Archive for October, 2012

Hmmm. I’m sure the question has been asked before especially if “value” means something more than dollars. For example, I can see it being asked by Forrest’s father-in-law sometime before the wedding day and maybe by the Air Force Rescue Team as it went into enemy territory to pull him out after his jet went down over Laos.

However, I asked the question a long time before I even knew Forrest Fenn. No, that’s not right. What I asked was, “Who uses what a Fenn has to offer” and “Who wants to change it to something else?”  But then the economists got hold of the idea and they are still trying to figure out just how to figure out the value of a Fenn. Currently they are running about, hair on fire, mumbling something like this:


What this says, if you are all that interested, is that the net present value (NV) of a Fenn is equal to the sum of all that other stuff with a discount rate of fifty years— clearly an error because the Fenn I know has lasted a whole lot longer than fifty years and I expect he’s good for fifteen to twenty more.

Confused? So am I. If there is any one group, other than attorneys, that absolutely confound me, it is the economists.

So we need to go back to Forrest Fenn, especially since doing so may well get us to one of the best non-poetic clues we are going to get. We can find it in his library.

Of course, I’ve never seen Forrest Fenn’s library but I suspect that somewhere in between his two favorite books, Catcher in the Rye and Flywater, is stashed a well-thumbed dictionary of some kind. I’m thinking that Forrest Fenn loves words more than he lets on. He says he doesn’t use them if he needs to look them up but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know each and every definition of the words he does look up.  And “Forrest” and “Fenn” are two of these words.  After all, who among us has not sought the meaning of our own name? Mine is French for a worker in a salt mine—which would be appropriate except that I’ve never had a job that I didn’t really, really enjoy.

Now, the first thing we need to know about these two words is where they came from because the double “rr” and the double “nn” are kind of weird.  But, if you pronounce the double “rr” and the double “nn” just like they are written and roll those “r”s in “Forrest” and then when you get to the first “n” in Fenn say it again while your tongue is still between your teeth so that what you get is “Forrrrrest Fennn,” before you know it you are speaking “Old English,” which is good because that is where these words came from.

However, getting a definition of “Forrest” is not that easy. Sure, you can drop one of the “r”s to make it “Young English” and find that a “forest” is 1: “A bunch of trees all bunched up” 2: “Woods,” but the problem scientists have with these definitions is that all forests are not created equal—something far too complicated for laymen to look at here. Suffice it to say that calculating a Forrest’s value was a far easier thing to do when it belonged to the Shires or the Romneys.

What about a Fenn? The “definition” of a Fenn from an Old Englishman gives us a hint: “The aer nebulous, grosse, and full of harres; the water putred and muddy – yea, full of loathsome vermene; the earth spaing, vafast, and boggie; the fire noysome, turfe and lassocks – such are the inconuiniences of the drownings” (‘A Discoruse concerning the Drayning of Fennes’, London, 1629 which I got from a fascinating blog called dawnpiper.wordpress.com/land-words. Try it.)

The Old Englishman who gave us this definition was obviously a developer who wanted to drain the Fenns of England and put in a series of subdivisions that, for marketing purposes, would have been called “The Fenns of England One”, The Fenns of England Two” and “The Fenns of England Three” each offering “Modyrn singele faemly hoomes starrting a ae mere foerty poonds six.”

But here is the real skinny. Fenns, or “fens” as they are known today, are wetlands. Specifically they are periodically flooded marshy areas between a body of water and a forest. They may contain species of short woody vegetation like willows but mostly the high water table and flooding mean grasses, sedges, rushes, decaying muck, a sand lens or two and tadpoles.

Fen on Beaver Creek, Montana (Richard E. Saunier)

So now that you know what a “fenn” is, what value do you give it when you are standing “in the wood” next to one and there is a “blaze” just ten feet away?

Best wishes,


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