In 1939, when Forrest Fenn was nine years old, he found his first treasure. It was a small arrowhead
2010, Santa Fe, New Mexico: The quest begins
A tall and sprightly elderly man carries something into his car. He adjusts his cowboy hat and drives away from his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The car heads north, into the Rocky Mountains. The world doesn’t know it yet, but this is the start of one of history’s greatest treasure hunts.
Eventually, the man arrives at his destination, deep in the wilds of the Rockies. He carefully removes his precious cargo from his car. It’s a Romanesque (dating to Roman times) bronze chest, with beautiful carvings decorating the outside. The chest itself is a square foot in size and is worth about $25,000.
He hikes to a certain spot, leaves the chest in his chosen hiding place, and returns home.
Sometime later, he comes back to the place where he hid the chest. This time he is carrying millions of dollars’ worth of ancient treasures. Among the hoard are precious gems like rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and diamonds. There is also gold. Lots of gold. Hundreds of golden nuggets and gold artifacts dating to before the time of Columbus. There are also several Chinese jade figurines. All in all, the treasure weighs about 42 pounds (19kg).
The man is an eccentric character named Forrest Fenn, and despite what you might think, he knows exactly what he’s doing. In fact, this strange trip is years in the making. Forrest Fenn places the valuables in the chest and leaves it there for anyone in the world to find.
Who is Forrest Fenn?
In 1939, when Forrest Fenn was nine years old, he found his first treasure. It was a small arrowhead. He didn’t even have to look for it. It was just lying there in a plowed field in Little Elm Creek, Texas. According to Fenn, that arrowhead is the most precious artifact in his entire collection. It was that arrowhead that sparked a lifetime of searching for ancient artifacts.
Luckily for Forrest, his father, Marvin Fenn, loved the great outdoors. Come summer, he would pack up his family and take them camping for months on end. He taught Forrest everything there was to know about living in nature. By age 13, Forrest was working as a fly-fishing guide in Yellowstone National Park.
In 1950, 20-year-old Forrest joined the US Air Force and became a fighter pilot. During the Vietnam War, he flew 328 combat missions within 348 days! He also managed to get his fighter plane shot down by the enemy — twice. The first time, he succeeded in landing his plane on a much-too-short runway. The second time, he was forced to eject himself from his burning aircraft. He was rescued by helicopter the next day.
After his tour of duty, Fenn taught pilot training. He was offered a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, but by then Forrest Fenn had had enough of fighting. In September 1970, after having served his country for 20 years, Fenn retired from the Air Force with the rank of Major.
After his grueling years in the Air Force, Forrest decided that his life needed to seriously slow down. He, his wife Peggy, and their two daughters moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1972, where they opened a gallery, called Old Santa Fe Trading Co. They dealt mainly in old Western paintings by famous 19th century American artists. But his main passion was for objects like his first arrowhead — things that told a story of bygone days.
(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 781)