Still Lost

Always something worth reading in the Albuquerque Journal, even if it often takes me a day or two to get to it — or my wife points it out to me.  According to an AP story in Wednesday’s paper, the search is resuming for the treasure hunter who went missing  north of Santa Fe in January . Apparently they found a backpack resembling his somewhere on Bandelier Nat’l Monument.

He was looking for Fenn’s Fabulous Hidden Hoard, a chest of gold and jewels Santa Fe antiquities dealer and author Forrest Fenn claims to have stashed somewhere in the back country to promote his self-published book, which allegedly contains clues to the treasure. According to him, some 65,000 people have gone hunting for the loot over the last couple of years.

The story reminds me more and more of the hunt for the Lost Adams Diggings, or the Treasure of Victorio Peak. Or the Lost Dutchman or Pegleg Pete’s or the dozens of other tall tales that have embellished Western history ever since Coronado arrived looking for the Seven Cities of Gold.

In all of those pursuits, the question inevitably arises: Is there really a there there? Or was it a fairytale from the beginning? Adams apparently personally led several expeditions in search of ZigZag Canyon (makes you wonder what the old man was smoking) but proved to be so fuddled and vague a guide that on at least one occasion he narrowly avoided getting lynched by his disappointed partners.

Here’s what I can’t get my head around: Does it really make sense to invest $2 million in gold and jewels to promote a self-published book? A massive ego might account for it, but the economics of the publishing business argue against a profit motive.

Fenn “said his intent was to get people outside and onto an adventure,” according to the AP.  A worthy goal, and one I am trying to pursue with this website, but I’ve grown somewhat skeptical of such open-handed philanthropy lately (see also: Clinton Foundation).  I’m tempted to hunt Fenn up and ask him the one question above all others that every reporter should ask himself if not his source: How do I know what you tell me is true?

Actually, I’m kind of surprised no one with fewer scruples than an Associated Press reporter has  thought of this. There are some very hard guys in the Rio Arriba country, and many of them believe in the direct approach. Rather than waste time looking for the gold, why not go looking for the one guy who certainly knows where it is, and ask him?  Politely at first, of course, but with increasing insistence if necessary. I’m sure Fenn, being a writer, has thought of this — it would make a good plot premise — and has taken the appropriate precautions.

And fortunately most of the clever thieves in Santa Fe are too busy stealing from the taxpayers to bother with such a penny-ante boodle.



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