Asterisk, Omega, and Grizzly Bears….

SUBMITTED JUNE 2017
by VOXPOPS

 

Let me take you back to November of 2016. At that time I sent a story to Dal about finding a piece of truck tire, apparently encrusted with canine droppings. After studying my own video I came to the conclusion that this was a Chase marker left by Mr. Fenn at a specific location to which the poem directs you. Naturally, I came in for some considerable ridicule, but early in 2017 Forrest created an eBay listing about money that his own dog had chewed and partially excreted. Following on from the listing’s premature removal came the raffle of that same pile of indigestible moolah in aid of the Santa Fe Children’s Museum. For those who were observant, there were inconsistencies in the information Forrest presented that pointed toward the same place where the tire had been located. And after that came a story about the “waning of art.” Draw your own conclusions.

Tire as originally discovered – picture extracted from late 2016 video

Fast forward to May of this year, and I was chomping at the bit to get back out there. In fact I’d been getting paranoid about the avalanche of information Forrest had been releasing, as well as the avalanche of snow that had been falling across the Rockies (up to 200% of normal in some areas). I already had a flight booked for the end of May, but mixed feelings of urgency and confidence, with just a hint of smugness thrown in, spurred me on to add an extra trip (number 12) at the beginning of May. I was convinced that the treasure would be located close to where I’d found the tire, and I had the specific coordinates to hand. I prayed that the snow would be gone by the time I got there.

So where was there? Let’s just say that I was north of Jackson, WY. It’s three flights and over twenty-four hours travel time for me, plus a seven-hour time difference; these days I find that exhausting. So by the time I was on-site, I was feeling a tad discombobulated. The second emotion was disappointment. I was confronted by snow cover that was over two feet deep in places – and a six-inch swamp elsewhere. Searching in that environment would be near to impossible. And what was I looking for? I wasn’t sure, although like most searchers I had ideas.

But the first little crumb of good news was that the segment of tire I’d left by the roadside was still there, and I popped it in the rental car’s trunk. I’d been hoping to recover the “poop” that would still be in its original location, if it was indeed artwork, but the snow and water made hunting for that impossible.

Tire picture taken at home after recovery – you can just make out the mark (first tread notch on left) where the “poop” was attached

Tire picture taken at home after recovery – note cut edge

Tire picture taken at home after recovery – note ragged edge

Tire picture taken at home after recovery – note “sculpted” edge

Two days of searching produced a big fat zero – except for some very large and very obvious freshly made paw prints: bears! I tried to stay alert.

Paws for thought

My main spot was completely obliterated by the snow, and in any event I sensed that something wasn’t quite right about it, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on what that was. It was time to turn my attention to the secondary locations. Although I could see that they would more than likely be under water, there was a chance that some marker might be visible, if not the chest itself.  Prior to making the trip, I’d made arrangements with another searcher to check these spots for me last year, but for reasons beyond anyone’s control that had not been possible – and as it turns out I’m glad that fate intervened.

Too much snow!

There I was on day three, squelching in hastily purchased gumboots through the snowmelt, when I looked up and caught movement. I’d already disturbed what I later discovered was a sandhill crane – a gray jumbo of a bird that is as impressive to watch during take-off as any 747 or Airbus.

Sandhill Crane

This time it was no bird, but an enormous grizzly apparently foraging for breakfast. Fortunately, I was still a hundred yards or so away and he hadn’t spotted me. Of course, as soon as I picked up my camera Murphy’s Law swung into action, causing me to knock the focus switch and so prevent me from getting the best shots. But I was able to grab something before deciding I might be better off getting out of there and returning after feeding time.

Getting the hump!

Grizzly on the move

I have to admit I was nervous as, a couple of hours later, I traversed the area where the grizzly had been wading, keeping up a barrage of noisy yelps and other gibberish to warn of my approach. I kept search time to a minimum, and was turning to go when I looked up to find a wolf standing at the edge of the trees, watching me. It was a magnificent creature with predominantly snowy white fur. I wasn’t able to get a photographic record, but the sight of him is imprinted in my memory. Those unexpected glimpses of nature in the raw are the moments that stand out in the Chase for me. More to come on that later…

By now something was beginning to nag at me. It wasn’t just that I was searching in potentially dangerous bear country, but I had the feeling that there was yet more to this hunt than the couple of hundred miles that my trajectory had already covered over the last few years. I went back to the poem and looked for the thousandth time at the final verse. Then it dawned on me. I repacked my rucksack and hit the road.

Where I was headed was quite different in terrain and geology, and when I arrived I saw a myriad purple and yellow flowers as well as rocks encrusted with multi-colored lichens. Ring any bells?

Beautiful colors on display

And then I made the fatal error. After years of trying to let the poem lead me, I succumbed to force-fitting the solution. I ignored the spot where the poem told me to go, as it seemed too close to human habitation. The place I chose instead was logical, but I stopped thinking rationally and spent over two days literally digging in the snow. The area was flanked by a ridge that was largely snow-free, but running along the length of its base was a gulley that was still chock-full of the white stuff. I purchased shovels and set to. Now bear in mind that this area is over 7,000 feet in elevation, plus I’m overweight and over sixty years old. You get the picture! I not only got very tired, but I started to get strangely depressed and obsessively focused on this one spot. (Interestingly, I read a report a few weeks later that oxygen depletion at high altitude can lead to depression and even suicide.) I became convinced that Forrest had chosen this location since it would only become truly accessible for a limited period each year. What made matters worse was that when I returned to the hotel room and looked at the spot on my small phone screen, I was sure that there was a square or rectangular object located in the center of the gulley.

A workout at over 7,000 ft.

However, I didn’t just Google the place I was at now. During those idle hours, I retraced my virtual steps and, using the precision tools in the poem, found – for the very first time – Forrest’s asterisk. It was unmistakable and it was many miles distant. I had never been there physically, and now wondered if the spot would reveal any useful information. I lodged the info at the back of my mind, and prepared for more digging and searching.

