Scrapbook Ninety One…



Shelling Corn Painting

Keri sent me a full-page color magazine ad that our gallery ran in 1978. It advertised “Shelling Corn,” a large oil painting by Joseph Henry Sharp. It depicts Elkfoot Jerry Maribal and Crucita, two Taos Indians sitting on a banco by the fireplace in the artist’s studio.


The ad conjured up old memories from my seventeen-years as a gallery owner in Santa Fe. I can recall the entire history of that shelling corn painting. Well, maybe not the entire history, but I’ll tell you what I know.

It was painted about 1925-35, I’d guess, but it could be a little earlier. I gave a local family $55,000 for it. They obtained it from the artist in trade for Navajo weavings. I sold the painting for $65,000 to an old friend. When he wanted to buy a yacht his wife made him sell the painting back to me for $75,000. Later, we sold it to a good client in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania for $150,000. When he passed away the director of the Los Angeles Athletic Club acquired it for $250,000 and sold it for $750,000. It sold again for 1.5 million and then again for I don’t know what. Not bad appreciation for just 20 years or so.

I interviewed Jerry Maribal in 1980 while researching my Sharp biography. Jerry was 110-years old, and totally blind.

When I entered the room Jerry was reclining on his bed. He smiled and said, “I’m happy to see you Mr. Fenn.”

Meeting Elkfoot Jerry Maribal was a wonderful life experience for me. He said interesting things about his early life at Taos pueblo and about his relationship with Mr. Sharp. In his quiet way he spoke through the haze of far-away memories while I mostly listened, not wanting to interrupt him with the weakness of my own thoughts. As I left his room a granddaughter said, “The leaves will soon fall from the apricot tree.” I thought that was such a beautiful Indian-thing to say. Mr. Maribal died the next morning, and out of respect, the pueblo was closed to all outsiders for three days.


Photo from Teepee Smoke by Forrest Fenn

I can’t say that Elkfoot Jerry was a friend because we met only that one time. It was remiss of me for not meeting him earlier. And why didn’t I also meet Hunting Son, Soaring Eagle, Crucita, Standing Deer, Leaf Down, Agapito, George Eats Alone, Lady Pretty Blanket, Adalina, Wolf Ear, Strikes His Enemy Pretty, Mary Tailfeather, Shows A Fish, Medicine Crow, White Swan, Takes A Wrinkle, Julia Sun Goes Slow, Shorty White Grass, Naked Alberto, Hairy Moccasin, Albidia, Bawling Deer, and a host of other Indians who also posed for Mr. Sharp? I think I deserve another chance.


54 thoughts on “Scrapbook Ninety One…

  1. I would’ve liked to have met them, too. It was very cool when he smiled and said, “Nice to see you,” when he was totally blind. You can see a lot of unseen things if you use your other senses. 🙂

    I used to pretend I was an Indian when I was a kid, tearing through the swamps of Florida. I was fascinated by Indian names, and my name, in my mind (I never told anyone) was Running Like Cheetah. I picked it because it was one thing I could really do well at that age–the fastest kid in my school. Well, I was clumsy, but fast. Oh, I just remembered another name I used when pretending to be an Indian in a canoe (inflatable raft, lol) in our pool. I was Swimming Free Like Dolphin.

    You’ve led me on a chase, Mr. Fenn, and the more I learn about Indians and their history and their values, the more I respect and admire them.

  2. Love the story. Now who came up with the names, Strikes His Enemy Pretty ? You know that’s got to have a story behind it ! Thanks Forrest. 🙂

  3. Another very interesting story. You’re right Fenn we deserve another chance; all the things we should have done. I wonder about all the folks that are spending their lives inside the electronic devices. To have memories of the good old days, one must first have lived them.

    I wonder what Dal’s Indian name would be……….Leader Of Blind Hunters From Island In The West.

    That would make me……..Goofy Old One Follower Of Blind Hunter From Island In The West.

  4. We share the same outlook Forrest. Wishing we had been able to meet interesting people or live in different times. One of my favorite books is the time machine BY H.G.Wells. What would it be like to travel back in time to watch the signing of the Declaration of Independence? What was it like to ride alone on an indian buffalo hunt or sharp a piece of pottery?

  5. Goofy, that is so funny. 🙂

    Many of us don’t have a connection to the past like this. It is great to keep their memory alive.

    I have two dear friends that recently went to Israel. They took thousands of pictures of ancient things connected to people that I have read about. It is making the memory of them alive.

    I had lunch today with another friend, age 99. He grew up in Colorado and told me incredible things from his childhood memory. Including the meaning of some Indian names. People connections are unreal!

