Patriarch of the Remuda…

by forrest fenn

Many of the objects in my collection are significant in a very small depiction of world history. Most are more interesting than they are important. Nevertheless, it is necessary for me to remember that each piece represents who we once were in a time that used to be, and that I will never be anything more than its temporary custodian. 



This stallion is 32-inches tall when he stands on his hind legs, like now. A free-spirit expression relaxes on his 75-year old face – don’t you see it? He’d probably admit to having a bad hair day but who cares?




He was named Tohopka (Wild Beast) by his maker, Yazzie Yarnell, who lives on the Hopi Reservation in Northern Arizona. Last I heard, he was 93-years old, but that was a while ago.

Yazzi carved Tohopka from the solid branch of a pine tree and dressed him in a warm winter ensemble, including a red, white, and blue Pendleton capote that’s fastened by two homemade mother-of-pearl buttons. Solid silver studs decorate the margins of Tohopka’s leather trousers and a classy, red-painted buckskin kilt hangs down in front. A German silver, rocker-engraved rosette holds Tohopka’s red neckerchief in place, but that’s no reason to call him a dude. He’s the monarch of the herd, a fact to which all of the mares and fillies in the remuda surely would attest, if asked.


Tohopka’ll do his job and serve his master, but I can see in his steely eyes that he’s unwilling to be subservient to the institutional norms of everyday reservation life. He’s his own man when not on the job.

Tohopka seems right at home here in my den and he’s not just a decorative piece of sculpture to me. My friends say I’m too personal about these things, and take them too seriously, but what do they know about horses?



86 thoughts on “Patriarch of the Remuda…

  1. That’s the most dapper palomino I’ve ever seen. Move over Trigger, Tohopka is in town.

    • I agree with you 23kachinas. In fact, this dapper palomino reminds me of Custer’s horse Comanche and is possibly a metaphor describing the wooden toughness of those in TTOTC.

      “The horse known as ‘Comanche,’ being the only living representative of the bloody tragedy of the Little Big Horn, June 25th, 1876, his kind treatment and comfort shall be a matter of special pride and solicitude on the part of every member of the Seventh Cavalry to the end that his life be preserved to the utmost limit. Wounded and scarred as he is, his very existence speaks in terms more eloquent than words, of the desperate struggle against overwhelming numbers of the hopeless conflict and the heroic manner in which all went down on that fatal day.”

        • Anyone else looking for clues from the gift horse?
          -Forrest went boldly on horseback.
          -The chest is near a single pine tree
          -the chest is entombed in the wood of a pine tree
          -Forrest likes wild beasts – conservation, bison, burros, horses
          -some landmark is shaped like a horse or so named
          -take a horse trail
          -look near horse stables
          -look for red,white,blue &yellow markers; or yellow markers on public property
          – Beowulf has a friendTohopka
          – be a wild beast and go get that treasure!

          • I like –

            Take a horse trail

            The Markers

            AND be a wild beast – to fight off the grizz !

          • Nor, Very insightful. I believe you may have “nailed” two out of ten which in this chase are pretty impressive odds. Nicely done.

          • Hi Windsurfer, following your conversation with nor; could also be 10 paces around or look for the heart. Also, thinking ff may have wrapped the chest like a gift in Pendleton plaid and tied it with braided leather and a silver rosette. He seems to care about beautiful details. Just a thought

        • @Chosendiadem,
          10 paces around to the “heart”? or perhaps just look for the heart.
          The ‘rocker engraved’ rosette is an interesting tedious method of engraving.

      • Ok so take the 93 from northern Arizona, which will take you through Las Vegas and northern Nevada to Idaho. Then take the 30 to the 75 and up into Montana at which point Pendleton is nearly directly west. How’s that?

  2. Lol the more u look at the horse the better it looks

    Red white and blue hmmm
    I found a flag on this cliff where I am there is no way of getting to it. Follow it straight down and you must be on the other side somehow because the river is to fast right here to cross

    Interesting horse and Colors 🙂

  3. Love the horse Forrest. I have a horsehead mask of my own, it imbues the wearer with strange powers 🙂

  4. It emits happiness and free-spiritivism.

    He looks like someone who was late for tea with the mad hatter & march hare so he got left out of the book. Lewis Carroll should be ashamed.

    • you really think he would be hinting at colorado here?

      i think you’re crazy

      im goin back to ma milk n hard biscuits …er, i mean… cold oreos

  5. (Raspy voice) You’re a STUD, Forrest! (clearing throat) You’ll have to excuse me. I’m feeling a little horse.

  6. IMO, the clue in each of these vignettes is the same. He is repeating it over and over:

    Many of the objects in my collection are significant in a very small depiction of world history. Most are more interesting than they are important. Nevertheless, it is necessary for me to remember that each piece represents who we once were in a time that used to be, and that I will never be anything more than its temporary custodian.

    It’s the same theme that runs through the book. Each individual’s life plays an important part, though only temporarily, in the continuum of past, present, and future. Think of his quotes from Shakespeare and Khayyam. Think of what he is saying about the French soldiers, the pie lady, the million people he covered with his thumb, and his father. That is why his biography is in the jars he buries and in the chest. That is why it doesn’t matter is the chest is found tomorrow or a thousand years from tomorrow.