The “asterisk” that the poem leads you to

Time ran out, along with the good weather. During the final afternoon, having spent hours searching a cliff and its rock cavities, the heavens opened and unleashed a torrent of rain and hail. Within minutes, the access road was a muddy sluice, throwing up clods of sticky brown goo that clung to the wheel arches and underside of the car, and would soon set like cement. I jet-washed the rental car and headed back to the airport, once again in relatively good spirits, knowing that my wife and I were still booked onto a flight three weeks later, and that I’d get another chance to solve this particular riddle.

At the end of May we flew into Salt Lake City in blazing sunshine, and drove to our motel. It was hot, and my wife was unused to the altitude. Searching in these conditions would prove to be an ordeal for her – not least because she didn’t share my confidence. The creek I needed to search was awash with snowmelt run-off. It really wasn’t possible to make an exhaustive search there, and it made me wonder if I’d messed up yet again. We spent the next couple of days expanding the search area considerably, but I kept coming back to the logic that sent me to the creek.

Searching in snowmelt

It was just as we were deciding to call it quits and leave the area that I made a discovery. The method I’d used to solve the last stanza had led me to the creek, but what if I reversed it through 180 degrees? I checked the coordinates, and then I checked Google Maps. What I saw there astonished me. I have viewed miles of sagebrush from the comfort of my armchair and I’ve never spotted anything that looked remotely like an omega. But that was exactly what I saw now. In fact, right next to the coordinate marker was what looked like a “T” or a “J” – possibly even a cursive capital “F.” Then came the omega – oriented perfectly for GE viewing – followed by something that might be an “o” or a square. The first and last symbols were ambiguous, but the omega was as clear as day – at least to me. My wife was, as usual, unimpressed. You can make your own judgment call from the screenshot.

Omega: “TΩo” = “Tωo” = 2 = the second omega (possibly)

Naturally, I was cock-a-hoop and itching to get out there to pick up the treasure! But nothing in this Chase is ever that straightforward. We searched high and low. We rearranged the coordinates. We gave ourselves blisters. But there was no darn treasure! As far as I was concerned I’d parsed every line of the poem, and reached the end point. There was an omega but no treasure. What else could I do? I looked at the other symbols and tried to work them into the solution, but the capital letter gave me no hints unless combined with the final symbol to perhaps read “Two” or “To,” and the square – if that’s what it was – suggested that I had to complete that on the ground to find the chest’s resting place. But were we talking yards or miles?

Where’s that darn chest?

And then I considered the asterisk. What if the poem leads you all the way to the end – the omega – but the treasure is at a second omega. Could the asterisk be that place? It was time to visit the star of the show.

We drove for hours in blistering heat. We walked about a mile. We found a creek that was a raging torrent. I laughed as I stood on the bank and pointed at the place where the submerged asterisk – the stepping stones – ought to be. It was a ludicrous situation. A trillion gallons of snowmelt were cascading through that ravine. And yes, I’ve done some crazy things over the past four years, but there was no way I was going to venture into that maelstrom (as I described it in an email to Forrest). If he has secreted the chest there, it would have to be held in vault-like security so that it can’t move or spill its contents under those conditions. And yet…

You have to laugh!

We left there and drove to the desert to check out a possible corner of the square. There was nothing evident in that locale and I was beginning to lose hope. My wife was tired and fed-up, and just wanted to quit searching and visit family, so we made tracks for Eugene, Oregon.

My brave wife in desert heat

While in Oregon I kept turning over the evidence in my mind, but nothing new was forthcoming. But then, just as I was about to admit defeat, I saw a post on one of the blogs that intrigued me. Now, I don’t normally pay heed to others’ methodology because, like the so-called “hints,” you can all-too-often find yourself lost down a gigantic rabbit hole. But I was clutching at straws. I used what I found there to give me a new search place, a short distance from the asterisk.

As they say, hope springs eternal. Anyone who is an active searcher knows that is true, otherwise why bother? With only a few days left before our flight home, we set off on the thousand-mile journey back to the asterisk.

It was a beautiful morning and much cooler than on our previous foray as we left the car and hiked into the search area. This time we needed to cross a couple of wooded areas to reach the spot. As we approached the first one, it dawned on me why the woodland was there in the middle of scrub: water! And sure enough, as we scrambled down through the trees into a shallow valley, there was a stream that was serving as runoff from the overflowing main creek. We found a downed tree and edged across to dry land.

Heading down to the water

I was heading directly for the area we needed to reach – a clearing among the trees – but was unsure of how to access it. By climbing a steep hillside I thought I might be able see the best way in. I suggested to my wife that she stay by a rock while I went ahead to scout. That turned out to be a good move. As I reached the top of the crest, and peered down into the gloomy forest, I spotted movement. A bear was on the prowl.

Going up to look down

Reconnaissance

Because I wasn’t sure if the creature was aware of our presence, I thought I’d better make noise. I began yelling and whooping. It stopped and turned toward me. Then it bounded up the hill in my direction. That wasn’t supposed to happen! As it reached the edge of the tree line and paused, I called to my wife to back away. The bear was young, maybe a year or two old, and was beautiful. When it stood on its hind legs and looked straight at me, perhaps a little over thirty feet away, its eyes were intelligent and calculating.

I ran a brief test, and half-turned away to see if it might lose interest. Mistake! It immediately began to move in my direction. Quickly, I swung back to face it full-on, and began backing up while fumbling for the bear spray in my left jeans pocket. I tried to dislodge the safety catch by feel, never losing eye contact with my new friend. As my fingers found purchase on the plastic clip, the canister released a tiny puff of spray, shooting a yellow jet about ten feet forward of me. That was enough. The bear immediately turned away and began lumbering back into the trees. Phew!

Beating a slow retreat – thank goodness for the bear spray!

I returned to my wife who was in near-panic mode, and did my best to comfort her. From her vantage point lower down the hill, she’d only glimpsed the top of the bear’s head, and so was unsure exactly what was afoot. That may have made the situation even more difficult for her – not knowing exactly what was happening.

No encores, please!

We waited a few minutes before I climbed up again to see if the bear was still around. I caught sight of it loping away through the clearing that was our intended destination. Reasoning that time was what was needed, and that the bear would want to get away from these troublesome humans, we took our time retreating downhill before making a cautious approach through the trees at a lower level.

