In Fenn’s Poem: What Does “it” Mean?

And take it in the canyon down...

And take it in the canyon down…

I am reminded of the 1998 impeachment trial of President William Jefferson Clinton, when in his grand jury testimony he was asked to explain how he responded to his aides asking him if he was having an affair with Monica Lewinski. He told his aides, straight-faced, “There IS nothing going on between us.”

Attempting to explain the above response, Clinton told the grand jury, again, straight faced, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If the..if he…if ‘is’ means is and never has been, that is not–that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement.”

He confused everyone enough with that answer, that the impeachment failed.

The question for today is: In Fenn’s Poem, what does “it” mean?

(I’ve added the complete definition of the word “it” at the bottom of this post.)

It (the pronoun “it”) is used five times in Fenn’s treasure poem in five different lines:

  1. Begin it where warm waters halt
  2. And take it in the canyon down,
  3. From there it’s no place for the meek,
  4. So why is it that I must go
  5. I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.

The easiest and safest assumption we can make is Fenn used the single syllable word as a substitute for multiple syllable words (or phrases) that would not sustain the rhythm of the poem.

For example,

Begin your journey where warm waters halt
And take the narrow pathway in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.

…while more descriptive, has lost all it’s rhythm be the middle of the second line.

Two of the its (of the five) are relatively easy to work out with confidence:

3. From there (the location you find yourself) is no place for the meek,

and

4. So why is (this point in my life important enough) that I must go
[And leave my trove for all to seek?]

The conundrums are its 1., 2., and 5. But, I feel like the three are intimately related. What makes 1., 2., and 5. so difficult, is that there’s no reference point, before or after them. For the word “it” to be effective as a subject or an object, there has to be a reference before or after. See the examples below in the definition of it at the bottom of this post.

Let’s start with the obvious (at least to me).

1. Begin (your adventure) where warm waters halt
2. And take (your adventure) in the canyon down,

5. I’ve done (my adventure) tired, and now I’m weak.

I have a hard time buying into varying the three, such as:

1. Begin (your hunt for the treasure) where warm waters halt
2. And take (your excitement at being outdoors) in the canyon down,

5. I’ve done (all this writing) tired, and now I’m weak.

I’m not saying that the reference to my and his adventure are correct. You can replace them with any word or phrase you think is appropriate for your search solutions.

But, I AM suggesting that it’s the same word or phrase in all three lines.


it (pronoun)

1. used to refer to a thing previously mentioned or easily identified (a room with two beds in it), referring to an animal or child of unspecified sex (she was holding the baby, cradling it and smiling into its face), referring to a fact or situation previously mentioned, known or happening (stop it, you’re hurting me)

2. used to identify a person (it is me)

3. used in the normal subject position in statements about time, distance or weather (it is half past five)

4. used in the normal subject or object position when a more specific subject or object is given later in the sentence (it is impossible to assess the problem)

5. used to emphasize a following part of a sentence (it is the child who is the victim)

6. the situation or circumstances; things in general (no one can stay here – it’s too dangerous now)

7. exactly what is needed or desired (they thought they were it)

8. informal, sex appeal (he’s still got it) sexual intercourse (they were doing it)

9. informal, denoting a person or thing that is exceptionally fashionable, popular or successful at a particular time (they were Hollywood’s it couple)

10. (in children’s games) the player who has to catch the others

Selected Quotes, Notes & Commentary from the True West Article

Selected quotes from the Johnny D. Boggs Article entitled “Modern Day Treasure Hunt; Unraveling the clues to finding Forrest Fenn’s hidden stash.” in the November 2013 Issue of “True West” magazine.

Noted:

  1. Contains best (full page) photo of the treasure I’ve seen.

  2. Includes copy of the map from TFTW.

  3. Contains NO REFERENCE to the hiding of the treasure at an altitude above or below 10,000 or 10,200 feet. (The actual reference, courtesy of Elbow (on Dal’s Blog, and Dal Neitzel:) The new issue of True West magazine (December 2013) has a follow-up to last month’s article. The author met up with Forrest for lunch, and asked for another clue. Here’s what Forrest said: “Sure. The Treasure is hidden below 10,200 feet.”)

