Recycling Mistake

by forrest fenn

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


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


Butterfly Maiden

by forrest fenn

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


I hope these kachina dolls don’t take this personally, but I like old things, especially if they are powerful, and gracefully show their age. These three do. More than a hundred years ago the Hopi Indians in Arizona carved them from roots of a cottonwood tree. Most kachinas have multiple duties, but some stand out more than others. Faith is a big part of the colorful Kachina Culture.

This Butterfly Maiden has faded over time, but has kept her Mona Lisa twinkle. At least for me she has. Nothing about her has changed in the 50 years since she came to live with me. She pollinates dreams and makes them come true. Look her up if you don’t believe it. That’s why she’s my all-time favorite.

Kachinas are made to teach Hopi children how to dress for the dances, and the Sao Hemis is one of the most elaborate. Although customs change over the generations some things don’t. Sao Hemis always wears a kilt, a tablita, and their bodies are painted with black corn smut.

The Three Horn kachina is a warrior who likes to sing excitedly when he dances. He’s one of the guards and, when needed, can rush into action with great swiftness. He brings rain to the ground that insures a good harvest. And a good harvest can mean the children will be healthy, the crops will grow, and the water will be potable.

Two books on archaeology say that the Kachina Culture didn’t exist in pre-historic times, but we found those accounts to be fraught with misdirection.

Painting by James Asher

I found two helmet style masks at San Lazaro Pueblo, and paid to have them excavated by professional archaeologists. Radiocarbon (C-14) and archaeomagnetic dates show that the masks were used between 1450 and 1520. The pueblo was prehistoric until 1540 when a Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado entered the Southwestern landscape. The official archaeological record is being revised to reflect my discovery. f


by forrest fenn

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


paintericonI used to collect paint palettes. I had about twenty of those things and they looked so good hanging on a wall in our guest house that when we sold the business I just left them there, except for a couple of course.



Clark Hulings donated this one. He was a special friend whose work we sold in our gallery. Clark was getting a lot of publicity and winning awards at important shows, so his work quickly escalated in value. In the early 1970s, I gave my wife one of his paintings for her birthday. I paid $6,500 for it.

After a few years Peggy’s mother retired. She had been managing a ladies’ ready-to-wear store in San Angelo. My wife came to me and said, “You know, Honey, I really love that Hulings painting, but my mother needs a place to live and I’d like to help her.” So we sold the painting and bought her mother a home with the money.


Now I have just one small floral by Clark. It’s called “A Single Rose.” Wish I’d kept some of his larger works. My wife thinks this one is hers and I don’t have the guts to tell her it isn’t. Does that mean it is hers?

Ben Stahl was another special friend. He was the kind of guy you wanted to be around and just stay there for a long time. We had a show for him and one of the most popular paintings depicted a cowboy on a ladder who was about to climb into a hay loft. The title was “The Way the West was Won.” We sold it quickly, and could’ve sold it another ten times. Ben painted this condensed version and gave it to me.

One of Ben’s favorite subjects was saloon scenes. They had combustion and always included ladies who were familiar with the nighttime jingle of spurs. They don’t make artists with Ben’s flavor anymore.





Well, Here’s Moses…

by forrest fenn

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



whittleAs I watched Leo Salazar carve this figure from a freshly cut pine tree, he assured me that it would be a perfect likeness of Moses. And I believed it because why else would someone throw his arms out like that except to summon the Israelites and lead them out of Egypt and across the Red Sea to Mount Sinai?

“That’s where Moses received the Ten Commandments,” Leo said, and he spoke like some kind of omniscient religious guru. His words were fit for the lessons at any Sunday school.

It was interesting to see the sharp knife skillfully whittle the wood, which did little to resist the artist’s efforts. As the face of Moses began to appear, Leo’s smile took on a pleasing quality. I just sat there and grinned.

Several hours more, and there stood the majestic Moses in his flowing robe.

I gave $350.00 for the beautiful figure because I enjoyed Leo so much. But Moses had been an old man and this portrait of him looked too white and new. I solved the problem by standing him on the roof of our gallery so the sun and snow could act as aging agents.

After three years the wind toppled Moses over and broke his right hand. I glued it back and stood him up again, where he stayed for another three years. Finally Moses took on the distinguished, darkened look that I thought he deserved.

