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.

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

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