    That same theme is in the poem and the solution.

    • After cheating the grim reaper 3 times (crashing his jet twice and surviving cancer) he has been dealt his 4th card, old age. Before he exits the game he will play the joker.

      His place in the continuum will be remembered.

    • ‘Why it is’ maybe because of the long bike ride and the fact that he was bold to go in there.

  7. I agree with Jack here. In my opinion, this horse represents Forrest at a certain time of his life. A time when he did his duty, but didn’t really like what his “employers” were doing. He performed the job he was given, but his free spirit, the spirit of a stallion, couldn’t be contained, and his imagination was roaming in the wilds…of Colorado. Lol. 🙂

  8. Does anyone see a clue here. I don’t. Just have to pass on this one. Nice horse f.

    • I think Tohopka and Beowulf make an interesting pair! Thank you Mr. Fenn for sharing this with us.
      The Wolf

  9. Forrest has stated he will never give a clue that is of any use to anyone. I’m not going to read anything into these stories other than what they are to me, just interesting and touching stories to keep the search and discussions going. The poem and his comments to searchers and interviewers over the past years give plenty of guidance and indicate, to me, there will not be an “aha!” moment when one encounters the first clues. I don’t think there is any doubt Forrest is extremely philosophical in nature and encourages us to examine carefully, search our minds while observing possible treasure clues on site, and, most of all, tread slowly, carefully, softly, silently and don’t work up a sweat by running about the countryside.

    • Bryon,
      I agree, that FF has told us he will never give a useful clue…
      But at the same time Jack raises a good point of a theme that the Author is trying to represent. Are they [ the stories ] clues? IMO no, is he giving a sorta guidance ? IMO a good possibility.

      How to read and understand the poem, is how the trove will be found. A poem in its self is meant for interpretation, such as is Art, and there is definitely a theme to the poem.

      A myth or a folklore are just stories as well, some have been proven to be true, others still wait to be… Anyways… who doesn’t love a good story… FF sure has the talent to draw folks into his.

      • Not true. He will not give an individual a clue that would get them an advantage over others- these clues are free to everyone:/

    • Please reference where Forrest has stated he will not give out any useful clues. If such is true then why are so many hanging on every word Forrest issues to the public? Personally I tend to measure everything and consult the poem for any insights.

      I love when Forrest shares his collection with us. Without such my exposure to cultural things is limited to my available time and inquisitiveness. And btw there is a clue in his sharings. 🙂

      • Re. Chad’s remarks of 8/4/14.
        Chad, you would have to ask a question for which I have not been able to find notes. However, after a deal of searching I believe the latest comments by Forrest himself, and therefore the most valid, regarding the issue of never giving a useful clue, is his comments of June 2014, and I quote” I have never consciously misled any searcher or privately given a hint or clue I thought would help someone find the treasure.” From this I must believe that I misspoke and was not entirely accurate, although you will note that Forrest did not say he gives hints and clues publicly either, so we must believe he is silent on the issue of intentional further hints and clues which would help someone find the treasure. At any rate, I’m glad you read my original comment and were thoughtful enough to ask your question, as searching for the answer has corrected some misunderstanding on my part, and I hope other searchers were not mislead by my earlier comment.

  10. Although I have enjoyed all the previous Vignettes, there is something about Tohopka that draws me in. His presence in Forrest’s den seems right. As always, thank you for sharing.

  11. … I merely thought it looked like Andy Warhol at one of those trendy parties.

  12. Tohopka must have a powerful spirit for Yazzie to see into the spirit word and duplicate his Image. Tohopka still dwells among the tallest mountains and valleys for there are images of him there.

  13. I think the poem is 2 dimensional–maybe even 3. The 3rd dimension may be personal and not interpretable. The surface is all valuable information. The Poem is organic it just melds into the landscape so beautifully…nothing to indicate a million dollar trove is nearby. When Forrest says it took him 15 years to construct this. I believe him.

    • Ed, we’ll said. I call it elegance. It all weaves together perfectly like a tapestry. The 3rd dimension may be personal and what makes the place special. We may never understand that aspect.

      • Yes, I think you guys are thinking correctly – the 3rd what I call a layer – is personal. You can find it. It is available on the net – if you are in the right spot. Once the TC is found – I believe it will be talked about – as it is very special. 🙂

        • ed, do you have a reference to the the childhood peaceful place, on the web as you mentioned? trying to chase down leads before i leave wed evening. thank you.

          • He mentions place of peace here. It is my assumption that he discovered it in his childhood.

            I am Forrest Fenn.

            I was born in 1930, and have lived during times of great difficulty and great promise.

            I am a man of the real world, and not an imaginary one.

            I am a man of unshakeable commitment; to my life, to my work, to my service; but most especially, to my family.

            I am a man of the outdoors, as was my father before me. From him, I learned to love and respect nature.

            I am a man of the past and the future. The present is only a river-washed stepping-stone between them.

