Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty Nine…

scrapbook

AUGUST 2018

 

Does Forrest Fenn’s Treasure Really Exist?

I met Forest Fenn one day in the early 1970’s while visiting family in Lubbock, Texas.  I was around 10 years old and with my dad who had an interest in everything and anything art.  It’s all a blur now.  I had no real idea of where we were or what we were doing at the warehouse in what seemed to be an industrial side of town.

My dad had learned of a foundry and a caster of bronze who was moving to Santa Fe to set up a foundry. We found him and he made time for us. Dad asked Mr. Fenn many questions that day about the lost wax method of casting bronze sculptures.  I was fascinated by the discussion and was even more interested when Mr. Fenn handed me a small piece of dark brown casting wax and told me that if I sculpted something out of it he would cast it for me.

I naively took this man at his word. I lost no time and quickly sculpted a rather crude horse figure, placed it in a box and sent it back to Lubbock. Several months past and the horse crossed my mind a number of times. But back in those “no internet’, “no over-night shipping” days we had a healthy patience about expectations and waiting.

Sometime later a small box bearing weight arrived by mail and I recognized the name on the return address  – Forrest Fenn – Santa Fe, New Mexico. I hurriedly open the box and unwrapped the packaging and there it was, my little wax horse exactly as I had sculpted it, only now it was in solid bronze. I was amazed. A sculpture that I had created with my hands now was in a form that was as permanent as it could possibly be. I felt like a real artist!

Looking back on all of this, there was no gain in it for Mr. Fenn.  He had to fabricate a mold, and then melt the wax out of the mold followed by sweat and the extremely high temperature of a foundry. He took on the risk of pouring the molten bronze into the mold, followed by the finishing work and a patina applied perfectly – even to an insignificant piece of “art”. He did all of this while keeping up with the address of a boy he would probably never see again. And, Mr. Fenn never asked for anything in return.

The horse is almost comical looking and it sits today in my living room. And although very few people notice it, when I do, I think of a young boy and a man who did not know each other but made a promise with each other. And that promise was kept.

Many people are searching for the famous treasure. I feel a responsibility to tell all, that, I already found the real Forrest Fenn treasure -over 45 years ago!

By the way, Mr. Fenn, Thank you. 

Bill
Natchitoches, La.

 

 

 

 

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty Eight…

scrapbook

JUNE 2018

 

In 1955 I was at the Texas Open golf tournament in San Antonio walking on my way to someplace when I heard a booming voice “Hey kid they got any cold beer around here?” I stopped and looked about. There were lots of people milling but none of them were paying attention to me so I thought it must be an aberration.

“Hey feller I’m up here” the voice bellowed. I was standing beside a ladder that climbed straight up about 10 feet to a platform where I saw an arm wildly waving at me. “Think you could find a couple of cold ones somewhere?”

The arm belonged to Dizzy Dean and I recognized his beaming face right off. He played for several teams including the St. Louis Cardinals and was the last pitcher in the National League to win 30 games in one season.

He was one of my all-time favorite baseball heroes (along with the ageless Satchel Paige who famously said “How old would I be if I didn’t know how old I wuz?”

About 10 minutes later I climbed the ladder holding a six pack of Jax beer and a Dr. Pepper. My cost was almost 2 bucks but I didn’t care because this was Dizzy Dean . I was thrilled even more than when I shook hands with Sammy Baugh.

Dizzy was commentating on the radio between sips and talking with me during commercials and more sips.

It was Sunday afternoon and as the tournament wound down Dizzy finished off the last Jax and my bottle of soda was almost done. We said our good-byes and I climbed down the ladder expecting to see a bunch of photographers recording me and Dizzy. There weren’t any but it was an experience I’ve enjoyed for the last 63 years.

A personal note:

I’ve been criticized for the way I write and use words. I say I too much, mix verb tenses, use commas wrong, and I can’t spell.