  4. Contains no new information of real value for searches who have already been on the chase…unless you consider “It’s not in Canada,” to be of real value.

(My commentary is italicized.)

  • To Fenn’s neighbor who complained to Fenn about people digging up her front yard, “Tell them that the treasure is not in your front yard.”

  • “It’s not in Nevada.” (from the Boggs Interview last December).

  • “Everything’s a treasure to me,” says Fenn…

  • “I keep things I love,” says Fenn…

  • “When it (the estimated value of the treasure) gets to $10 million,” Fenn says, “I’m going to go back and get it.”

  • “My family’s taken care of; I’ve had so much fun collecting this junk (?), and I always loved the outdoors,” he says. “I wanted to get some people off the couch and out in the woods. The greatest thrill to me is to be walking in the woods and come across something absolutely wonderful – like two porcupines playing with each other in Yellowstone.”

  • (Very complementary segments on Dal Neitzel and Marc Howard)

  • “Neitzel has been out seven times looking for Fenn’s treasure…in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.”

  • Here’s another clue from Fenn himself: “Don’t look for the treasure where a 79-year-old man’s not going to carry a 42-pound box.” (First time I’ve seen “80” excluded from this clue, and the sentence is clumsy. Almost a double negative.)

  • Quote from Marc Howard: “Forrest survived being shot down twice in Vietnam. I think he’s an American hero. And doesn’t say random things. Anything he says, anything he writes is a clue.”

  • “Forrest is unique,” Neitzel says. “He is a fellow who really and truly thinks differently than our average human being. We are so lucky that his incredibly fertile mind was not wasted on a career in something like science, medicine or teaching. Instead, he decided to create, collect, write and share.”

  • “I never said I buried it,” Fenn says, “but that doesn’t mean it isn’t buried. I want a mystery about it. It’s not easy to find, but it isn’t impossible.”

(End of main article.)

Pull Quote:

Fenn told True West that while readers won’t find “clues to the location of the treasure” in his new book (TFTW), they will find “some hints that will help treasure hunters.” (I’m missing the subtle distinction between “clues” and “hints.”)

Sidebar (listing all the known, non-poetic clues): A True West Exclusive Clue: The treasure is not in Canada.

Also: The treasure is not in a bordering country.

Selected Quotes, Notes & Commentary from the Moby Dickens Video

Selected quotes, notes and commentary on Forrest Fenn’s Video at the Moby Dickens Book Shop in Taos, New Mexico on November 2, 2013 by Toby Younis

I counted the audience from the back of the room at 40-45. Approximately ten raised their hands when Forrest asked how many knew about the treasure he’s hidden. He talked for almost an hour including a period of questions and answers. He recited the poem aloud, read from the preface of “Too Far to Walk,” and recited a couple of poems extemporaneously in response to various questions. I thought he was very at ease.

DSCN7279Selected quotes: (my commentary in italics):

“So I bought this little treasure chest. 10 inches by 10 inches and 6 inches high.” (Probably just a mistake. Everything else describes it as 10x10x5 inches, rather than 6.)

(He pronounces “placer” in “placer nuggets” with a long “a” rather than the correct short “a” sound. (plah rhymes with blah).

“I wanted it to be visual enough, so that when a person found the treasure chest, and opened it for the first time they would just lean back and start laughing.”

“When I hid it and was walking back to my car, I started laughing out loud and I said ‘Forrest Fenn…did you really do that?’” (Noted: “…my car…” rather than “…the car…”)

“Yeah…this is perfect. Why can’t I influence somebody a thousand years from now?” (Referring to his hiding the treasure.)

“Nobody is going to happen on that treasure chest. You’re gonna have to figure out the clues in the poem and go to it.”

