SUBMITTED AUGUST 2015
E. C. WATERS
Disclaimer: This is my hypothesis. It is “tl;dr”, but worth the invested time if you’re a serious seeker. There may or may not be a treasure chest after following and attempting to prove this hypothesis.
So, yeah… There’s a news story out at the moment regarding a persistent seeker. The story focuses on everything he’s given up to be in the chase, and it basically impales him (and by inference all of us) in the public eye. It suggests we are all addicted to lunacy. While I too had come to the conclusion that I had solved the puzzle, I have concurrently come to the conclusion that I don’t want to continue with how the media and Yellowstone National Park officials depict us… as lunatics. I don’t believe I’m a lunatic, although this is likely to be what a lunatic thinks. For this purpose, I’m tapping out, but also publishing my lunatic solution with my recent experiences, which of course resulted in my returning empty-handed. For those who use Twitter, follow my random thoughts on @mikebibler. For those who like dalneitzel.com, I am organizing my thoughts in a way that is hopefully meaningful for this community. It is important to also know that I work in IT and have interests and experiences in the field of text mining. I use computer programs to quickly sift through information (structured and unstructured) and attempt to derive meaning and/or correlations. This is how I started my chase.
Like everyone, but computer software, I used readily available geo-referenced feature names above 5,000 feet and below 10,200 feet, and searched for synonym cluster hits within a reasonable proximity tolerance. I followed this path for about 8 months with no solid findings and only one trip out in April 2014. I stopped in Colorado, Montana, Yellowstone, and Cokeville, WY to look at the areas of my most favorable results. Next, I focused on specific angles of F’s interests: archaeology (“aguas tibia”), then art (“Thomas Moran”) for about 6 months and 2 more trips, and then finally literature. It wasn’t until I started focusing on story-telling (inclusive of movies) that everything snapped into place for me.
By my amateur and incomplete analysis, I speculate F conceived of his plan with a specific adult audience in mind, wrote a few things in the beginning, like My War For Me, and then began to augment as he found more correlations of his own life to that of “the hypothesis”. I speculate the idea of getting kids out into the woods and off their devices came just before writing or finalizing his poem. He said the book quickly wrote itself. As such, I speculate parallel paths to the chest developed: one for adults as in the original plan, and an augmented plan for children that also seems to fit. I’ll attempt to describe my translation of these paths, right or wrong. You can think about them now because I’m not going to think about them any longer. I believe the chest is out there. I now also believe F to be a genius, far smarter than I am, and far smarter than he lets on. There are some who would say I give him too much credit. To you I say “then go get the chest where you think it is, smarty”. There are a few who challenge my premise and say one could derive meaning from any literary source, such as Robin Hood. Ok, fine. I could not derive a motivating fraction of the volume of content from Robin Hood
that I can derive from “the hypothesis”. For those who insist the poem is all one needs to find the chest, I have this to say: yes technically yes I agree Yes. If that response seems silly to you, please download the free or paid version of James Joyce’s Ulysses somewhere on the Internet, get into the wood (paper) and read it. Lege totum si vis scire totum. Having this book may not be necessary, but it sure as blue hell makes everything F is saying so much easier to relate to and understand, even if (with irony) what he’s saying relates to content that is very difficult to understand. And for the kids, please find Disney’s digital movie Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure.
Path #1: For the Kids
“Ask a child where warm waters halt.” says F. I think this may have three meanings.
Meaning 1, kids love Disney everything. The movie Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure has some very interesting coincidences that, if recognized, will actually lead the seeker to the solution I hypothesize is the winning solution. In this movie is a lyric sung by Lyria, a story-telling fairy. Other coincidental names of characters correlating with words in TTOTC include Fawn, Blaze, Clank, Rosetta, and Tinker Bell (bronze bells, For Whom the Bell Tolls). F also mentions a painting about fairies dancing around a rock in the chapter Blue Jeans and Hushpuppies Again. And F uses the words “sprinkled” for describing what he has done with clues in his chapters. “Sprinkled” is a very specific word in the context of Tinker Bell, and has sent many seekers to Fairy Falls in Yellowstone. In this movie, Tinker Bell is seeking the fabled Mirror of Incanta (F’s chest is said to contain mirrors) for a rumored single remaining wish to correct something that went wrong. Here is the lyric:
The Ancient Chant
Journey due north, past Never Land
‘Til a faraway island is close at hand
When you’re alone, but not alone
You will find help and an arch of stone There’s one way across the isle’s north ridge,
But a price must be paid at the old troll bridge
At journey’s end, you shall walk the plank
Of the ship that sunk but never sank
And in the hold, amidst gems and gold,
A wish come true awaits, we’re told
But beware and be warned; there’s a trick to this clue: Wish only good will, or no good will come you
For the treasure you seek you may yet come to rue!