I just read through my story above about Dizzy Dean, and removed all of the commas. I feel so good I may just go get myself another Dr. Pepper. f

 

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty Seven…

scrapbook

JUNE 2018

 

Jerry and Keri came to see me yesterday and brought their two boys. Little Willie thought he was in charge of entertainment so it was pretty exciting until he got tired and went to sleep.

Some of you may remember that Jerry became somewhat stranded in Montana a few years ago while searching for the treasure in deep snow. Keri gave me a frantic call and I got my cousin Chip Smith to call out a rescue chopper to find him, and it did. All ended well and we have been friends ever since. Check out the video that Keri made yesterday. f

 

 

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty Six…

scrapbook

FEBRUARY 2018

 

More than an asterisk in my Book of Days

Mickey Goolsby, with whom I jumped the milk truck in high school, died last week. I talked about him in my TFTW book, page 40. He was my age plus a few months. After college he owned a construction company that built some of the schools in our town. His demeanor was one I might wish to emulate, would that I could start anew. A special breed of men narrows with Mickey’s passing, and soon it won’t exist at all. f

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty Five…

scrapbook

November 2017

 

A while back our little Tesuque’s spirit went to a place in heaven that is reserved for special pets. Now her body rests in the little cemetery beside her sister, a brother, two cousins and a friend.

This morning a new little companion arrived on United Airlines from Dallas.

He’s a Bichon Frisee poodle mix, and weighs 3 pounds. We don’t have a name yet although my grandchildren and great grandchildren are throwing all kinds of names in the suggestion pot. I will let them decide.

With all of the ill feelings around the world the future still looks bright when an old man plants small trees and has a new little friend who rests beside him in his lounge chair – where he is now. He’s 2 ½ months old so that makes me more than 4,500 weeks his senior. And both of us seem to be very happy with that. f


On November 28th Forrest added that the pup’s name is Willie.

On November 28th Forrest added this video.
https://vimeo.com/244919485

On December 4th Cynthia added this video of Willie greeting Desertphile.
https://vimeo.com/245840175
 

 

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty Four…

scrapbook

MAY 2017

House Bronze Foundry 1972-2010

“Jerry House was a good friend who shared my interest in history. So of course we collected history together, which was not a big deal because neither of us had earned income to spare back in the late 60’s.”
– Forrest Fenn

In December of 1968 a singular event in a war zone 8,500 miles away nearly altered the time space continuum of the art scene in the southwest United States. That was when Forrest Fenn, future Santa Fe gallery owner and arts benefactor almost didn’t make it out of Southeast Asia alive. Had Forrest perished over the dense jungle canopy of Laos that month it is a given that Fenn Galleries would never have hatched onto the Santa Fe scene a few years later. It is equally unlikely that House Bronze, an acclaimed art foundry run by Jerry and Gail House, could possibly have emerged on the stubbornly dry, staked plain of Lubbock, TX in 1972.

In January of 2010 Gail House was closing the doors on an art business she and her late husband Jerry operated since 1972. House Bronze Foundry occupied an unremarkable building in an unremarkable section of Lubbock, TX. But what went on in this “plain Jane” building for the previous 38 years is indeed quite remarkable and has added significantly to the collections of art bronze statuary and monuments worldwide.

Creating mostly large public statuary, House Bronze turned out bigger than life monuments of icons of our times including president George H. W. Bush, the astronaut Willie McCool and even a nine foot Rev. Billy Graham. They didn’t just cast important folks though. They also made elephants and lions and bears and giant whatcha-ma-callits that adorn public gardens, university lawns, town squares, corporate entryways and great halls all over America.

Texas Tech University in Lubbock

But it wasn’t Jerry and Gail’s dream to own an art foundry back in 1968. They both worked at Texas Tech University. In fact, large art bronzes probably weren’t even anything they thought much more about than you or I do today.

Jerry collected guns and was interested in obtaining a smoothbore muzzle loaded firearm. Those things were expensive and the company told Jerry that if he could generate $5,000 in sales he would get a discount. So he was contacting everyone he knew that might be interested in buying a modern black powder gun. Black powder guns are a kind of unusual firearm. His list wasn’t building rapidly.

