POSTED IN may 2014
For quite awhile now I have been looking at various Native American legends that might contain allusions to Forrest’s poem. What I was particularly focused on was finding a legend that would give me a place to start…some Native American story based upon “where warm waters halt”. I have read legends from Blackfeet, Shoshone, Ute, Apache, Navajo, Sioux and several others looking for ideas. I came up empty. I couldn’t really find anything with a specific reference to “where warm waters halt”. Perhaps because I missed it or perhaps because it’s not there.
But it didn’t occur to me until much later that I left out at least one important group of Native Americans who could have occupied land where Forrest might have hidden his chest.
As you know, Forrest owns land that is the site of an ancient Tewa Indian pueblo called San Lazaro. He has been excavating it for some time and made several “new” discoveries that have contributed to the culture of the Tewa people. It occurred to me much later that perhaps the Tewa people have a history or legend that would point to “where warm waters halt”. This past winter I read dozens and dozens of manuscripts, books, essays and theses about and by the Tewa people. I reread Forrest’s San Lazaro book. I could find nothing and was considering the distinct possibility that I was barking up the wrong pinyon when a friend mentioned a collection of oral histories that live at the UNM and were recorded in the 1950’s. It took me awhile but I tracked down the curator of these recordings and inquired if I could listen to them. I was told they were not catalogued nor digitized at this time but I would be allowed to listen to the original recordings if I made an appointment. I did, and I was excited to begin.
The recordings are on reels of audio tape. There are literally scores of reels. Handwritten notes on the boxes tell the interviewee, interviewer, date, location, etc. I had no idea where to begin. So I just began at the top. Most of the tapes I listened to were family stories…genealogical in nature more than anthropological..by my definition. The recordings were fine but I had a difficult time understanding much of what the interviewees were saying and little to none of it had anything to do with my own interest in legends.
Hours into my appointment, barely able to stay awake, I was scanning through a tape at double speed when I heard something that sounded like “In the beginning where warm waters halt…” My mind stirred..I became alert…I stopped the tape, rewound and played that section back.
It was an older male voice and he was retelling a legend of the Tewa winter and summer people who were living at Posi Ouinge, a prehistoric pueblo ruin just above the hot springs at what is now Ojo Caliente (hot eye) in New Mexico. There were several lines in the old mans’s telling of the legend that sounded very close to the lines in Forrest’s poem. The similarity was stimulating.
He told of the creation of the Tewa and started at the Ojo Caliente spring but talked about how the people visited a place of high water in a dry canyon too far for the elders to walk. He referred to the place he called “the rocks” as an area that is now known as Tres Piedras, which is about 30 miles from Ojo Caliente by road. 30 miles certainly seemed to far for me to walk.
I decided that someday, when visiting NM I would examine this place. That opportunity became reality last week when I drove Esmerelda to NM and met with Nick Lazaredes from Dateline, on the SBS TV Network in Australia. Nick had just flown in from the Ukraine where he was filming a story about the insurrection along the Russian border. I looked at his report. Bold filming…
Now he was producing a story on Forrest’s treasure hunt. He followed Diggin Gypsy around in the Montana snow for a few days and then came down to NM to follow me around, interview Forrest and visit Desertphile’s Fennboree (more on the Fennboree with pictures in my next post). This seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore the Tewa legend.
I downloaded the Posi Ouinge brochure printed by the Bureau of Land Management and decided I would take Nick to two sites. First the pueblo site at Ojo where, according to the legend the winter and summer people began “where warm waters halt” and second to the place at Tres Piedras where “high water ended in a dry canyon atop the brown rocks striped with white”.
Now everyone who has listened to me spout off knows I don’t believe that a hot spring could possibly be a place where warm waters halt simply because the water does not halt. Instead it reaches the surface and spills out into a river or rivulet and continues on it’s journey to the sea. But here it was in a Native American’s own voice…the warm water’s halting at Ojo Caliente…possible??
The pueblo above the spring at Ojo is a fascinating place. Broken pieces of 500 year old pottery and other prehistoric artifacts of civilization are scattered throughput the area. I am sure someone with a better understanding of the land could have painted a clearer picture of exactly how the pueblo was once arranged on the wind eroded hills. But even without that knowledge it was great fun to stand among the fallen walls and imagine the day to day life in a community of 5,000 people who lived there for 500 or so years before the Spanish arrived in New Mexico.
Here they prepared arrows, told stories, collected water from the stream below, grew crops, butchered animals and created thousands of pots whose painted shards were now scattered in every direction around me. Walking this rolling, juniper dappled landscape was thought provoking. The small wildflowers in the arroyos were in full bloom and since it was May the temperature was still tolerable for a guy from Washington State.
Nick spent about two hours filming up there. I saw thousands of pot shards and a single arrowhead. I left everything at the site just as I found it since the government’s merciless rules forbid removing artifacts.
Next we drove over to Tres Piedras (three stones) and took a red dirt road nearly two miles past the ranger station back into the piñon and juniper and ponderosa. We parked and walked about a mile to the westernmost hummock of smoothed sandstone jutting out of the ground maybe 50 feet in height. The area reminded me of an old TV western.
I imagined the Apache preparing to attack us at any moment. Gene Autry or Jay Silverheels or Ward Bond taking up a position behind the safety of these hoodoo rocks. But we never saw anyone else back there. The brown rounded sandstone is indeed striped with ribbons of thick coarse quartz that stand out vividly like white blazes. So many to choose from…
We followed several white blazes to the ground. We explored inside small dry caves and under dark ledges and had a grand old time. Although no chest was found, Nick discovered a perfect, small white arrowhead resting upright in a clear pool of high water atop the rounded sandstone.
We knew we were not the first civilization to play on these rocks but are we the last?
You can download the BLM’s brochure about the Posi Ouinge ruins at Ojo Caliente here.
You can watch Nick’s Frontline Ukraine report here.
We will post his Forrest Fenn report as soon as it is available.
My Garmin tells me our location at Tres Piedras was here:
It’s a cool spot with views and shade and rocks to run around on and blazes abound.
Just because I didn’t find the chest does not mean you will not…
Bring water and have fun!!
When you find the treasure in this spot…please don’t tell me..