Journey due north, like somewhere north of Santa Fe? A faraway island, as in there are islands somewhere in the Rockies? Alone, like alone in there? An arch of stone, maybe like Natural Bridge at Yellowstone? What’s at the north ridge? A troll bridge, like maybe the (non)Fishing Bridge? A ship that sunk but never sank, in the Rockies, like maybe the E.C. Waters? Past Never Land? Here’s a screen cap of Tink’s homemade treasure map:
So, if the E.C. Waters is the ship that sunk but never sank and it’s on Stevenson Island, canyon down or south of there is Dot Island. But wait, Dot Island LOOKS LIKE AN ARROWHEAD! F has been alluding to finding an arrowhead when he was nine that started him on his adventures. I had to have a closer look at Neverland. I found this in reference to J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan:
“Of all the delectable islands the Neverland is the snuggest and most compact, not large and sprawl, you know, with tedious distances between one adventure and another, but nicely crammed.”
Ok, Dot Island, check. But I’m a bit of a scientist and this path seems crazy (journalism worthy). How can I actually validate that Tinker Bell has ANYTHING to do with any of this before I invest money I don’t have into a search? I sat through the other Tinker Bell movies looking for and noting any similarities I could find. There are a few, but enough to indicate significance? There’s one in the first Tinker Bell that is a bit more than coincidental to the Buffalo Cowboys chapter in TTOTC where Cody is replaced by thistles that seem to rampage the area, needing to be corralled, with Tinker Bell in tow. There’s a few more here and there that would seem to allude to similar stories or words F chose. But in Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue, released after the book but before the range clue on NBC, this popped up unexpectedly:
So, above 5,000 feet and below the tallest peak in Yellowstone, 10,200. Ok, check. Tinker Bell is now strangely and somehow involved. E.C. Waters to Dot Island (Neverland).
“Ask a child where warm waters halt.” says F. I think this may have three meanings. (It’s worth repeating like F did.)
Meaning 2, in the Preface of TTOTC, F gives us this poem to ponder:
“Life is a game of poker, Happiness is the pot.
Fate deals you four cards and a joker, And you play whether you like it or not.”
These (roughly) are also song lyrics from a song remade by Ernest Tubb, the Texas Troubadour. Ask a child where warm waters halt and they might reasonably tell you “a sink” or “a tub”. That would be useful to derive because this particular song from Ernest
Tubb is titled I’m Waiting On Ships That Never Come In. Now why in the world would F use that in his preface if not to signal where warm waters halt, back at the beginning of his book after reading his treasure poem? If he’s waiting on ships, that would indicate a lake higher than 5000 ft that can support a ship. At least one that would match this criteria in the search zone, as well as match the criteria of synonym allusion, is indeed the E.C. Waters, a steamship remnant on Stevenson Island.
“Ask a child where warm waters halt.” says F. I think this may have three meanings. (It’s worth repeating like F did.)
Meaning 3, E.C. Waters, the person, was replaced by Harry Child after the government became impatient with Waters’ obnoxious behavior, helped introduce competition and drove him out of business. Clever. This Child would definitely know where warm waters halt.
So yeah, there are several thoughts where a kid could assist (as it pertains to my hypothesis). I felt I was on the right track, but that my hypothetical solution was still incomplete.
Path #2: For the Adults
I speculate F wanted each of us to experience our own Odyssey. I speculate that F recognized the intriguing amount of correlations of his own life and experiences from Ulysses and to Odysseus. Perhaps he embellished enough to make the correlations fit, and perhaps that would be the reason he also released Too Far To Walk, to release his real story. James Joyce himself said the following which also seems to apply to F:
“If I gave it all up immediately, I’d lose my immortality. I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.” – Joyce’s reply for a request for a plan of Ulysses, as quoted in James Joyce (1959) by Richard Ellmann
With that said, I’m not capable of explicating all of what F meant or alluded. I can find a reasonably convincing enough amount of content in TTOTC, Scrapbook posts on dalneitzel.com, and in F’s public appearances with James Joyce’s Ulysses or other The Odyssey allusion material. This is super clever because Ulysses is one of the most difficult books to process as well as being the most important Modernist literature of F’s time. Why didn’t he mention it in his chapter Important Literature? Well, that should now become obvious. For purposes of organizing this material just to point to the sheer volume of it, I will do so in these three categories: 1) Ulysses references about the chest and its contents, 2) Ulysses references from TTOTC and Scrapbook posts, and 3) references related to the actual hunt locations.
1) Ulysses (and The Odyssey) references about the chest and its contents
– F named the chest “Indulgence”. This word is also used prominently in the Ulysses colophon by Sylvia Beach, publisher at Shakespeare and Company, apologizing for the
misspellings in this most exceptional of cases.
– The chest depicts ladders. In Ulysses, I wonder if this alludes to Stephen and Buck leaving the tower via a ladder.