By the time we reached the clearing, there was no sign of the bear, but I was unable to concentrate on the search, thinking about our previous encounter. A largish rock in the center of the clearing was my goal, but there was nothing obvious around it.

Searching with spray at the ready

I began to widen the search area, but very soon I heard my wife call out that the bear was back. Looking up, I could see it moving among the trees on the hillside, roughly where I’d spotted it originally. It watched us, fortunately without making any further attempt to join the party. I ushered my wife out of the clearing and decided not to return.

He’s back! (Look to the bottom right)

Here’s a closer view

Re-crossing the stream via a different tree, my wife slipped and fell half into the water, scraping and bruising her leg on the log. She fought back the tears. By the time we got out of there, we were both soaked. Briefly and half-heartedly we checked another spot before returning to the car. At that point, my wife released her pent-up emotions, we hugged, and then began the long, long trip home. I had forgotten the yellow pepper spray that had caught and stained my fingers during the stand-off. After touching my nose absentmindedly, I was given a hot and painful reminder. Don’t stand downwind of that stuff, but don’t leave home without it!

DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT !!!

[SafetyOff] DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT !!!

So after all that, do I think I’ve reached the end? I really do – both ends, particularly now I’ve had a chance to correct a minor error. But it may also be the end of my hunt. Thirteen sorties are enough. We cannot afford yet another trip to prove me right or wrong. But just in case there’s some crazy, deep-pocketed speculator out there with money to burn on a shred of old tire, I’ve just put it on eBay at an eye-watering price to fund the final trip. Here’ are the UK and US eBay links:

UK eBay
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/-/132231414085?

or
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Weird-Art-Spare-Tire-Tyre-segment-found-during-Forrest-Fenn-treasure-hunt-/132231414085?hash=item1ec99b4145:g:zfQAAOSwHLNZRqXV

US eBay
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Weird-Art-Spare-Tire-Tyre-segment-found-during-Forrest-Fenn-treasure-hunt-/132231414085?hash=item1ec99b4145:g:zfQAAOSwHLNZRqXV

There again, should a TV production company be prepared to fund a trip in late summer, then great, too. But otherwise, if the treasure is where I think it is, it can stay; it isn’t going anywhere fast! And if I ever do write the book of my four-year adventure, I will include my methodology in that. Meantime, good luck to you all.

Voxpops-

The Blaze…

yellow

This is the place to discuss the the blaze. What do you think it is? Is it temporary or permanent? Will it be around for a thousand years or doesn’t it matter? Is it easy to spot or difficult? Does the poem tell us what the blaze looks like or what it is?

Nick Lazaredes of SBS-TV’s Dateline in Australia interviewed Forrest in the spring of 2014. Here is Forrest explaining the BLAZE.
http://dalneitzel.com/video/audio/blaze.mp3

Colter’s Hell….

SUBMITTED MAY 2017
by JAKE FAULKER

 

I’ve always wanted to head west even though I am not a young man physically. Cody Wyoming would be my second trip after staying in Reno Nevada for 6 months looking for something that wasn’t there.

My trip was not planned very well, I had gold fever (and still do) and I was going to Cody without reserving any accommodations. Besides, I have done this all the time when traveling to the White Mountains of the Granite State, Green Mountains of Vermont and Maine’s beautiful Appalachian’s. In worst case scenarios I would just pitch a tent somewhere or sleep in the car, but I had no tent and no car to sleep in Cody. The rental car I reserved couldn’t be acquired because my flight arrived too late to pick up. Closed!

I knew exactly what I was doing and would be fine.

Flew out of West Palm Beach at 5am on a Saturday morning and headed to Atlanta to catch a connector flight which would take me to Denver, then another connector to Yellowstone Regional Airport.

Landed in Atlanta only to find our plane was grounded, do to maintenance issues, which was fine with me considering they found the issues on the ground instead of 35,000 ft in the air.

Took an hour or so to get new flight to Denver to meet new connector, which worked out fine except…

Landed in Cody around 10pm MST, departed the plane only to find out my luggage was not there and they just told me to call them to see when it has arrived. OK, so no clothes, except for the clothes on my back and no high blood pressure meds which I foolishly put in my luggage instead of carry on.

Well, what the heck, I feel as though I need a couple of stiff ones to toss back, after all, I was on vacation so let’s not worry about the small stuff.

Called Town Taxi and Ron picked me up at the airport and asked him to take me to a bar or saloon so I can think straight. I would deal with the sleeping arrangements after I had a few. Dropped me off at Silver Dollar Bar and had a few while playing cornhole with a few locals, biker’s and vacationers. I would have to say the people here were very hospitable. I had told several people I was here looking for Forrest Fenn’s treasure and they knew nothing of it. I was surprised no one even heard of Forrest even though he was a trustee of Buffalo Bill Center of the West museum.

Had my fill & was really thinking straight if you know what I mean and called Ron to pick me up to go looking for a hotel or motel that had vacancy which he had told me it would be difficult considering it was biker week here in Cody. Thousands of bikers were passing through and staying there for Sturgis the first week of August. Just my luck, things were not going my way on this trip unlike many unplanned trips before. Ron did the research and we traveled to many different places that were packed full. Made many calls to no avail and told him to drop me off at the Ponderosa where I could meet Ben, Hoss, Adam, Little Joe & maybe have a nice meal by Hop Sing. Wrong Ponderosa, wrong state of mind & state & the TV show was not actual reality but the shots were in control. Timing & planning was wrong as well as you already know.

Ron’s a little older than myself and allot wiser than me & the look on his face was surely a sign that it was not going to happen considering he has lived in this town most of his life. But who am I to listen to someone who has been sober for several years as he told me.

Dropped me off and walked into the lobby where a tired husky man behind the counter was dozing off. I asked him if there was anything open for the night and he told me the obvious in a drowsy state. I asked him if I could sleep on the couch in the lobby until something opens up tomorrow. He suddenly awakened with a look that incinerated my soul and replied, if you don’t get out of here now, I am calling the police!

