Archive for November, 2014


More than a while ago, I left the United States mid-winter for Brazil. I thought I had packed just right for the temperature there but, it turned out, I was several degrees short. So on one of our long lunch breaks, I went off to find a new shirt and bought one that was kind of splotchy with light blue and light tan and light white splotches; it made me look very Brazilian.
A couple of years later I was in a hotel in Amman, Jordan having a normal Jordanian hotel breakfast while pretending I was a Brazilian when I looked up from my chickpea, pita bread, yoghurt, cucumber and two olives to see a guy sitting on the other side of the room with the exact same shirt as the one I had on; same blue, tan and white splotches with the same elegant Brazilian cut, eating the exact same meal I had had the night before at a friend’s home which consisted of chickpea, pita bread, yoghurt, cucumber and a big dish of olives. Was it just a “coincidence” or was it a Soviet spy playing with my head?
How about this one: one of my now aging nephews went by Cairo, Egypt a year or so after his college graduation to see his parents before he went off to count refugees from the Vietnam War. While in Cairo he decided that he really had to climb a pyramid—the big one—just to see if he could. So, one dark night, as he neared the apex of his climb, he heard voices. He got to the summit and there seated on that small space was a young couple half of which was a high-school classmate who may or may not have been an ex-girlfriend. He won’t say. Was it just a “coincidence” or was it a “payback” she had conjured up say…six years earlier?
I have a friend from the old Chile days that I have seen maybe five times in the last 45 years—all of them chance meetings in places like a street in Mexico City, a restaurant in Guatemala, a hotel in Quito and, once, in the men’s room in the San Jose, Costa Rica airport where, while I was just standing there staring at the wall trying to figure out why someone had drawn all those small, weird looking civil war canons, a guy slides in beside me and starts yakking about a subject that seemed familiar. It was his final point to a discussion we had been having five years before. “Coincidence?”
The web machine is full of people trying to figure out just what a “coincidence” actually is. As far as I can tell, they come in three kinds, by which I mean the people.

There are the mathematicians-statisticians, who, after many, many pages of very dense statistical stuff normally found only in my nightmares, who conclude that there is one chance in a gazillion billion that they will ever get it right.

There is the “God Group” whose answer is immediate and with absolute certainty that it is their “Friend on High” who had it all planned out a few thousand years ago.

And then there is the third group made up of even more confident folk who say that “There ain’t no such damn thing as a ‘coincidence,’ no matter how much something may look like one.”

I normally fall in one or the other of the three groups depending on the latest made-up conspiracy theory from “Breitbart” and whether or not my lovely wife has made us a sandwich of chick pea, yoghurt, and cucumber salad stuffed into pita bread along with all the olives I can eat.
Now, to put all of this into the context of why you are wasting your time reading it, I know of a small lake somewhere north of Santa Fe that I am absolutely almost certain that Forrest Fenn also knows, and the name of that lake is the same as that of a clan of Forrest Fenn’s not so long-lost relatives who probably homesteaded the place. “Coincidence,” you say? I doubt that’s what you are doing because what you are really doing is wondering just where on earth that lake may be.
Fine. But what I’m doing is wondering what happened to that splotchy shirt? And the troubling part of that is that I’ll surely find it long before any of us find Forrest Fenn’s treasure.
Have a great Thanksgiving.

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Forrest lets us know that he has no affection for Dancing with the Stars although it took until page 139 of his Memoir to let it be known. That, however, doesn’t mean he doesn’t dance. Doesn’t mean he does either.

But I suspect that since he has always had that outgoing personality and given the photograph of the dapper young fellow on page 46 of that same Memoir, at least by Texas standards, what with the wide lapels and fresh haircut, at one time he knew the rudiments of dancing. Besides, he had a lovely Sweetheart and if the students at Temple High had any sense they surely named them their high school’s “Favorite Couple” and even with his being a Southern Baptist and all, there is little chance that he was a total wallflower. Besides, the photo of that authoritative expression wearing a Temple letter sweater and white socks that sits on the fender of “Bullet” (Page 52 of Too Far to Walk—part two of his Memoir) kind of proves it.

And, what kind of a dancer was he? If I were forced to say, I’d say that he was more like a Sandhill Crane than a Broad-tailed Hummingbird and the differences are, ahh, large:

The Broad-tailed weighs in at a little over a tenth of an ounce while the Sand-hill comes in over ten and a half pounds.

The Broad-tailed has a wingspan of five and a quarter inches and an overall length of four inches whereas the Sandhill’s wingspan is six feet plus and its length nearly four feet.

And the dancing is likewise a mismatch. That of the Broad-tailed male is aimed at a specific object of his “affection” who just sits there watching and measuring it all, by which I mean there is a whole lot of horizontal figure eights over a space of a couple of feet and then a series of flights of sixty or seventy feet straight up and then straight down. Once he wins that pretty little thing, he is on to the next.

Then the poor gal gets to build the nest herself—a labor of about a week at four hours a day in which over thirty trips an hour are made. The result is a nest of anything small and fluffy and enough spider-web to hold it all together. In the end it resembles an empty half of a walnut shell camouflaged with a bit of moss.

On the other hand, the dance of the Sandhill is a lot of bowing and curtsying, and jumping by lifelong partners who seem to be gargling with several pints of Sprite each to keep their hydration up. And then all the neighbors join in the fun until the whole wetland resembles a full-blown rave at its height with most of the moves you would expect: head-banging, jumping, fist-pumping, shtomping—even twirking, a whole lot of twirking.

Sandhill nest building is likewise totally different from that of the Broad-tailed Hummingbird. Both parents are involved; it takes place far to the north and is the work of individual pairs.

On our very first search for Forrest’s treasure almost four years ago my wife and I stumbled on a nest-building duo just a few yards from where many believe Forrest’s “inadvertent” clue in Too Far to Walk will lead them and that was a long time before he decided to mistakenly put that “clue” out there for all of us to see.

We found nothing of the treasure, of course; but what we did find was a pair of Sandhill Cranes building their nest in the lee of a small island that had formed in the middle of a river. They were standing together and every 20-30 seconds the male would bend down to pluck a stick or a leaf or a two-needled lodgepole pine fascicle from the water as the stick or leaf or fascicle floated by. He would then toss what he had found to his mate who would add it to the pile of other sticks and leaves and fascicles and then sit on them, wiggle a bit, stand up, adjust the pile some and try again. We watched until dark and though we weren’t formally introduced, we called them “Bubba” and “Peggy.”



shc madison

Peggy and Bubba nest building on the Madison.

ps If you are at all interested in Sandhill Crane dancing, it is precisely this time of year when some 30,000 of them show up along the middle Rio Grande. Take a trip to the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge just south of Socorro, New Mexico to meet up with about 10-15 thousand of them along with what seem to be a million light geese, some hawks and eagles and coyotes, a gazillion ducks of several varieties and an equal number of tourists—also of several varieties. Maybe we will see you there.

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