Someone told Jerry that there was a pilot over at Reese Airbase, a Major by the name of Forrest Fenn and if Jerry could wait two months Forrest Fenn would be back from Vietnam and surely he would be interested in buying one. Jerry added Forrest’s name to his list of hopefuls.

Nearly two months went by when Jerry heard the news that Forrest and his F-100 had been shot down and he might not be heading home. Jerry added a question mark after Forrest’s name on his still incomplete list.

In 2010 Gail House was reminiscing about her late husband Jerry and his friendship with Forrest. She remembered when Forrest arrived back home from Vietnam. ”The morning of the 26th, our phone rang and it was Forrest Fenn. A helicopter had picked him up not long after he was shot down, and because he was due home, he took the next Red Cross plane back.”

For his part, Forrest wanted to make sure Jerry didn’t scratch him off the buyer’s list. He wanted that muzzle loader.

“When Jerry got the call from Forrest, we were stunned,” Gail recalls. “Jerry went over that day, and they formed a real friendship.”

At the time, Forrest had started a part-time business in his garage where he was casting small bronzes for artists. Jerry was intrigued. More-so when Forrest told Jerry he could make a handsome $10 an hour doing this kind of work. That was the egg that Jerry later developed into his own foundry, House Bronze.

Forrest recalls that he was thrilled with his new black powder gun. “Jerry and I knew how to load it: measure the powder and pour it down the barrel. Then tamp some wadding in. The round bullet was next, just roll it down the barrel. More wadding was added to keep the bullet from rolling out if you tilted the gun down.”

They really wanted to shoot the thing because neither had done that before as Forrest remembers, “The problem was that we didn’t have any bullets. After looking around for a minute I found some old chewing gum that one of my young daughters had placed on the kitchen counter. It was dried and hard. I remember having to force it down the barrel with the ram-rod that came with the gun. Are you ready for this? Jerry took the first shot and that glob of chewing gum went clear through a 1” board in my back yard fence. We couldn’t believe it and Peggy couldn’t stop laughing.”

So now it was Forrest’s turn to shoot and he put a small rock down the barrel and shot at the fence. “When the powder ignited our close proximity went black with smoke that chased my wife into the house. You are not going to believe this, but that little pebble came out of the barrel in pieces, and each one was impaled in my fence. There must have been 6 or 7 pieces. Jerry and I talked about that for a long time and considered telling the Army about our newly discovered secret weapon.”

The camaraderie lasted well beyond their first muzzle loader experience. “Jerry was a lot of fun. One of his legs was 2” shorter than the other, so he wore a shoe with an elevated sole. He bragged about it keeping him from being drafted. One thing you never did with Jerry, and that was to call him on the phone between 12:00 and 12:15 because that was when Paul Harvey was on the radio. Jerry was a fanatic about that guy, and he got me started listening. Paul, Jerry, and I had something in common. We were good, conservative, patriotic, American citizens.”

After awhile, Forrest moved his foundry out of his garage, hired some help and started Fenn Bronze on the outskirts of Lubbock. “Jerry used to come see me in my foundry, which was just a few blocks from where he worked. After a while he started helping me work waxes and get them ready to pour in bronze. He liked it, and was soon on my payroll. It wasn’t long before he knew the business as well as anyone.”

After Forrest moved to Santa Fe, in 1972, Jerry opened his own casting studio with his wife Gail in Lubbock called House Bronze and did very well for 38 years.

Jerry and Forrest kept in touch. He was still working long hours at House Bronze and probably making considerably more than $10/hr when he died in 2009.

You can read more about Forrest’s “Bronze Years” on this blog in Forrest’s Scrapbooks:

https://dalneitzel.com/2014/12/29/scrapbook-one-hundred-twenty-two/
https://dalneitzel.com/2014/11/02/scrapbook-101/

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty Three…

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

Forrest Gist and the Waning of Art

There was this really good potter I used to know in Lubbock. Forrest Gist was his name, or Forest Gist, I don’t remember which so I’ll call him Forrest because I like that name better.