I left quickly and my heart was racing, knowing I am over 2,000 miles away from home with no place to stay. I took my pulse and was beating about 3 times a second. Holy crap, I really stretched myself thin on this one. I wandered out to find a teepee close by and was getting ready to spend the night Indian style when better judgment seemed to enter my mind and decided to call Ron again.

He was right around the corner and picked me up. I asked him if there were any more places he had in mind I could stay the night and that’s when I realized there are lots of great people here in this town and Ron is one of them. I cannot say this for the grizzly in the lobby. He took me back to his place on the north side of the Shoshone River where he had a couple of trailers in the field.

Ah, finally got to rest in a trailer with running water, electricity, bathroom wasn’t hooked up yet, but I had a roof over my head and that’s all I need for the time being. Isn’t it funny how all the things we take for granted?

I was truly thankful he took me under his wing that night when I needed a place to stay outside of the steel bars.

Didn’t get much sleep, heart rate was high. I was pretty sure my heart would explode at anytime.

Laying down, steering at the ceiling around 7am Sunday morning my blood pressure shot through the roof with several loud gun shots. I thought at this time, it was my time to go and should be brave and thankful for the time I had been here on this earth. I stepped out of the trailer to a man with a rifle pointing very near my direction out of the window of a house about 30 ft away. It was Ron, leaning on the window sill from inside his house, shooting at targets by the trailer I was resting in. I said to myself, please, I hope his aim is good and puts a bullet between my eyes, so I do not have to suffer as I walked towards the window.

“Hey, why don’t you come on inside”

Wow, talk about being out of your element, I was sure the end was ever drawing nigh.

At that point with soiled clothing, I decided I needed a beer for breakfast. Coffee was not an option for me at this point. He invited me in and showed me around. What a collection of old oil lamps, guns, arrows, hide scrappers, paintings, boots and all sorts of old west items he had in his home. I couldn’t believe it, the treasure was here & he was the center piece. This man is a collector just like Forrest. He let me shoot many of his guns, rifles, shotguns and one special cannon. I asked him if he has killed any elephants with this cannon of a rifle and he replied, just bison. I leaned against the window sill, aimed and blasted the cannon. My shoulder hurt for the rest of week after being thrown back a bit.

I told Ron why I came to Cody. He patiently put up with my obsession, not believing anything about it, although he told me a story about some treasure hunters that had to be rescued in the Absaroka mountains not too long ago. Had a great time & learning experience there in Cody and it’s history is deep. I already knew I would go back to see him again after this trip.

WWWH, Buffalo Bill Reservoir.

I know now that WWWH is not related to any dam, but I was thinking about the reservoir where a few hot springs were submerged by the dam that was built back in 1903. I believe this was the highest dam in the world at this time at 325 ft, surely the warm waters halted here.

Take it the canyon down, Shoshone Canyon.

Not far, but too far to walk. We will have to drive.

Put in below the home of Brown.

There is only one road that goes across the Shoshone (Stinking Water River) in Cody. Belfry bridge.

That highway is called Belfry Highway, named after the town to the north. There was a woman from the town of Belfry that succumbed to fumes in Colter’s Hell 1903 & her name was Wm. Brown from Belfry (Put in below the home of Brown.)

http://ultimatewyoming.com/wysections/WY2%20Sec02.pdf

From there it’s no place for the meek,

Joseph Meek was a trapper in this area as well as allot of other areas in the Rockies & the west. He never got credit for YNP or Colter’s Hell although he described the areas in detail, they didn’t believe him.

The end is ever drawing nigh;

Well at the time I thought that “nigh” meant near, but I know now it’s all about your perspective & more importantly about Forrest’s perspective. It could actually be the word that is key seeing he is winking at you; without the nose & smile. 😉

There’ll be no paddle up your creek,

Your up sh*t’s creek without a paddle comes to mind here.

Stinking Water River was the name of this river back in the day when things were less complicated. Evidently the newer settlers didn’t like the name the local indigenous people gave to the river.

Just heavy loads and water high.

The heavy loads & water high could be the dammed waters above Colter’s Hell.

The blaze?

I am wise at times, but not so wise in other times.

I thought the blaze was the gravel road to Colter’s hell RD 2ABW.

This road still is one of the oldest roads to the west from years ago when it was the blazing west.

My video camera would not work, my mothers camera that she gave me for the trip would not work, my cell camera did not work until the last day I was there when I was no longer searching. I had 3 cameras with me on this trip & didn’t work for a reason. Searched thoroughly in these areas for a week but I felt as though I was in the Bermuda Triangle when it came time to take pictures or make a call.

Plan B in surrounding areas at Rattlesnake Mountain & Spirit Mountain came up empty as well even though Forrest said it is there in spirit, about the X.

Some places are better explored in person only for your memories & experiences only & cannot be shared by modern technology for a reason I do not know of But I was able to get a few pics of hell.

Sometimes the trip is about the people you meet & not the quarry.

Thanks to Ron, who now owns Town Taxi made the stay & search fun. He showed me the places in Colter’s Hell where he found all those arrow heads & hide scrapers.

We went out on 2 trips to Colter’s Hell together to find the treasure when he eventually caved into the thrill of the chase.

The craters created by Mother Nature there were active & spewing with muddy waters with a stench of sulfur that still lingers.

When we were looking into these pits from above I could see vehicles that were obviously driven off the cliffs to their resting place below.

I knew at this point again, this was not the place to rest your bones with your treasure.

There was only one way in & out of these craters & went down into them only to find the old rusted vehicles filled with hundreds of bullet holes which made me nervous.

We searched the caves & caverns around only to find trash & burnt documents from a lawyers office located in Texas which I thought were connected to Forrest. Wrong!

The ceilings of these caverns were crumbling dried white deposits ready to fall at any time & decided to get the hell out of there.

We climbed back out the same way we went in only to see a Land rover parked where we were.

We climbed through the barbed wire fence at the perimeter of the crater that was the deepest & noticed the “Private Property” signs & approached the vehicle slowly with hearts racing & a full sweat.

The driver was wearing a collared shirt with a rifle embroider on his left chest & told us we were trespassing.