    Forrest, thank you for sharing!

    • Happy Birthday Forrest. May sonshine fill your heart and your family bring you joy!

      We have fond regards for you and appreciate
      You for:

      Reminding us that the great outdoors are great!

      “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” – John Muir

      Sharpening our minds as we attempt to solve your poem.

      “Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion.”
      Thomas Jefferson

      The gift of community through TOTC friends.

      “One touch of nature (or treasure) makes the whole world kin.” – John Muir

      Swan long neck, big feet

  6. People connections are unreal! = Six degrees of separation. I know Tudor and Evan Williams developers of Landfill Gas; sons of actor Rhys Williams from The Sons of Katie Elder; he knew John Wayne from the same movie; John Wayne knew Kirk Douglas from War Wagon; Kirk Douglas the father of Michael Douglas; and Forrest Fenn knows Michael Douglas! I think that is 6 anyway!

    • Nancy Drew –

      I think you are very smart. I think everything in the chase is related in more ways than one.

      The poem to the book.

      People to people

      If you draw a circle – they are not only related in someway – side by side – but also across the board.

  7. Golden Leaf Begay owns a retail pot shop in town! Interesting connection to name and occupation!

  8. Pooch my company has a long standing partnership with the Navajo Nation. I work closely with a few and have always wondered about the origins of some of their names. Very descriptive!

  9. Happy Birthday Forrest! I know it is a day early but my coworker’s B-day was today and i remember seeing somebody say that yours is tomorrow. Just in case I get too busy tomorrow I just want to make sure you have my best wishes!!!

  10. Thank you for another story, f. Happy birthday for tomorrow. I say it now so that it will cover the entire day. If said tomorrow, then only the rest of the day could be wished well. I guess i should add… Happy birthnight as well! That’s just in case a birthday wish only covers the daytime.
    I did get my baby back. My beast looks well again! I accidently dressed her in pink – I’m colorblind, remember? Anyway, I plan to dress her in less pink as she is not very lady-like.

    • Slurbs

      Great to hear that your beast is better 🙂

      Maybe I will run into u over the weekend since u search close to my lovely area:)

      • Amy, Nice! Look out for a full-brimmed camo hat. Just yell out “Hey” if you see me. Hope to see you. Don’t tell me what colors you will be wearing _ colorblind. Eh, I might be able to tell, but who knows? I might be able to distinguish a color. Good luck.

        • Slurbs

          This is Amy

          I will look for the camo hat.

          And u will find me at the End of the Rainbow so look for that 🙂

          I would love to meet a searcher 🙂
          There would be so much to discuss

          Maybe u and I are on the same page 🙂

  11. Mr. Fenn,
    Beautiful Oil painting, great story and fabulous thoughts from your memory. Wish You a very happy birthday for tomorrow, and hope You have many more to relate your stored up memories of a wonderful life to all of your new found friends, who think the world of you. Hope to meet you soon, and give you a treasured birthday present. I have really enjoyed reading your books, and laughing at your stories, they have to be true, because no one could make up that much stuff. Thanks for all the laughs.

  12. Yes, thank you for the laughs, the beauty, the knowledge, the expriences, the explanations, the perspectives, the turquoise and silver under the fast creeks.

  13. Not bad appreciation, though I’m pretty sure this at-one-time-800K treasure chest takes the cake 😉

  14. I have wondered what was the title of the painting by JHS that was on the plane with his friends Wolfie and Wen-an when their plane crashed?

  15. mr. forrest,thats the thrill of the chase.some you get ,some you don’t.we can’t get it all.but what we do get is a wonderful memory. ,especialy you got the greatest memories of a lot of stuff and people.i don’t have stories to tell like you.yours are so interesting,it just amazies just blow me are the most interesting person ,I have had the pleasure to meet.I wish I could of known you for many years and heard and done stuff with you to make memories,your just that kind of gentleman.

  16. I like the giant pot but what would you put in it. Water? Does the corn get hung up? maybe Fenn could explain this painting? whats the indian holding? Can anyone help
    ???? I hate being in the dark. It makes me clostraphobic. Help…f

    • Here is a uneducated guess….smoking pipe, dried shelled corn goes into the vessel to be ground in to masa or boiled to make hominy in the winter months, cobs for fuel and shucks for animal fodder.

    • 9, shelling corn is removing the kernels of corn from the cob. The large pot is for storage, Keeps the corn dry and away from rodents. The woman is doing the work, the man is watching. The man is holding his pipe for smoking tobacco. Sometimes it is used as a “peace pipe”.