Moses now stands in my home on the second step that leads into my den, and his expression continues to telegraph a timeless message.


Osiris…King of Gods…

by forrest fenn

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




Egyptian mythology is enigmatic to me and somewhat foreboding, like a delicate mixture of portents that coinstantaneously entice…yet frighten. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to the mysterious physical properties that represent the ancient gods.

While holding Osiris tightly, I can almost feel his mighty power, and sense the lure of other gods about which the ancient Egyptians felt so strongly.
With Dal’s help I’ll try to bring a few of our venerated Egyptian objects close to your eyes.

This 3,000-year old New Kingdom Egyptian necklace is dominated by a bronze image of Osiris. He holds a symbolic flail and crook, and large ostrich feathers decorate each side of his crown. He wears a pharaoh’s beard. Rare bronze all-seeing eye amulets, spaced with faience beads, emphasize his supremacy.

To quote a book of Egyptian mythology:

“A god of the earth and vegetation, Osiris symbolized in his death the yearly drought and in his miraculous rebirth the periodic flooding of the Nile and the growth of grain. He was a god king who was believed to have given Egypt civilization.


IMG_1087sThe oldest religious texts refer to Osiris as the great god of the dead, and throughout these texts it is assumed that the reader will understand that he once possessed human form and lived on earth. As the first son of Geb, the original king of Egypt, Osiris inherited the throne when Geb abdicated. At this time the Egyptians were barbarous cannibals and uncivilized. Osiris saw this and was greatly disturbed. Therefore, he went out among the people and taught them what to eat, the art of agriculture, how to worship the gods, and gave them laws. Thoth helped him in many ways by inventing the arts and sciences and giving names to things. Osiris was Egypt’s greatest king who ruled through kindness and persuasion. Having civilized Egypt, Osiris traveled to other lands, leaving Isis as his regent, to teach other peoples what he taught the Egyptian.


IMG_1092sDuring Osiris’ absence, Isis was troubled with Seth’s plotting to acquire both her and the throne of Egypt. Shortly after Osiris’ return to Egypt, in the twenty-eighth year of his reign, on the seventeenth day of the month of Hathor (late September of November), Seth and 72 conspirators murdered him. They then threw the coffin in which he was murdered into the Nile, with his divine body still inside.



















Isis, with the help of her sister Nephthys, and Anubis and Thoth, magically located Osiris’ body. Upon learning that his brother’s body was found, Seth went to it and tore it into fourteen pieces and scattered them throughout Egypt. Isis once again found every piece of his body, save his phallus (it had been eaten by the now-cursed Nile fish). She magically re-assembled Osiris and resurrected him long enough to be impregnated by him so that she could give birth to the new king Horus.

IMG_1098s IMG_1095s
Seth of course was not willing to surrender the throne of Egypt to the youthful Horus and thus a tribunal of gods met to decide who was the rightful king. The trial lasted eighty years. Eventually through Isis’ cunning she won the throne for her son.”

And that’s probably more than you want to know about Osiris, et al.



John Bullis…

by forrest fenn

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



bullisShe called and said, “Hi Forrest, I want you to come down here to my garage sale.” Yeah, sure, she was in San Antonio and I was in Santa Fe. I said, “Josette, wake up, you’re having a nightmare. Did you really ask me to come 619 nautical miles great circle route against the wind just to attend your garage sale? What’re you selling besides tamales?” “Yes, Forrest, it’s because you’re such a class act, and the tamales are delicious. Call me with your ETA and I’ll pick you up at Stinson Field,” and she hung up.

Well, what do you say to a woman like that? Then I remembered her fawn-like brown eyes, and the tone of her complexion that was ardent enough to attract the admiration of even the most indifferent. And she was an old friend, and she was a no-nonsense antique dealer, and she had sold me some nice things in the past, and she did have a “you’d better come along sonny” sound in her voice.

On the way from the airport to her warehouse she explained that she was liquidating the estate of General John Bullis, whose distinguished career was not unknown to me. In 1886, he served with General Nelson A. Miles in his quest to capture Geronimo. Camp Bullis in San Antonio was named for him. I was suddenly so thrilled with Josette that we stopped at McDonald’s and I paid for lunch. I said she could order anything on the menu.