He had a passenger & a rifle & probably a handgun. I told him we were looking for Forrest Fenn’s treasure. He wasn’t amused & had a look on his face that said get out of here.

Come to find out, he was one of the caretakers of the property.

Some millionaire dude from another country bought parts of Colter’s Hell & surrounding areas for reasons unknown to me.

I would have to say after my experience there, that area is sacred to the spirits & better left alone. It was sad that people dumped there vehicles & documents there & have no respect for anyone including themselves.

Sometimes you got to go through Hell to get to Heaven.

Colter’s Hell.

Jake-

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty Four…

scrapbook

MAY 2017

House Bronze Foundry 1972-2010

“Jerry House was a good friend who shared my interest in history. So of course we collected history together, which was not a big deal because neither of us had earned income to spare back in the late 60’s.”
– Forrest Fenn

In December of 1968 a singular event in a war zone 8,500 miles away nearly altered the time space continuum of the art scene in the southwest United States. That was when Forrest Fenn, future Santa Fe gallery owner and arts benefactor almost didn’t make it out of Southeast Asia alive. Had Forrest perished over the dense jungle canopy of Laos that month it is a given that Fenn Galleries would never have hatched onto the Santa Fe scene a few years later. It is equally unlikely that House Bronze, an acclaimed art foundry run by Jerry and Gail House, could possibly have emerged on the stubbornly dry, staked plain of Lubbock, TX in 1972.

In January of 2010 Gail House was closing the doors on an art business she and her late husband Jerry operated since 1972. House Bronze Foundry occupied an unremarkable building in an unremarkable section of Lubbock, TX. But what went on in this “plain Jane” building for the previous 38 years is indeed quite remarkable and has added significantly to the collections of art bronze statuary and monuments worldwide.

Creating mostly large public statuary, House Bronze turned out bigger than life monuments of icons of our times including president George H. W. Bush, the astronaut Willie McCool and even a nine foot Rev. Billy Graham. They didn’t just cast important folks though. They also made elephants and lions and bears and giant whatcha-ma-callits that adorn public gardens, university lawns, town squares, corporate entryways and great halls all over America.

Texas Tech University in Lubbock

But it wasn’t Jerry and Gail’s dream to own an art foundry back in 1968. They both worked at Texas Tech University. In fact, large art bronzes probably weren’t even anything they thought much more about than you or I do today.

Jerry collected guns and was interested in obtaining a smoothbore muzzle loaded firearm. Those things were expensive and the company told Jerry that if he could generate $5,000 in sales he would get a discount. So he was contacting everyone he knew that might be interested in buying a modern black powder gun. Black powder guns are a kind of unusual firearm. His list wasn’t building rapidly.

Someone told Jerry that there was a pilot over at Reese Airbase, a Major by the name of Forrest Fenn and if Jerry could wait two months Forrest Fenn would be back from Vietnam and surely he would be interested in buying one. Jerry added Forrest’s name to his list of hopefuls.

Nearly two months went by when Jerry heard the news that Forrest and his F-100 had been shot down and he might not be heading home. Jerry added a question mark after Forrest’s name on his still incomplete list.

In 2010 Gail House was reminiscing about her late husband Jerry and his friendship with Forrest. She remembered when Forrest arrived back home from Vietnam. ”The morning of the 26th, our phone rang and it was Forrest Fenn. A helicopter had picked him up not long after he was shot down, and because he was due home, he took the next Red Cross plane back.”

For his part, Forrest wanted to make sure Jerry didn’t scratch him off the buyer’s list. He wanted that muzzle loader.

“When Jerry got the call from Forrest, we were stunned,” Gail recalls. “Jerry went over that day, and they formed a real friendship.”

At the time, Forrest had started a part-time business in his garage where he was casting small bronzes for artists. Jerry was intrigued. More-so when Forrest told Jerry he could make a handsome $10 an hour doing this kind of work. That was the egg that Jerry later developed into his own foundry, House Bronze.

Forrest recalls that he was thrilled with his new black powder gun. “Jerry and I knew how to load it: measure the powder and pour it down the barrel. Then tamp some wadding in. The round bullet was next, just roll it down the barrel. More wadding was added to keep the bullet from rolling out if you tilted the gun down.”

They really wanted to shoot the thing because neither had done that before as Forrest remembers, “The problem was that we didn’t have any bullets. After looking around for a minute I found some old chewing gum that one of my young daughters had placed on the kitchen counter. It was dried and hard. I remember having to force it down the barrel with the ram-rod that came with the gun. Are you ready for this? Jerry took the first shot and that glob of chewing gum went clear through a 1” board in my back yard fence. We couldn’t believe it and Peggy couldn’t stop laughing.”

So now it was Forrest’s turn to shoot and he put a small rock down the barrel and shot at the fence. “When the powder ignited our close proximity went black with smoke that chased my wife into the house. You are not going to believe this, but that little pebble came out of the barrel in pieces, and each one was impaled in my fence. There must have been 6 or 7 pieces. Jerry and I talked about that for a long time and considered telling the Army about our newly discovered secret weapon.”

The camaraderie lasted well beyond their first muzzle loader experience. “Jerry was a lot of fun. One of his legs was 2” shorter than the other, so he wore a shoe with an elevated sole. He bragged about it keeping him from being drafted. One thing you never did with Jerry, and that was to call him on the phone between 12:00 and 12:15 because that was when Paul Harvey was on the radio. Jerry was a fanatic about that guy, and he got me started listening. Paul, Jerry, and I had something in common. We were good, conservative, patriotic, American citizens.”

After awhile, Forrest moved his foundry out of his garage, hired some help and started Fenn Bronze on the outskirts of Lubbock. “Jerry used to come see me in my foundry, which was just a few blocks from where he worked. After a while he started helping me work waxes and get them ready to pour in bronze. He liked it, and was soon on my payroll. It wasn’t long before he knew the business as well as anyone.”

After Forrest moved to Santa Fe, in 1972, Jerry opened his own casting studio with his wife Gail in Lubbock called House Bronze and did very well for 38 years.