I had purchased one of his bowls from a store and gave it to my wife for her birthday. She liked it so much I thought it might be nice to get her another one for Christmas. (I hate that her birthday and Christmas are just 38 days apart).

So I went to see Forrest at a time when I knew he was firing about 30 pottery vessels in a large outdoor kiln. I arrived just in time to see him remove a still hot jar with a stick, look at it for a few seconds, then throw it on a cement sidewalk where it splattered. What th…?

I approached Forrest cautiously, not completely cognizant of his mindset, and remembering he had a hot stick in his hand. “Whatcha doin’, Forrest?” I asked respectively. He didn’t answer, but instead, threw another hot jar on the pavement. This went on a couple of more times before I decided to be rude to my friend.

“Stop, you idiot! I’ll buy some of those things from you.” He turned to me and politely said, “Look Forrest, I’m experimenting with a new glaze here, and that’s why I didn’t sign the pots in this firing. I want quality to be my signature, and if they don’t measure up to my standards I don’t want my name on them.” Gee, and I thought they were really good.

I helped Forrest clean up the mess caused by the demise of one kiln-worth of fired clay “Junkers.” And I had to admit that Forrest was the consummate artist. Although I didn’t agree completely with his quality control methods, I respected his philosophy.

What he had done prayed on my mind for a few days. I had already decided to be a world class bronze sculptor, and was sure my first two efforts were excellent platforms from which to launch my career.

What I lacked in talent could be compensated for in other ways. For instance, since I couldn’t get the hooves on my buffalo just right, I solved the problem by having him stand in mud. And my pilot self-portrait, well surely my talent would improve over time, maybe over a long time.

Going to Forrest Gist’s pot firings ruined my promising art career, so I decided to be an art dealer instead. The two bronzes remain in my collection to remind me to not to ever try that again.

Quality matters, and although no one should be allowed to set a standard for art, common-sense propriety must come into play at some point. My gallery purchased a drawing from a Yahoo artist for $15 because he wanted to buy a sandwich.

Over the next several years no one wanted to buy that sad sketch from us at any price.  One day Mr. Yahoo saw it in a storage drawer with a price of $15, and he became irate. He didn’t think we should be offering his early work because he had gotten better since then, and that sketch embarrassed him. When I offered to sell it back at my cost, he wasn’t interested. I’m sure he knew non-quality when he saw it. He should have thrown it in the fire years ago instead of bringing it to me.

My first impression of The Scream was that it should have been thrown in a spewing volcano. Never mind that not too long ago a pastel on cardboard version of it sold for about $120,000,000.00. Guess I don’t know as much about art values as I thought I did. f

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty Two…

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

 

Rusted Remnants of History

My son-in-law, David Old, owns the 2,400 acre Viveash Ranch. It is just northeast of Pecos and up. Up to 10,637 feet. In 1977, his father died in a plane crash in Alaska, leaving David the ranch.

The 45 minute drive from pavement up to the first gate is a shock absorber crushing ride over rocks that feel a special disdain for any modern conveyance.

The ranch contains some of the most beautiful landscapes in America, with house-size rock outcroppings, 5 spring-fed ponds, and far-seeing mountain vistas. Animals are everywhere: elk, deer, turkey, and bear. Mountain lions, porcupines, and bobcats are also present.

Shiloh with a turkey he shot 4/22/17

Bears have been known to break a window in the main cabin and thrash everything inside, including the refrigerator and pantry, causing general mayhem. Several years ago David shot a rifle bullet through the front door to stop a bear that was clawing, and close to getting in. I think little Piper frequently peeped through the hole to see what might be lurking just outside, lest she open the door to a big furry surprise.

Each of the ponds contained trout that were fat from eating grasshoppers, crawfish, and unlucky water dwelling insects. Elk ate the cattails we planted, but the lily pads thrived. Fishing was good.

Three pet llamas and five horses grazed the wooded high country, undisturbed for years. Then all of a sudden there were only two llamas. Shiloh blamed a mountain lion.