Thirty-minutes and twelve-bucks-fifty later we were looking at the Bullis Collection. In a small box was a letter dated March 12, 1886, from the general to his wife, “…we swept into a large Apache village and captured eight ollas full of grain. I kept a nice woman’s perforator bag for you.” The letter was resting on the bag.


Perforator bag or awl case

In Josette’s quiet and unobtrusive way, she announced that, because the sale had been advertised, she was honor-bound to hold everything until her warehouse opened at 0700 the next morning. The decision displayed the integrity that was idiosyncratic of her nature, and it gave me time to review the inventory and prices. There were Navajo blankets and jewelry, Plains Indian beaded things, two painted buffalo robes, a nice Tesuque dance kilt, some Hopi pottery, and lots of other stuff I liked.

That night Josette prepared a wonderful meal for me and her family, and the dessert was bread pudding; my all-time favorite.

At 07:01 the next morning I handed Josette a check for the entire garage sale. She agreed to pack everything in a U-Haul and deliver it to my gallery in Santa Fe. I felt good because her commission was 40% from the estate, plus expenses, and another free meal from me.

This time we dined at the Bull Ring and I hinted that she should have another burger. When she started ordering, my sense of frugality dwindled, then vanished as my wallet slid rapidly into the dark abyss of commitment. It was like the rattling of tea cups before an earthquake. “To start I’ll have a glass of 2005 Valandraud, St-Emilion, and then for dinner, a cobb salad, prime rib end-cut au jus with horseradish, potatoes au gratin, and sweet crepes.” And she had to have crème brulee for dessert. Then of course she needed an expensive French liqueur “to freshen my palate.” I had a lettuce salad without dressing.

That blew my budget pretty quick, but she did promise to call me again, and she was great company, and she did me a couple of important favors, and she did help me resell some of the things she sold me. So I guess it was okay. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and carry on. f

Green Grass…

by forrest fenn

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


buffaloThere’s no such place as Green Grass, Montana, but that’s where Joe Rivera said he acquired this Sun Dance buffalo skull. He admitted later that Green Grass was a generic term that was sometimes used by his friend when he didn’t want to discuss something further. “Oh, it’s from Green Grass,” the Sioux supposed when he gave the skull to Joe.


Joe suggested that I hang the skull over the fireplace in my library so the faint smoke-smell could keep it alive, Joe was like that. He was the only Puerto Rican/American ever adopted into the Rosebud Sioux tribe. I wrote a story about Joe in my book, Too Far to Walk. He’s buried on the Sioux reservation in South Dakota.


The Sioux believed that bones of the bison they’d killed would rise again with new flesh, and the herds would be replenished. Their skulls were used as alters during the Sun Dance. In the ceremony offerings were presented to the skull and sweet grass was stuffed in the eyes and nose sockets to represent bountiful grazing, which would allow the vast buffalo herds to return.

Sweet grass was also placed in the eye sockets before each Hunting Dance. It made the skulls blind to the dance so they couldn’t warn the buffalo that hunters were coming after them.



I found this buffalo in a very remote area above Marble Canyon in Arizona. It was the smallest bull in the herd. I kept the skull and gave the meat to a Navaho family. This photo shows an arrogant would-be mountain man bragging about his trophy. If I had that hunt to do over again, I’d leave my rifle at home.


This Bison Antiquus skull may be 8,000-years old. Sometime during the last few hundred years it was found by an Indian and painted with Sun Dance symbols.

Buffalo provided the Plains Indians with nearly everything they needed to subsist, from clothing to food. Tepees were made from their skins and their bones were shaped into tools and religious objects.


“This is Twana, one of three pets that I purchased from a slaughter sale at Ft. Wingate, NM. They sure ate a lot of hay. When our big bull jumped the fence and gored a prize Arabian stallion, I gave my small herd to a rancher in Texas who promised to let the animals “roam the prairie.”

Spirituality was very important to the Plains Indian tribes who lived in close harmony with the soil, and symbolism was fundamental to their survival. It has always been my desire, and intention, to respect all of their beliefs, some of which I subscribe to personally.

My wife and I once witnessed a Sun Dance on the Crow Reservation in Montana. We were allowed to enter the circle after being smudged by the smoke from burning sage.