Jerry and Forrest kept in touch. He was still working long hours at House Bronze and probably making considerably more than $10/hr when he died in 2009.

You can read more about Forrest’s “Bronze Years” on this blog in Forrest’s Scrapbooks:

http://dalneitzel.com/2014/12/29/scrapbook-one-hundred-twenty-two/
http://dalneitzel.com/2014/11/02/scrapbook-101/

 

Where Warm Waters Halt…

green

This is for a discussion about Where Warm Waters Halt. We’ve all got ideas that didn’t work out or we are willing to share…I think we can give folks just starting out some ideas for the kinds of places that might just be the place Where Warm Waters Halt…or not!

Let the discussion begin…

dal…

Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty Three…

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

Forrest Gist and the Waning of Art

There was this really good potter I used to know in Lubbock. Forrest Gist was his name, or Forest Gist, I don’t remember which so I’ll call him Forrest because I like that name better.

I had purchased one of his bowls from a store and gave it to my wife for her birthday. She liked it so much I thought it might be nice to get her another one for Christmas. (I hate that her birthday and Christmas are just 38 days apart).

So I went to see Forrest at a time when I knew he was firing about 30 pottery vessels in a large outdoor kiln. I arrived just in time to see him remove a still hot jar with a stick, look at it for a few seconds, then throw it on a cement sidewalk where it splattered. What th…?

I approached Forrest cautiously, not completely cognizant of his mindset, and remembering he had a hot stick in his hand. “Whatcha doin’, Forrest?” I asked respectively. He didn’t answer, but instead, threw another hot jar on the pavement. This went on a couple of more times before I decided to be rude to my friend.

“Stop, you idiot! I’ll buy some of those things from you.” He turned to me and politely said, “Look Forrest, I’m experimenting with a new glaze here, and that’s why I didn’t sign the pots in this firing. I want quality to be my signature, and if they don’t measure up to my standards I don’t want my name on them.” Gee, and I thought they were really good.

I helped Forrest clean up the mess caused by the demise of one kiln-worth of fired clay “Junkers.” And I had to admit that Forrest was the consummate artist. Although I didn’t agree completely with his quality control methods, I respected his philosophy.

What he had done prayed on my mind for a few days. I had already decided to be a world class bronze sculptor, and was sure my first two efforts were excellent platforms from which to launch my career.

What I lacked in talent could be compensated for in other ways. For instance, since I couldn’t get the hooves on my buffalo just right, I solved the problem by having him stand in mud. And my pilot self-portrait, well surely my talent would improve over time, maybe over a long time.

Going to Forrest Gist’s pot firings ruined my promising art career, so I decided to be an art dealer instead. The two bronzes remain in my collection to remind me to not to ever try that again.

Quality matters, and although no one should be allowed to set a standard for art, common-sense propriety must come into play at some point. My gallery purchased a drawing from a Yahoo artist for $15 because he wanted to buy a sandwich.

Over the next several years no one wanted to buy that sad sketch from us at any price.  One day Mr. Yahoo saw it in a storage drawer with a price of $15, and he became irate. He didn’t think we should be offering his early work because he had gotten better since then, and that sketch embarrassed him. When I offered to sell it back at my cost, he wasn’t interested. I’m sure he knew non-quality when he saw it. He should have thrown it in the fire years ago instead of bringing it to me.

My first impression of The Scream was that it should have been thrown in a spewing volcano. Never mind that not too long ago a pastel on cardboard version of it sold for about $120,000,000.00. Guess I don’t know as much about art values as I thought I did. f

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty Two…

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

 

Rusted Remnants of History

My son-in-law, David Old, owns the 2,400 acre Viveash Ranch. It is just northeast of Pecos and up. Up to 10,637 feet. In 1977, his father died in a plane crash in Alaska, leaving David the ranch.

The 45 minute drive from pavement up to the first gate is a shock absorber crushing ride over rocks that feel a special disdain for any modern conveyance.

The ranch contains some of the most beautiful landscapes in America, with house-size rock outcroppings, 5 spring-fed ponds, and far-seeing mountain vistas. Animals are everywhere: elk, deer, turkey, and bear. Mountain lions, porcupines, and bobcats are also present.

Shiloh with a turkey he shot 4/22/17

Bears have been known to break a window in the main cabin and thrash everything inside, including the refrigerator and pantry, causing general mayhem. Several years ago David shot a rifle bullet through the front door to stop a bear that was clawing, and close to getting in. I think little Piper frequently peeped through the hole to see what might be lurking just outside, lest she open the door to a big furry surprise.

Each of the ponds contained trout that were fat from eating grasshoppers, crawfish, and unlucky water dwelling insects. Elk ate the cattails we planted, but the lily pads thrived. Fishing was good.

Three pet llamas and five horses grazed the wooded high country, undisturbed for years. Then all of a sudden there were only two llamas. Shiloh blamed a mountain lion.

There was always some grass, but occasionally during the dead winter months when the snow got deep, the pets retreated to the barn to wait for a chinook or a more enjoyable temperature. When necessary, Shiloh took hay up by snowmobile.

Then came the Viveash fire that started May 29, 2000. In a terrible few days the ranch lost 17,000,000 board feet of standing timber. The sky turned so black that the animals must have thought midnight had arrived twelve hours early, and just stayed. Billowing clouds of smoke could be seen from as far away as Pike’s Peak. Commercial airliners were diverted.

Scorching heat disappeared the vegetation down to hard pack, and below, destroying root systems that held the soil tight, and leaving a thick layer of ashes on top.

Then the June monsoon thunderstorms arrived on schedule and washed the ashes downhill in a flowing mass that covered the ponds, and suffocated the fish. The smallest pond was boiled to its muddy, steaming bottom.

Two historic one-room log dwellings stood in the fire’s path.

The Viveash cabin was built in 1885 by Lionel Viveash, who suffered from leprosy. He lived in the cabin for 27 years before New Mexico became a state, and died a year after, in 1913. I hoped the fire would spare the cabin that had stood for 115 years, but it didn’t.

Only fire-rusted nails now remain to tell that man had once lived there, and soon they also will disappear as the land residuates, and no one will remember where they were. The history of that cabin, and another one, was deleted from the world.

