Forrest Fenn Treasure Found, This was the big moment for me, when I realized Forrest Fenn had the requisite crazy, that immortality was on his bucket-list-maybe was his entire bucket-list-and that he would stop at nothing to shove himself into history. I was standing in his home office on my first day in Santa Fe, working on a profile of him. The room was wall-to-wall artifacts. Moccasins and headdresses. Dolls and skulls. At least one buffalo head had an arrow-tip still lodged in it. And amid the lost world splendor of it all, sitting on Fenn’s desk was a quart-sized bronze bell.
Fenn buries them, he told me, each one stuffed with his life story, stamped with his name, and-lest there be any confusion at all about their purpose-engraved with messages for posterity: “It doesn’t matter who you are, it only matters who they think you are”; “If you should ever think of me, a thousand years from now, please ring my bell so I will know”; “God will forgive me, that’s what he does.”
Faced with the prospect of becoming dirt himself, “the leftovers of history,” as he writes in The Thrill of the Chase, he decided he’d try to make sure that in the great Google search of eternity, he always has a place. One plan to do so was the bronze bells. The other, of course, was the treasure.
I believe you can find it, even if you skip almost the entire second half of The Thrill of the Chase. You can ignore every page about Fenn’s war years, his gallery years, and his budding family. Uncap your highlighter, however, when you see the word “Yellowstone” or “father,” or “cancer.” These words mark important passages, the best windows into Fenn’s mind as he composed the work-and picked his spot.
Yellowstone National Park is my odds-on favorite to hold the treasure, based on the documents Fenn has given me, materials not in The Thrill of the Chase. Fenn spent at least 20 summers there, and in The Thrill of the Chase he says “I absolutely loved that place.” In the book, however, Fenn doesn’t say much about specific locations in the park where he spent his Huck Finn years, let alone reveal details that might correspond with the hints in his now-famous poem. He seems to have blurred the image just so.
But Fenn sent me some unpublished work that isn’t so carefully presented.”Ramblings and Rumblings: The Fenn Family History (unedited)” was begun in the summer of 1996, with pencil scribblings in a blue notebook, and expanded haphazardly for years. “It is just notes and thinkings,” Fenn writes by way of preface. He compiled it for his grand kids, because he wished his own dad had done the same for him.
Yellowstone is the star of this Fenn history, even more so than it is in The Thrill of the Chase. It’s just the kind of place a sentimental fellow might return to carve his place in history. It’s “where my heart is,” Fenn writes in “Ramblings and Rumblings.” His parents returned every summer of their lives, his mother dying in a trailer park near Cameron, Montana, just north of the park, where the west fork of the Madison River runs into the Lower Madison River.