– 265 gold coins = 265,000 words in Ulysses
– 2 Ceylon sapphires = Ceylon tea distributor located at 2 Mincing Lane, London, E.C. (there’s E.C. again… so strange)
– 6 emeralds = I believe this relates to the emerald 4-leaf shamrock ring (2 extra as stem)
– 42 lbs = #42 is Ulysses in the Companion to Modernist Literature
– 20.5 Troy lbs of gold = Troy was defeated in The Odyssey, the book which Ulysses is said to allude. Twenty may allude to the number of people at Dignam’s funeral. Death’s number.
– F’s autobiography in an olive jar = Odysseus built his unmovable bed around an olive tree, proof to Penelope that he was Odysseus. In Ulysses, “Olives are packed in jars, eh? I have a few left from Andrews.”
– Gold dust and rubies = I speculate it relates to this line in Ulysses … “Dust slept on dull coils of bronze and silver, lozenges of cinnabar, on rubies, leprous and winedark stones.”
– My hypothesis suggests there is likely to be more, I’m just not ambitious enough to find and list them.
Not convinced yet? Let’s continue.
2) Ulysses (and The Odyssey) references from TTOTC and Scrapbook posts
– Ulysses uses the word “Fenian” for an Irish movement of the time (that’s kind of funny).
– Important Literature – F references the book Kismet, kismet is mentioned 4 times in Ulysses.
– Important Literature – Ulysses is missing while being the most important Modernist literature of F’s time.
– First Grade – F says John Charles would bring a jar of olives to school. In Ulysses, “Olives are packed in jars, eh? I have a few left from Andrews.”
– My Spanish Toy Factory – Ulysses references a squatted child at marbles.
– Me In The Middle – references chickens being chased, same is in opening scene of O Brother Where Art Thou (another set of allusions to The Odyssey)
– Gypsy Magic – Ulysses uses the words red Egyptians as Gypsies were was once thought to have Egyptian origins.
– My War For Me – F references Shakespeare throughout, Ulysses references Shakespeare and Hamlet throughout, and the book was published by Shakespeare and Company. There are several more, but this is getting too long.
– Teachers With Ropes – this concept is the final scene in O Brother Where Art Thou (another set of allusions to The Odyssey), the Penelope character is dragging her children holding onto twine, the last one is lassoed with the twine.
– Teachers With Ropes – Gilbert Stuart is the artist of the George Washington paintings F allows the children to touch. Stuart Gilbert was the French translator for Ulysses.
– A scrapbook about forgetting his keys – In Ulysses, Bloom has to break into his own house through the basement for the same reason.
– A scrapbook about house slippers with a hole in his sock – In Ulysses, “Stephanos, my crown. My sword. His boots are spoiling the shape of my feet. Buy a pair. Holes in my socks. Handkerchief too.”
– A scrapbook on Glenna Goodcare (of her works, he chose these) – In Ulysses, “… the tea merchant, drove past us in a gig with his daughter, Dancer Moses was her name…” This scrapbook instead could be pointing to the importance of the maternal relationship alluded to in Ulysses, and between Molly and Milly. There are very small Molly Islands in Yellowstone Lake. I suppose it’s also possible that the chest could be here, but everything else in my hypothesis points to Dot Island. And perhaps I’m anchored.
– My hypothesis suggests there is many many more, I’m just not ambitious enough to find and list them.
Still not convinced TTOTC is entangled with Ulysses? One more.
3) references related to the actual hunt locations (in my interpretation)
– wwwh: E.C. Waters – there’s a German passage in Ulysses, “Und alle Shiffe brücken.” – canyon down, tftw: boat to Dot Island – Ulysses refers to Dottyville, a colloquialism to a lunatic asylum, and according to journalists, where all of us belong.
– home of Brown – A Phil May cartoon referencing Dottyville seems appropriate to F. Definitely google it.
– no place for the meek: Dottyville (Dot Island) was E.C. Waters’ zoo. The park officials shut it down after seeing what an idiot Waters was and how the animals were being treated.
– end drawing nigh: Dottyville (Dot Island) is in the shape of an arrowhead, pointing NW.
– no paddle: Dottyville (Dot Island)… seriously, have a big motorized boat take you, or if you’ve dragged your own there, use it. Paddling here could endanger your life.
– water high: elevation of Yellowstone Lake
– blaze: Dottyville (Dot Island) pointing at the location. Ithaca, Episode 17 in Ulysses, ends with a giant dot, an oversized period which at the time alluded to a Latin mathematical suggestion of QED, or problem solved.
– hear me now and listen good: a sound (water measurement) synonym is “fathom”… he says this twice —> 2 fathoms – he also alludes to this somewhere when describing measurement systems of links, chains, fence poles, telephone poles, and fathoms.