There was always some grass, but occasionally during the dead winter months when the snow got deep, the pets retreated to the barn to wait for a chinook or a more enjoyable temperature. When necessary, Shiloh took hay up by snowmobile.

Then came the Viveash fire that started May 29, 2000. In a terrible few days the ranch lost 17,000,000 board feet of standing timber. The sky turned so black that the animals must have thought midnight had arrived twelve hours early, and just stayed. Billowing clouds of smoke could be seen from as far away as Pike’s Peak. Commercial airliners were diverted.

Scorching heat disappeared the vegetation down to hard pack, and below, destroying root systems that held the soil tight, and leaving a thick layer of ashes on top.

Then the June monsoon thunderstorms arrived on schedule and washed the ashes downhill in a flowing mass that covered the ponds, and suffocated the fish. The smallest pond was boiled to its muddy, steaming bottom.

Two historic one-room log dwellings stood in the fire’s path.

The Viveash cabin was built in 1885 by Lionel Viveash, who suffered from leprosy. He lived in the cabin for 27 years before New Mexico became a state, and died a year after, in 1913. I hoped the fire would spare the cabin that had stood for 115 years, but it didn’t.

Only fire-rusted nails now remain to tell that man had once lived there, and soon they also will disappear as the land residuates, and no one will remember where they were. The history of that cabin, and another one, was deleted from the world.

The beautiful sky-reaching ponderosa, pictured here being hugged by Shiloh, and many others like it, also succumbed to the heat and flames.

In the fire’s aftermath thousands of jet black ponderosa pine skeletons still stand erect, but without needles, as if to underscore the tragedy.

I had walked across those timbered mountains and witnessed the wild, pristine wonders that were there: majestic pine trees, douglas firs, aspens and scrub oaks. And to punctuate the expanse, a decoration of flowers: reds, yellows, purples, and the ever present white day’s eyes (daises). The green stalks of wild onions that we like to pull and eat were found throughout that colorful bouquet.

And then to see it later, as miles of rusted cinders and grotesquely shaped rubble, was a shock that surpassed my ability to describe, or a desire to even try.

The last vapors of smoke were still fading toward the Eastern Plains when the promise of a new beginning appeared. Someone said if your ship hasn’t come in, swim out to it, and that is exactly what David and Shiloh did. They hired lumber crews. Chain saws began to buzz through the mountain quietness. A sawmill was quickly erected, and trucks laden with logs pounded the ashy roads. Thousands of trees that had endured for decades, then killed by nature’s unreasonable wrath, were harvested.

When faced with a catastrophic event, the father-and- son team didn’t cry about the dead trees, they cut them down and made plank flooring, end grain wood blocks, and stylish three-dimensional wall paneling.

A market was waiting, and the demand was met. Customers for major hotels, government buildings, and eight Starbucks stores as far away as Kuwait, are now walking on Viveash wooden floors supplied by Oldwood.

And then, in 2013, as if to display another of nature’s irritating moods, the Tres Lagunas Fire flashed through the trees, burning 860 acres on the west side of the Viveash Ranch.

But again the Old family looked to themselves for strength and ingenuity, and expanded their business. This year they will supply 130 semi-trailers of split firewood to a major retail outlet.

Nature frequently takes away, and in doing so she always looks at the big picture. Five-hundred years from now no one will remember the fires. But I’ll still be thinking about that great little Viveash cabin that disappeared. f

Personal note: The Fenn treasure chest is not hidden on or near the Viveash Ranch.

Photos by Lacee:
http://www.ellepeaphotography.com/viveash

Additional ranch photos can be found HERE

 

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty One…

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

 

Doug Hyde in Full Flourish

Doug and I happened upon the art scene at about the same time, my gallery in Santa Fe was a little behind him maybe. That was 1972, and his sculptures had a small, but budding following in Scottsdale.