The beautiful sky-reaching ponderosa, pictured here being hugged by Shiloh, and many others like it, also succumbed to the heat and flames.

In the fire’s aftermath thousands of jet black ponderosa pine skeletons still stand erect, but without needles, as if to underscore the tragedy.

I had walked across those timbered mountains and witnessed the wild, pristine wonders that were there: majestic pine trees, douglas firs, aspens and scrub oaks. And to punctuate the expanse, a decoration of flowers: reds, yellows, purples, and the ever present white day’s eyes (daises). The green stalks of wild onions that we like to pull and eat were found throughout that colorful bouquet.

And then to see it later, as miles of rusted cinders and grotesquely shaped rubble, was a shock that surpassed my ability to describe, or a desire to even try.

The last vapors of smoke were still fading toward the Eastern Plains when the promise of a new beginning appeared. Someone said if your ship hasn’t come in, swim out to it, and that is exactly what David and Shiloh did. They hired lumber crews. Chain saws began to buzz through the mountain quietness. A sawmill was quickly erected, and trucks laden with logs pounded the ashy roads. Thousands of trees that had endured for decades, then killed by nature’s unreasonable wrath, were harvested.

When faced with a catastrophic event, the father-and- son team didn’t cry about the dead trees, they cut them down and made plank flooring, end grain wood blocks, and stylish three-dimensional wall paneling.

A market was waiting, and the demand was met. Customers for major hotels, government buildings, and eight Starbucks stores as far away as Kuwait, are now walking on Viveash wooden floors supplied by Oldwood.

And then, in 2013, as if to display another of nature’s irritating moods, the Tres Lagunas Fire flashed through the trees, burning 860 acres on the west side of the Viveash Ranch.

But again the Old family looked to themselves for strength and ingenuity, and expanded their business. This year they will supply 130 semi-trailers of split firewood to a major retail outlet.

Nature frequently takes away, and in doing so she always looks at the big picture. Five-hundred years from now no one will remember the fires. But I’ll still be thinking about that great little Viveash cabin that disappeared. f

Personal note: The Fenn treasure chest is not hidden on or near the Viveash Ranch.

Photos by Lacee:
http://www.ellepeaphotography.com/viveash

Additional ranch photos can be found HERE

 

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty One…

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

 

Doug Hyde in Full Flourish

Doug and I happened upon the art scene at about the same time, my gallery in Santa Fe was a little behind him maybe. That was 1972, and his sculptures had a small, but budding following in Scottsdale.

Doug Hyde

Over the next few years Scottsdale was where most of the money for contemporary western art was coming from. About 20 collectors held up that market, and if there had been an art marquee in town someplace, a few names would have been at the top: Eddie Basha, Henry Topf, the wonderful widow Kieckhefer, Kay Miller (Miller Brewing Co), and more, but mostly Eddie Basha, who owned a large chain of grocery stores.

Doug and I were a good combination, and we serviced those Arizona clients with an adroitness and polish the likeness of which I never witnessed again. Doug made hundreds of stone sculptures, Scottsdale wanted them, and I did the accommodating.

My wife and I liked Doug’s work so much we kept two pieces for ourselves.

Lady Pretty Blanket

This alabaster lady is not tall, just 2’, but she’s really heavy. That’s why she has been sitting on our living room fireplace without moving for almost 30 years. I couldn’t lift even half of her. She was isolated and lonesome. But then our great-granddaughter Arden came along, and at age two, fell in love with Lady Pretty Blanket. That’s what I named the stone pueblo woman holding a pot. When the house was too quiet, we’d look over there and see Arden and “Lady” sitting side by side talking to each other, and sometimes hugging. So of course we gave the sculpture to Arden, but she can’t take possession until my wife and I are gone. Ha!

Doug Hyde

Doug Hyde is mostly Nez Perce, and he possesses bold native features and a strong code of ethics. During the many years we worked together, mostly without contracts, there were nothing but handshakes and pleasantness.

My other Doug Hyde sculpture is 27” tall. It epitomizes a dignified Nez Perce chief whose name has long been forgotten. His feather fan and drop-alongside ear rings testify as to his stature in the tribe.

He stands facing the wall in my kitchen now because the sight reminds me of the great Henry Farny painting, The Song of the Singing Wire. 

The Song of the Singing Wire by Henry Farny

To me, both figures personify the west at a threshold moment when the first faint sound of change was beginning to resonate across the soundless mountains. The western atmosphere was moving fast to make room for the “giant horse that gallops on iron rails.” There’s the same sadness in the painted Indian’s face that I notice in Doug’s sculpture.

Can you see tears of sorrow building in the eyes of those two Plains warriors? I can, and I wish my inadequate words about that sentiment were more eloquent.

Senator Al Simpson, Joe Medicine Crow and me.

Joe died at age 102 and was the last War Chief of the Crow Tribe. His great uncle, White Man Runs Him, was a scout for General Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Many years ago, Joe said to me in a wistful moment, “When I was just a little Indian kid running around, my elders told me about our history. I asked them if the government would ever give our future back to us.” f

 

Starting at Agua Fria…….

SUBMITTED APRIL 2017
by HUMBLEPI

 

Here is my solution to the poem:

Agua Fria (near Santa Fe) to Agua Fria (near Angel Fire).

Down through Cimarron Canyon.  Near Angel Fire is not far, but near Santa Fe is too far too walk (more than 92 mi.)

Put into Cimarron Canyon below Eagle’s Nest (home) in (of) Moreno (Brown) Valley.  And before you start beating me over the head with the oh that’s not Brown, it is one of the definitions, and per SB 179 Fenn doesn’t care if he uses a word wrong so long as the reader gets his point.

From there head up to Raton Pass (no place for the meek).

Climax (the end) is drawing nigh on the approach. (you can see my comments on SB 166 for a ton of hints re: this area which I was previously focused on as the location of the chest).

I sent Forrest this photo thinking I was on to something, because the star of Bethlehem (wisemen) sits on top of the hill pictured.  His next scrapbook ended with the line “The secret is not to get too excited about the little things.  One of the pictures was a smashed church bell.