I was surprised to see that most of the dancers were not natives, but white men. When I sought answers from an old Crow woman, whose arms were bleeding from self-inflicted knife cuts, she said, “When the white man cannot find solace in his own religion, he comes to us for the truth.”


The Knife That Growls…

by forrest fenn

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




This Sioux medicine knife was born for action.



It was not a domestic accessory to be used around the tepee and it wasn’t a skinner. It was Indian-made about 1850 for use in hand-to-hand combat. While in the slashing fist of its master it had neither soul nor pity.


The bear-jaw haft insinuated a ferocity that provided an edge when the margin between life and death rode a thin line.




“The best offense is a good defense.”



Oral history among the Hunkpapa Sioux speaks of a Lakota brave who, while holding such a weapon at ready, found himself in a precipitous position. Three hated Crow Indian warriors, wearing grim faces, were drawing near. Upon hearing the knife roar “approach at your own peril,” the warriors turned and fled, not being willing to test the supremacy of the bear.




by forrest fenn

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



Reliquary – a container wherein sacred relics are kept.

Although I am not a Catholic I enjoy studying their colorful history and objects of veneration.


Carved on the face of this eight-inch wooden reliquary cross are the Instruments of the Passion; tools used in Christ’s Crucifixion.

When the early Spanish explorers set out to conquer the new world many carried small devotional items to comfort them on their long and perilous journey. The most common articles were reliquaries, some of which held a splinter from The Cross, or a small bone fragment from a saint. But mostly not. More likely they contained objects associated with lesser religious figures or favored items of piety.


The horizontal banner slides out to reveal two relics wrapped in linen.


The vertical banner will then slip out to expose a delicately arranged assemblage of religious chattels that are resting on a bouquet of tiny blue ceramic flowers. The white wax seal near the top represents the Lamb of God, a symbol for Christ.


In the center is a small carved stone likeness of The Virgin Mary with the Christ Child. Daintily curled gold and silver wires hold the effects safely in place and secure.


On the reverse is the crucifixion of Christ, except Christ has gone. He just isn’t there anymore. On the head of the cross are the traditional letters INRI, and at the foot, a skull and crossed bones that signify Skull Hill, the place where the Lord was crucified, and where Adam was buried.

Oral history of the family from whom I acquired this cross, forty-years ago, tells that it rode into the new world in the pocket of Diego de Vargas who arrived in 1692, and became the Spanish Governor of the New Spain territory of Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico.


What relics hide beneath the six linen shrouds in this special cross reliquary? Who carved it with loving fingers and filled its stomach with items of religious reverence?

The answers to these questions lay deep within the forgotten history of lives that have disappeared from our view, and from an olden era that can no longer speak. But would that it could.

Ivory is the Flesh of Minerva…

by forrest fenn

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



chinaThis 4 ½ – inch ivory bird was carved by a Chinaman during the Qing Qianlong Dynasty (1711 – 1799). I call her Minerva.



Her body can be wiggled off to reveal a lush basin filled with antique ivory beads. I cannot imagine what skills the carver used when making the two sides fit together so snugly.


The delicately carved feet on her gently feathered under-belly tell me the artist had a lot of class. I’m pretty sure that’s true.


I was once in a small shop in Hong Kong where similar objects were being made. The artist sat on the floor, a hunk of ivory wedged between his feet. A wooden mallet moved adroitly in his hand as a very precisely-formed object began to appear under his chisel. Little flakes of ivory flew all about, cluttering the area. My eyes couldn’t believe such talent.


For many years this little bird has had a peculiar effect on me. I acquired her from a vague acquaintance; a severely mature man whom I had met earlier in Dirty Sally’s Saloon in Ten Sleep, Wyoming. He asked for almost no money and when I told him it wasn’t enough his eyes turned to sugar. “Yes, but it’s special to me and I want it to have a good home.” He may have thought the discussion of money was an affront to his little feathered friend. Me too.

I started writing this story late last night but soon became word weary. So I slept and dreamed about writing the story, which prompted me to arise and finish it. It was all so weird. But it’s finished, and now my mind must consider in whose deserving possession Minerva should next reside. I would entertain your thoughts.

Thanks to calidreamer5 for researching Minerva.