            I am a man of words and letters. And, if I have to make up my own, I do.

            I am a man of contrasts. Sometimes intentional, sometimes not.

            I am a man of eclectic tastes and interests. Enough to fill more than a single lifetime.

            I am a man of action and adventure, big and small, but, always with an objective.

            I am a man of direction. I know where I am, where I’m going and how I will get there.

            So…where would I hide a treasure if I had a treasure that wanted to be hidden?

            I would hide it where the ancients and mountain men could appreciate and understand.

            I would hide it in place that is magical in its simplicity.

            I would hide it near my home, if my home were the mountains and along the river bottoms where dreams and fantasies alike go to play.

            I would hide it in the past, and in the future. The present is only a river-washed stepping-stone between them.

            I would hide it in The Place of Peace.

            I am Forrest Fenn.

          • Ed, I’ve read that well written piece about Forrest in the past. However, I was confused at to who the author is. Did FF write that? it looked like that blogs author wrote it.
            Please confirm the author.

      • I have some ideas about the other aspect. Maybe a spot that reminds him of the meadow where he crash landed. A peaceful place he discovered as a child. I bet the dragonfly’s know 🙂

        • Yes, we are all getting closer don’t you think?

          Only the phantom knows for sure ———–

          • In the chase

            Are u offering any help?

            I’m in my search I have found the Begin
            And End
            At the bottom of home of Brown
            The sign are red white and blue:)
            There is a rock/ stone with yellow paint ( he talks it about Yellowstone) it meets the end down by the
            water in sagebrush and there is a faint F on the bridge so I just curious about this find. I will check 15 degrees
            Isn’t this interesting 🙂 !!!!!!!

      • Do to my up-bringing in which you may or may not know of- I understand the 3rd dimension perfectly

  14. LOL Sorry I must have missed seeing that particular” art”-I-fact when there. I would have laughed my head off if I noticed it ! 🙂

    Funny piece Forrest ! 🙂

    • Good eye. I’ve searched the Big Horn Mountains, where there is Powder Pass where I did some marvel gazing. I wasn’t so Wyse on that search though unfortunately.

  15. Interesting depiction of the spirit of the Hopi people. Wild and untameable yet peaceful in their pursuit of life.

    Thank you Forrest

  16. I had said i’d pass on this one but who knows. I’m humble enough to admit I may have just missed the turn… 🙁

  17. A better understanding of the man will help in leading one to the why/where the chest is located.

      • a gift HORSE!…sorry…not to compare dames with mares…although they can be nightmares on occasion. 🙂

  18. He is ADORABLE! reminds me of a horse we had once, used to smile like that when he wasn’t in trouble! His name was Tutone when we got him, but we had to change it to St. Elmo’s Fire to match his lightning spirit!

    • For sure! I can hear Forrest saying, “You are what you eat? That’s funny…I don’t remember eating a Wild Beast this morning.” 🙂

  19. Forrest, I love Tohopka and would be delighted to have him gracing my family room – he’s so handsome! 🙂 You have a most incredible collection and whether these stories about them contain hints or not, I am so thankful that you are sharing them with us.

  20. Forrest said “when I walked backed to my car” not “when I walked back to my horse”

    • Tom H – Forrest probably did walk ‘it’ twice, but he may have ridden a horse, then walked back to his car from the stable, or horse trailer.

  21. The horses are in the hood…. (colored joke) I keep my horses under the hood… (red-neck joke).
    No wonder he was smiling as he walked back to his car… 🙂

  22. Using the numbers and locations in this vignette:

    32 , 75, 93, Northern Arizona, Pendleton

    32 = 30 to
    30 to 75
    93 Northern Arizona

    And this is how it’s all put together.

    Take the 93 from Northern Arizona through Las Vegas up through northern Nevada into Idaho all the way to the 30.

    Take the 30 to the 75
    (which is still the 93 all the way to Shoshone)
    From Twin Falls, Idaho

    Take the 75 all the way through Sawtooth National Forest until it
    meets the 93 again. This route is slightly shorter than taking the
    93 around to the east.

    Continue up the 93 into Montana at which point Pendleton, Oregon
    is almost directly to the west.

    Ok great we’re in Montana now what? Does this make sense to anyone?

    Of course I didn’t use the oddball letters in the vignette like WB from Wild Beast and the e from Yazzie then spelled Yazzi.

    One of those subtle clues that doesn’t really help anyone?

  23. Forrest, if you are keeping this sculpture in your den, I HOPE that you have it placed far enough away from your fireplace and adequately protected from the occasional rogue spark! It appears to be EXTREMELY flammable and I would even be so bold as to blatantly label this as a potential fire hazard. Please be mindful and protective of Tohopka (and the rest of your home in general) by keeping him away from open flame; by his facial expression, it looks like he can warm himself just fine with his upbeat, jovial humor on his own!

    But seriously, I really do agree with the other comments: this is another great piece in your collection; thanks for sharing! I have never seen my awkward teenage years so accurately captured in sculptural form! 🙂

  24. What’s with the dudies and the sharp dressed man with the etchings? Seems to be a common theme here.

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