Head up Raton Creek.

Morley mine at mile marker 3 (heavy loads).  St Aloysius Church bell tower is the only thing left standing in the demolished town and I see Scrapbook 172 as hinting towards this.  The doorway (portal) faces east and is a dichotomy with the rubble of the town surrounding it.  This bell tower sits approximately 9 miles (the distance Forrest’s bell can be heard) from the Climax Canyon.  It was also coincidentally built in 1917 exactly 100 years ago.

Up near Fisher’s Peak there is a Bell Tank and a Bell Spring. (Water High) SB 172 had 2 pictures of bells and 173 used bells jingled.  These are roughly east of the Gallinas (Chickens? SB 175) exit in the Raton Pass.

East from the bells, across the mountain is a giant natural amphitheater (so hear me all and listen good).

Anyone noticed the common theme of many of the recent SBs involving the army going out of their way to punish the Indians?  What about the sudden theme of the pioneers?  Well, follow this link to read about Kit Carson leading some soldiers down into the amphitheater after some Apaches.  It may shed some light on F’s post about his really great hat.

This kind of obscure place is exactly the kind of place F seeks out to hunt for his treasures.  This place is surrounded by private property and the kind of out of the way place that nobody would readily stumble upon.  It is part of the James Johns (Jimmy Johns? Bring a sandwich?) State Wildlife Area of Colorado, which by definition is also a “chase.”

To get there you have to be in New Mexico and walk from Lake Dorothey (I recall a few things being tied to the Wizard of Oz… Glinda, a photo of a “now leaving Kansas” sign I think?)  This reminded me of the lumberjack illustration.

If you reach the end of Fisher’s Peak Mesa where you head down into the bowl, you are greeted with a magnificent view.  Lake Trinidad lines up perfectly in the little gulley of the ridge that connects the upper part of the mesa to Fisher’s Peak.  In the background, you can see the Spanish Peaks and the rest of the mountainous skyline behind.  It reminded me of all those landscape paintings by Sloane and others Forrest has shared only ten thousand times better. Down below, the amphitheater looks like a giant bowl.  It felt like sitting at the top of the Coliseum.  I sat there for an hour in awe (tarry scant with marvel gaze) before I looked around a bit.

From the east of where I took that photo (the photo does not do this view justice at all), a few hundred feet, is a secret waterfall that was roaring from the melting snow. The water sheeted down through a mountain of snow and disappeared. I thought I would get a good picture of it when I climbed down but because this gorge is on the north side, the snow was waist deep and the terrain was so steep I couldn’t for the life of me get back up near the waterfall.

I followed the creek down slowly toward Second Spring on Gray Creek keeping a wary eye for something that might let me know someone had secreted a can of Dr. Pepper in the stream, but the snow was still working against me.  I found a dry hill a little way up from the spring and camped out for the night.  In the morning, I went down to second spring thinking some of his hints pointed that way and for a brief moment I got excited when I thought I saw a bell sitting in the snow.  It turned out to be the remains of a tea kettle.  I moved it onto a pointy boulder approximately 2’ in a direction away from the spring.  On the ride home, it occurred to me that maybe that’s what Tea with Olga meant in the valley down below the mountain.

I wish I hadn’t been so overly eager and gone in May like I had originally planned, maybe the snow would be gone and I could search the waterfall and the creek more thoroughly.  As it was, I had to trespass North to Trinidad to escape the mountain.

FYI, the hike is not for the faint of heart it took most of the day the second trip (bedroll?).  My first attempt was so insane it will likely become a book.  I believe F may have used a horse to get there.  Many of the latest SB mention horses, and that could be why he refused to answer the question about using any other form of transportation.  It was definitely an awe-inspiring place and to me has all of the qualities he would look for in his special place.  These peaks are part of the Raton Mesa formation which also contain the Folsom Archaeological site.

Fisher’s peak by name would seem like the kind of place a searcher would go and come close to the chest but have no logical reason for being there.  Plus, his family passed through Raton Pass on the way to Yellowstone; these mountains would be the closest Rockies for that Texas Redneck with no job and whole lot of kids.

Just for I plotted the points out like a flight plan from Santa Fe Municipal Airport (in Agua Fria) to the waterfall and they seem to line up.  As you can see from the photo the first clue gets you more than half way to the treasure.

Hopefully someone else gets a chance to get up there when the snow melts the rest of the way and do a thorough search.  Maybe you will be the one to get out there and find it, but even if you don’t, I can assure you it will be well worth the trip.

One last thing… I know that F said no special knowledge was required.  All of these things could be solved as clues without having any special knowledge, but that doesn’t mean special knowledge won’t make you more successful.  The key word is required. Two hands aren’t required to be a drummer, ask that guy from Def Leppard; but that doesn’t mean you tie one behind your back.

Here is a picture of the range I took from the back of a pickup as I hitched a ride back to Sugarite.  You can see my consolation prize (elk shed) I carried from the mountain north into Trinidad.

 

HumblePi-

 

Recycling Mistake

by forrest fenn

These vignettes from Forrest’s collection are only to share. To see 294 additional pieces  please visit
www.splendidheritage.com

 

The 40mm anti-aircraft autocannon has been a popular weapon in many of the wars since 1930, when it was invented by the Swedes. It was certainly used in the Vietnam War, and in great numbers. Here is what the brass MK2 shell casing looked like after its explosive projectile was fired from the 40mm cannon.

Bottom of casing

An enterprising Vietnamese merchant in the little hamlet of Tuy Hoa acquired some of these brass casings and started turning them into lamps, vases, beer mugs, and other oddments.

Finished vase is nine inches tall

He employed three or four workers who reshaped and polished the canisters. There was a ready market in American GIs who wanted a souvenir to take home. The Viet Cong soldiers were not happy with their countrymen fraternizing with the “Yankee Imperialists,” so they raided the store, killed everyone inside, and confiscated the inventory, which they sold individually on the black market.

This vase, given to me by my crew chief, now resides behind some books where I don’t have to look at it unless I want to, and that’s not very often. It’s not on my list of most favored objects. f