor to me at a time in my life when it mattered. He wasn’t the kind of guy I could forget. f
I told a story in my Too Far to Walk book about buying a collection of antique African wooden sculptures from Sosoko, a trader friend from the Dark Continent. A short time later, Michael Douglas wandered into our gallery. I had not met him before but I knew his resume was crammed with accomplishments that would impress even the most self-possessed. He stayed in our guest house and we socialized for a short time. He seemed like a down-to-earth, normal kind of guy, so I asked him how he could not be affected by his successes, which included winning an Academy Award. His response spoke to his humanity. “Because, as Kirk Douglass’ son, I grew up with all those Hollywood stars who were big shots.”
Michael enjoyed antiques and purchased five of our African statues. They were large, gangly and hard to ship so I decided to pack them in my airplane and personally deliver them to his front door.
A week later the two of us were chewing some finger cheeses and drinking wine beside his pool up Benedict Canyon, or wherever it was. It looked down on all of Hollywood, and I was impressed. The company and the view provided me with an enjoyable but fleeting sense of preeminence.
After a few minutes Michael went into his house for more wine, leaving me alone to wallow in the flourish of his opulence. Just then, a man wearing a low thread-count sweater, shorts, slosh slippers and rose-colored glasses entered through the gate and sat beside me on a bench. He also was wearing a rather toothy smile. We introduced ourselves but his name didn’t register, and talked for a few minutes. He seemed poised and confident, but otherwise ordinary. Suddenly he glanced at his watch, mumbled something, and departed with some urgency. How strange that was, I thought.
When Michael returned I mentioned what had happened. He said, “Yeah, I saw him through the window. That was Elton John, he lives in the neighborhood and comes by once in a while.”
When I told that story to my daughters they laughed, and reminded me of something I keep reminding myself, that I was born a hundred years too late. f
Hi Mr. Fenn. As I’m broke and half a continent away from my search location I got creative in searching my location: Craiglist! I went into the “Bozeman, MT” jobs section, under the category of “Etc.” and said that I was looking for a Treasure Hunter. Told them I would split the treasure with them if they found it and offered gas money for their trip. Not expecting much, if any, of a response, I was surprised twenty-four hours later when I had over a dozen different people offering to partner up with me. Turns out everyone wants to search for treasure, they just need an excuse, or someone who claims they know where it is anyway. Ha ha. Following my detailed directions my Craiglist partner went out to the Lamar Valley where he was quickly semi-circled by bison whom he escaped by crossing the Lamar River–part of the directions, though instead of wading across as I told him, he had to swim the last 15 yards. Oops. Shows you how little you can plan for.
Luckily everything worked out and he had a great adventure, sending me back lots of photos–he even waived the gas fee. The only thing that would have made it any better would be if the had found the treasure. Oh well. Gonna go through my list of applicants and find someone to check out my other solve… Have a good Fourth weekend.
Everyone will remember Jerry Golday. He has searched four times for the treasure in his secret Montana spot. On his second expedition he became mired by snow and circumstance. Dal was with me in Santa Fe when Jerry’s wife called to say she was worried because Jerry had not checked in. When our quick investigation revealed that he had not slept in his motel room Dal joined in the concern. So I called my cousin Chip Smith, who lives on Grayling Creek near Hebgen Lake. Chip in turn notified his high octane search and rescue buddies to gas up the helicopter while he and his wife Amber raced in their truck to the search area. The next morning Jerry got a cold but welcome chopper ride out and all ended well.
He and Keri have been back searching in the same area two times since. She commented in an email that those who think searching in the mountains is too dangerous should just “pick up their lower lip and go do something else.” Jerry and Keri and Chip and Amber are now hugging friends, which is yet another fortunate byproduct of searching for hidden treasures. These next words are Keri’s.
Most of the time we hear of a man’s great accomplishments first. Then how he succeeded and persevered through his trials to become who he is and achieve what he has. When the story is told in this order we tend to admire him for his actions and what we then call bravery. When the story is first heard about at the beginning of a journey, where mistakes are being made and personal trials are being faced, it’s easier to scrutinize, call it irresponsible, or even look at him as a victim of his circumstances. For a man to be a man he has to walk his own journey and find himself. That doesn’t mean that he has to walk it alone, but it does mean that he may have to walk the path a little differently then others.
Jerry’s story is not about a man’s failure, poor judgement, or one of being enticed. It’s about a man’s strength and determination to achieve what he set out to achieve by reevaluating, facing fears, and following through even though the possibility of making mistakes lies ahead still. It is those who continue forward when others would deem it impossible, foolish, and dangerous, that will learn from what doesn’t work out, which brings what is trying to be achieved even closer.
“A man can get discouraged many times but he is not a failure until he begins to blame somebody else and stops trying”
“A somebody was once a nobody who wanted to and did.”
Normally I would not comment on what is said on the blogs but since there seems to be so much acrimony on two of them I will.
First, I do not own Dal’s blog and he has never been in my employ. I sometimes send him things and he frequently declines to post them.
Second, I have not said that a searcher was closer than 12’ from the treasure. It is not likely that anyone would get that close and not find it.
Third, I had not heard of Christ of the Mines Shrine in Silverton, Colorado until many months after I hid the treasure.
Forth, there is some geographical dispute about whether Bandelier National Monument is in the Rocky Mountains but since it is shown on the map in my Too Far to Walk book it must be considered within the search area.
Fifth, I have never consciously misled any searcher or privately given a hint or clue I thought would help someone find the treasure.
Sixth, I think I will be a little let down if someone finds the treasure in the next several years but I will quickly recover. It is out of my hands now.
Seventh, there has been talk about some searchers receiving under-the-table clues that will help them find the treasure. Those accusations are false. I have, A wife, two daughters, two sons-in-laws, seven grandkids, one great grandkid, a cousin, a nephew and his wife. I like all of them better than I like Dal so that makes him 17th on the list to get clues from me. The fact that none of them have found the treasure should speak for itself.
Eighth, I have received word from three ladies who wanted me to know that they are no longer in the search. They have fear of finding the treasure and being branded a harlot. Please folks, let’s try to get the blog conversations out of the gutter.
Ninth, I reserve the right to be wrong once in a while.