“There are several people that have deciphered the first two clues. I don’t think they knew it, because they walked right on past the treasure chest. And I’m not gonna tell those people who they are because one of them particularly would faint, I know. She’d tear the countryside up trying to figure out where they’d been…” (This sounds strangely like a variation of the response he gave to Stephanie at Collected Works when she asked if she or Dal had been closer to the treasure chest.)

“I don’t feel like I’ve given it (the treasure) away. Who ever finds it, is gonna earn it.”

“I’ve been asked that question… (How do you know the treasure hasn’t already been found?) I don’t really want to answer the question because that would be an answer that I don’t want to reveal. But, I can tell ya’ that no one has found the treasure.”

“So, it was 15 years from the time that I got cancer until the time that I hid the treasure chest. 15 years.” (The math doesn’t quite work out. If he got cancer in 1988 + 15 years = 2003. That would have made him 73, rather than 79 or 80 as he has said in the past. On the other hand, it coincides with the 15 years he had previously claimed it took him to write the poem. )

“The poem in my book is something that changed over and over again. When you read the poem it looks like just simple words the…but I guarantee you, I worked on that thing…I felt like an architect, drawing that poem. The original version of the poem said ‘Take the treasure chest but leave my bones and go in peace,’ or something like that. But then I got well and ruined the story.’”

“The treasure chest, I’ve said, is in a very special place to me and if I get another disease, on my last dying gasp I’m gonna throw myself on top of that treasure chest and I’m gonna dare you to come find me.”

Noted: He recites the poem from TTOTC. I made sure to take a copy with me. When he recites the poem, he doesn’t read it. It’s memorized, except for the last stanza, which he has to read from the copy I brought with me to the event.

Noted: He recites a poem taken from “Alice in Wonderland.” Interestingly, it has the same rhyme and metre in which the treasure poem is written.

“I think kids have an advantage (finding the treasure). Don’t ask me to explain that.”

“I believe that there’s a higher hand someplace. I don’t know what it is but…

“I believe in karma and some of those things. I’m not a religious person, but I’m probably the most spiritual person around.”

“…that’s why I told people I hid the treasure chest when I was 79 or 80 years old because I don’t want the exact date to be known because I’m afraid somebody will go check the rental car records and how many miles did Mr. Fenn put on the truck or the car…so I don’t answer those kinda questions…but shoot that person that sent in that email…” (The “…79 or 80…” contradicts what he said above, that it was 15 years between the time he got cancer and hid the treasure.)

“There are nine clues in the poem, but if you read the book (TTOTC), there are a couple…there are a couple of good hints and there are a couple of aberrations that live out on the edge.”

“I have not had anybody tell me the answer to that clue (the unintended one in TFTW). If you read my preface it doesn’t take a genius to figure out, I think, what they’re talking about but…there are clues in my new book that can help a person.” (This leads me to believe the 10 miles for TFTW is the unintended clue.)

“No. It isn’t.” (Responding to the question whether or not it was possible to find the treasure without leaving your computer and Google Earth.) There’s not a picture of the treasure on Google Earth…because Google Earth doesn’t go down far enough.

“Well there’s a major clue in the book (TFTW) but I don’t think it will help you find the treasure chest. I’ll tell you what the clues is. In the back of my book, there’s a map…and I’ve said the treasure chest is hidden in the Rocky Mountains. Here’s a treasure chest (he meant “treasure map”) of the Rocky Mountains. If you knew where the treasure chest is hidden, you could find it on this map. But the map stops at Canada. The Rockies keep going up there. But I said that it’s in the Rocky Mountains, which would include Canada. When this book was printed I didn’t realize that Benchmark Maps made this map stopped at the Canadian border so that’s a clue, but I don’t think…it’s not gonna help you much.”

“There are no clues in this book, (TFTW) but there are some hints.”

“What I tell people to do…if you’re really serious about looking for the treasure…get ‘The Thrill of the Chase’ and read it and then go back and read the poem over and over and over again. And then go back and read the book again, but slowly looking at every little abstract thing that might catch up in your brain, that might be a hint to help you with the clues. Any part of some is better than no part of any.”