– efforts worth the cold: this is where I completely missed it… I think you have to wade into cold water and look under a rock off the point of Dot Island (there are 2 visible during windy waves, it’s probably the one 2 fathoms or 12 feet away from the NW point shore so that Dot Island is pointing at it). I started to wade in barefooted, without waders. My feet were in pain immediately and began to numb. I had to turn around. A fathom used be about an arm’s length. Maybe he’s suggesting to stick your arms in the ice cold water and feel around. That seems weird. Maybe use a flashlight first.
– brave and in the wood: paper is made of wood. F alludes to this as being a bit of a conservationist. So, get in the wood and read Ulysses. “in the wood” may allude to “read the story about the wooden horse at Troy.”
– give you title: an allusion to Ulysses S. Grant, the President who signed Yellowstone into a preservation… “grant U president”. See how he nicely tied that all together?
– the nine clues are the nine sentence-ending punctuation dots, alluding to the nine muses throughout his book and throughout Ulysses, plus Ulysses has nines all over the place.
Motivation into Action
Now you know the premise to my hypothesis. More random coincidences than Robin Hood? I’d say yes absolutely yes undoubtedly yes. So I went there just last week, boots on the ground. Here’s a few findings as I traipsed around, roaming with purpose but without the confidence in the “get into the lake” solution.
If Dot Island also interests you, and you don’t have your own motorized boat, Cap’n John Blair of the Otter will shuttle you from and to Bridge Bay Marina (launch at the gas station next to the docks where Virginia has manned the desk for years). They are open for shuttle service between season-open and season-end (about June 15 to Sept 15 depending on various things). Make a reservation. Cap’n John and Virginia need permission from NPS to drop-off and pick-up at Dot Island for day hikes because it’s not one of the pre-approved drop-off points. A NPS day-use hiking permit is not required according to the ranger we checked, but you’re not allowed to camp overnight. Earliest drop-off is at 8am. Latest pick-up is at 5pm. The shuttle costs a little more than $300 as an excursion special for up to 6 passengers in total, so make sure you believe it’s worth it. It comes with a canoe, which we opted out of because we weren’t yet convinced the water was related. Doing this with park permission removes all the worry, and there’s enough worry just being on the island than to also have to worry whether or not you’re legal. Once approved, you’re good to go. If you mention you are seeking Fenn’s treasure, you will undoubtedly be denied. It makes people there nervous because they don’t want to break the rules, and they all believe we’re dotty as it is. A letter (although a bit dated but still applicable) is always at the ready to be shown to the “tourons”, a colloquialism of what the park concessionaires and rangers call us, moron tourists, because we must stop traffic for 20 minutes to get pictures of a lumbering bison, or feel confident enough to try to pet one before getting gored. But this letter also expresses the seriousness and the consequences:
Just follow the rules. Don’t destroy our park. Dot Island has a beautiful open grassy vale behind some trees on the NE side of the island, or up and over the peak dune on the west side near the northern tip. There are a couple of things that appear to be old rusty fire pits about 30 yards apart along the north tree line. Do not start fires. Just take pics. We had a picnic, took a sandwich. We packed out everything we packed in, although we did find a few old rusty cans, bottles, jars, and a broken plate fragment in a large hole area with a fallen tree on the SE side of the vale. Uncaring and littering people have been there before us. Just use common sense and you won’t ruin it for everyone else. Also, watch for a nesting duck near the NE edge of the grassy vale. It scared the wits out of me as it flew up vertically into my face when I approached. Good for a laugh and a story after when I could see the duck returned. But that’s the beauty of Dot Island. It’s secluded and difficult, but not impossible. There’s an extremely low probability of seeing bears, bison, elk, moose, no worries of attacks, although there have been sightings in the past of stranded wildlife early in the season perhaps after crossing on the ice. Rangers will attempt to relocate stranded wildlife. One other caution about Dot Island… It’s packed with stinging nettle, thistle, and lots of other thorny messiness. Hikers beware. The nettle is quite ugly and helps to discourage passage into a lot of areas.
It’s about 200 to 300 lbs. Upon hearing of it, Cap’n John speculated it might have floated there or was abandoned there from a former dock. It was old, very solid, and very heavy. We found a similar sturdy plank at Spruce Point the next day, wondering if “in the wood” could be Spruce Point after failing at Dot Island.
This plank at Spruce Point had a marking scratched into it. It looked recent-ish.
We also hiked Sand Point to Rock Point (aka Suicide Point although I don’t know why) to a location we believed was the position on the western lake shore where Dot Island is pointing. The boating staff call it “The Great Wall” area because of the cliff erosion formations. The hike in the sand was a foot muscle killer (FitBit should have given me at least 3x steps), and fallen trees were a real impediment in several locations. But we did find this interesting human formation at Rock Point…