      Hope this helps. 🙂

  17. I cannot help and wonder what Mr. Fenn is telling us in his writings. It is my opinion that most times he tells us something that pertains to the chest, but we do not know how to listen. I wonder if smiles in his dreams about us not understanding what he is trying to tell us.

  18. Forrest’s story reflects meanings of shell:
    1. The money was certainly “Shelled out” over and over for Sharp’s painting.
    2. shell – Native American’s were known for their manner of reserve that usually concealed one’s emotions or thoughts.

    I’m not sure every SB pertains to the chest. IMO perhaps FF wanted us to take note of Elkfoot Jerry Maribal’s sensitivity to other human beings, and Forrest’s own regret that he didn’t get the chance to spend time with the others who could have enriched his life.

    Perhaps I missed an important clue about the tc, but it matters not if I learn the lesson of larger note pertaining to relationships.

    • Swam, let’s not forget about references to poetry by Shel Silverstein (sp?). Am I correct? Shel… shell?

      • @ slurbs – ah, thanks for reminding me. I forgot to mention Mr. Silverstein’s ‘Shelebrated’ poetry references to totc. What scrapbook did we discuss Where the Sidewalk Ends? along ways back. Hope your health is stable; sounds like you’ve been able to chase treasure this summer. (embarrassing bit that swan swam w/o her readers and misspelled swan; should be plucked for that and sewn into eiderdown).

          • @ slurbs:-) you and swan are both funny. do you usually talk about children’s poems? How does that relate to this chase?

          • Annabloom, while in my youth, the person I call Dad, because he is my Dad in every facet of the word, enjoyed listening to Dr. Hook. With a little research into Dr. Hook, you can find the Shel Silverstein connection. Some of the songs were not made for my childish ears, but how was I suppose to know? I was just a little kid and I thought the songs were funny. I liked how Dr. Hook would change his voice and things he would say (like… a yellow dog named black). I also liked the sad and romantic songs. My favorite was named something like One Step From The Jungle To The Zoo. The album cover I liked because of the raised silver hooks on the deep black background. To this day I enjoy Dr. Hook, even the raunchy tunes. Shel displayed varied talents from Dr. Hook to childrens poetry. I feel like I was rambling again, but I feel that I made sense this time. Yay!

          • thank you slurbs. The Giving Tree is a favorite of mine, but I’ll have to read more of his poems and listen to Hook. I may have more questions, is that ok?

          • Oops, annabloom. Sorry, you asked how it relates to the chase. I would have to say that to understand how it relates to this chase, you would have to read some of Shel’s poetry. At times you have to change your way of looking at things to understand parts of a poem. In the chase, you have to change the way you approach and look at things in f’s poem. F takes poetry to a whole new level. The poem is like a fine piece of art to be admired. Each individual that admires f’s poem can extract a totaly different meaning than the person reading it across the other side of a mountain range! Just like a piece of fine art, the masterpiece of Forrest Fenn’s poem is open to inrepetation by each individual. Only the artist knows the true meaning behind his/her work. Will that suffice for an answer? Sometimes I wonder if I am a plumber… hmmm.

  19. I had to take an art history class in college. I did not want to, but it was required. It ended up being one of my favorite classes and seeing paintings such as this makes me want to continue some of that study.

  20. I feel like a turtle. When things get moving too fast and i’m being taken for a spin I just hide in my shell and wait for the thunder birds to lighten up. 🙂

  21. @slurbs kind sir, thank you about answering poem interpretation questions. It seems I don’t understand how to solve those English style puzzles where you clip off prepositions and exchange vowels. very difficult for me to solve as I keep wanting to use ‘with’ instead of ‘halt’ or A’s where O’s belong. Shel Silversteins poems are more fun than Lewis Carroll’s brainy puzzles. Speaking of double consonants like fenn and kidd how about an erroll f brown with ahanger ironic and a good laugh but I figured I’d be in deep dodo for searching there. Oh well I don’t care if I solve the poem or find fenns gold; friends and caring are what I do care about. My dr says to hold stress down and get extra rest and my energy will come back to care about searching.

  22. “In his quiet way he spoke through the haze of far-away memories while I mostly listened, not wanting to interrupt him with the weakness of my own thoughts.”- f

    What a powerful sentence to convey how one should listen as others speak. I am not just referring to this blog but to life in general. For the past two weeks that sentence has come to mind as I listened to others and tried not to interrupt with a better story or my own ways to add to it. I know that this should have been a strong practice well before your writing but your wording makes it stick.
    Just figured I let you know.

  23. A treasure trove of beauty in the heartbreak of what happened in history.
    The more I read he more brave and wise I become.

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