Noted: He reads the end of the preface from TFTW beginning with “I put a small rubber dinghy in the Madison River…”

He quotes, extemporaneously, “Out of the night that covers me, dark is the pit from pole to pole. I thank whatever Gods may be for my unconquerable soul.” “And, I think that’s a good place to stop. Don’t you?” (This is the first stanza of the poem Invictus by William Earnest Henley, a British poet who died in 1903. The entire poem is 4 4-line stanzas, and can be found here. Again, interestingly, Henly’s poem uses the same four line per stanza rhyme and metre as Fenn’s treasure poem.)

Collected Works Video: Selected Quotes, Notes & Commentary (to gain access go to http://bit.ly/fennvideo)

This document is protected by password. If you want access to this document, please go to our Vimeo on Demand page at: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/fennatmobydickens.

captureThe following includes quotes transcribed directly from the video, “Forrest Fenn at Collected Works in Santa Fe,” along with my commentary and some notes that I made. My material in italics.

“If you read the preface to my book, you’ll understand why I titled it ‘Too Far to Walk.'” (Especially the last 3 paragraphs of the preface.)

“When I write, I can say anything I want to, because I don’t have any rules.”

“In each of my books, I’ve made up words.”

“There’s one clue in this book (TFTW) that’s not in ‘The Thrill of the Chase,’ and I didn’t know the clue was in this book until it was printed. (It’s not the map. He knew that map was going to be in the book. That leaves us with, 1. it’s in the book someplace else, or 2. it’s on the map and the clue made it through whatever editing was done on the map. I think it’s in the book, in the last few paragraphs of the preface. I’ll explain why in another post entitled “The Unintended Clue in TFTW.”)

“If I don’t have an answer to a question, I just make up one. Because a person asks a question, needs an answer.” (In his books. I’ve seen him refuse to answer a question in public.)

“I’ve said before the treasure chest is heavy. And it…I made two trips to hide it where I wanted it to be. But I’ve told people: don’t look for the treasure chest in a place where a 79 or 80 year old guy can’t take it.”

“People tell me their climbing on top of the mountain. When these guys are making a mistake I don’t want to interrupt them.”

“The treasure is hidden below 20,000 feet.” (Yet another in a long list of unhelpful clues. All the Rockies are under 20,000 feet in height.)

“I haven’t given a clue (that) I think was going to help anybody substantially.” (This, to me, was the most informative statement of the night. It simply means we can ignore all the post-publication clues he’s spoken. As he is fond of saying, “It’s in the poem.”)

“Well, you know…let me put this in perspective. So many people have decided they’re going to take a picnic lunch out on Sunday and look for the treasure…or something to do over spring break. I’m lookin’ at a hundred years down the road…a thousand years, maybe ten thousand years down the road. It took me 15 years to write the poem. I’ve changed it so many times and I’ve said before that I didn’t write that poem…it was written by an architect…each word is deliberate.” (No an architect did not write the poem. Fenn wrote the poem in the same way he would architect a building. Noted: he is neither a trained writer or a trained architect. He’s a been a ‘seat of the pants’ kind of guy his entire life.)

“People tell me where they are…they’re very precise in their descriptions of where they are…where they’ve been and I can tell that some of them have been pretty close.”

“A metal detector will help you if you’re exactly in the right spot.”

“I’ll tell you that it’s not on a top of any mountain. That’s a big clue ’cause there’s lots of mountains out there…it may be close to the top…”

“If a person reads the poem over and over…and are able to decipher the first few clues in the poem, they can find the treasure chest. It may not be easy, but it certainly isn’t impo…I could go right straight to it.”

“I’ve said some things in my books… I’ve made some deliberate errors, just to see if anybody would find them and they don’t and they haven’t.”

“When I wrote that poem, I wasn’t playing any games. It’s straightforward.”

(How many clues has someone cracked?) They’ve cracked the first two, and went right past the treasure chest. Several people have done that.