Doug Hyde

Over the next few years Scottsdale was where most of the money for contemporary western art was coming from. About 20 collectors held up that market, and if there had been an art marquee in town someplace, a few names would have been at the top: Eddie Basha, Henry Topf, the wonderful widow Kieckhefer, Kay Miller (Miller Brewing Co), and more, but mostly Eddie Basha, who owned a large chain of grocery stores.

Doug and I were a good combination, and we serviced those Arizona clients with an adroitness and polish the likeness of which I never witnessed again. Doug made hundreds of stone sculptures, Scottsdale wanted them, and I did the accommodating.

My wife and I liked Doug’s work so much we kept two pieces for ourselves.

Lady Pretty Blanket

This alabaster lady is not tall, just 2’, but she’s really heavy. That’s why she has been sitting on our living room fireplace without moving for almost 30 years. I couldn’t lift even half of her. She was isolated and lonesome. But then our great-granddaughter Arden came along, and at age two, fell in love with Lady Pretty Blanket. That’s what I named the stone pueblo woman holding a pot. When the house was too quiet, we’d look over there and see Arden and “Lady” sitting side by side talking to each other, and sometimes hugging. So of course we gave the sculpture to Arden, but she can’t take possession until my wife and I are gone. Ha!

Doug Hyde

Doug Hyde is mostly Nez Perce, and he possesses bold native features and a strong code of ethics. During the many years we worked together, mostly without contracts, there were nothing but handshakes and pleasantness.

My other Doug Hyde sculpture is 27” tall. It epitomizes a dignified Nez Perce chief whose name has long been forgotten. His feather fan and drop-alongside ear rings testify as to his stature in the tribe.

He stands facing the wall in my kitchen now because the sight reminds me of the great Henry Farny painting, The Song of the Singing Wire. 

The Song of the Singing Wire by Henry Farny

To me, both figures personify the west at a threshold moment when the first faint sound of change was beginning to resonate across the soundless mountains. The western atmosphere was moving fast to make room for the “giant horse that gallops on iron rails.” There’s the same sadness in the painted Indian’s face that I notice in Doug’s sculpture.

Can you see tears of sorrow building in the eyes of those two Plains warriors? I can, and I wish my inadequate words about that sentiment were more eloquent.

Senator Al Simpson, Joe Medicine Crow and me.

Joe died at age 102 and was the last War Chief of the Crow Tribe. His great uncle, White Man Runs Him, was a scout for General Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Many years ago, Joe said to me in a wistful moment, “When I was just a little Indian kid running around, my elders told me about our history. I asked them if the government would ever give our future back to us.” f

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty…

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

 

The Unfortunate Hiccup

While walking around my office a few minutes ago I paused to look at this thing. It’s a hip pocket flask that was made to hold a “3/16th pint” of libation. It says so right there on the bottom. The silver overlay on the bottle is applied by a complex chemical procedure. If it was a Russian icon, you’d have to call it an oklad, but this is different.

The swirly engraved initials near the bottom were adeptly applied, ostensibly to identify the owner who will always remain a mystery to me because I can’t read the fancy letters.

Sam Snead

At the 1949 Master’s Golf Tournament I observed a nattily dressed gentleman use a pair of binoculars to watch Sam putt on the 10th green. It was a little strange because the man was standing less than thirty feet away from where the putt was about to be made.

And then I noticed something. The fan wasn’t watching golf at all. He also held a flask in his hands, and every time he raised the binoculars to his eyes, he took a swig from the bottle. It was a subterfuge that very effectively disguised his odd drinking practice. No one seemed to notice but me, and just as Sam drew his putter back to make the stroke, the natty guy hiccupped, causing the putt to jerk left a few inches and unceremoniously roll past the hole. I felt partially to blame just because I was watching it.

The binoculars guy

As the crowd moved to the next tee the binocular guy was noticeably teetering to the starboard side. That’s why I moved to the 13th fairway and watched Jimmy Demaret hit his mashie niblick shot to the green. Sam Snead won the tournament so I went home happy.

Surely it won’t be long before our government enacts legislation that prohibits anyone from drinking and watching golf at the same time.f