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When I Read Forrest's Autobiography

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  • When I Read Forrest's Autobiography

    Hi Everyone,

    This is our copy of Educating Ardi. The two stick figures were drawn by Forrest. Forrest gave us this book in mid-December, shortly after he got the copies from the publisher.
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    This is the dedication page. Everyone in the family called Peggy "Kiki," but I don't know the origin of that.
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    I am not willing to share any of the pages with pictures of Ardi, but here is the ending page with Forrest after all the misadventures.
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    Every year Forrest went to a New Years day party at a neighbor's house and this past year he wanted me to go with him. I wasn't sure that I would fit into the Santa Fe elite crowd, but I figured if I copied what Forrest did and didn't double-dip any potato chips into the guacamole, I'd probably be okay. So I said, "Yes."

    When I stopped by to pick him up, I had barely sat down on the couch when he slid another copy of Educating Ardi across the cushions to me, "Have I given you a copy of my book yet?"

    This was a problem because in the last copy he had given us, he had pre-signed it before we had even seen it. If I said, "Yes" and he had already signed it to us, then he would think that he had wasted a copy. So I decided to open the book and decide on my answer once I saw whether he had already inscribed it to us. I opened the book and there was no inscription (Whew! Cleared that hurdle), but in the lower corner I could see that it was copy #8! I assume that copies 1-7 went to the grand-kids and so he was offering me the next copy after that. Aaaargh! I will never sell my copy so the sequence number doesn't really matter, but the collector in me always wants the lowest number possible. And #8 is a lot better than #29.

    I slid the copy back to him, "Yes, you gave us a copy a couple of weeks ago."
    Forrest, "I thought I probably had."

    Somewhere, someone has copy #8 and I figure that they owe me at least a copy of coffee.

    I don't really have any interesting stories from the party - Forrest charmed everyone as usual and I didn't commit any social faux pas that were directly pointed out to me.

    When we got back, I hung out for awhile and it was getting close to the time I needed to leave when Forrest said, "Let me show you my Custer material" as we had been talking about the battle of the Little Big Horn. We left the couch and went over to the bookcase. Forrest sat on a little chest that is next to the table with the Indian Dolls and I sat on the floor. There were three leather binders and he pointed at the middle one, "Take out that one."

    I pulled it out and on the first page was an original letter that General Custer had written and the next page was the $23,000 receipt that Forrest had paid for it years ago. Who keeps an original Custer letter in a cheap binder on the bottom shelf of their bookcase? And Forrest had stuff like that all over. He once handed me an original letter from Abraham Lincoln and asked, "Do you know anyone who collects Lincoln and would want to buy this?" My life is so much more boring with him gone.

    As I was putting the Custer book back, I noticed the binder next to it (on the left) had a small "f" at the top of it's spine. I reached for it with the comment, "What is this?"

    This is a photograph of the corner from an earlier time when I was at Forrest's house - there are still books on those shelves that I would eventually buy. The book I am reaching for is on the second shelf from the bottom and in the middle of the bookcase. By the way, you can see Marvin's journal in the photo that has "MARVIN FENN" on the spine. I don't see the YELLOWSTONE journal - the space where it was is empty in this photo.
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    Here is a close up of the book - in the middle of the picture with the "f" at the top of the spine.
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    Forrest had never set any limits on what I could look at in the office, but this time I could sense hesitation as he didn't say anything right away. My hand was resting on the book when he finally said, "It's my autobiography."
    Holy cow! Holy cow! I left my hand resting on it for what seemed like an eternity, but was likely only a small pause and then Forrest said. "You can look through it if you would like."

    So I pulled the book onto my lap and flipped it open. I would guess there were about a hundred pages in it. The pages were in those protective sleeves you can insert documents into - the same ones used in the Custer book. The pages were type written and most pages had at least one original photograph stuck to it. Some pages had more than one photograph and very little text and other pages were mostly all text.
    I looked up in awe, "When did you do this?"
    "I started it on yellow pad. I then typed it into the computer. I didn't realize the advantages of a computer early on." So he had done it a long time ago.
    I flipped through some more pages and recognized photos from The Thrill of the Chase, "These are the original photos that are in The Thrill of the Chase?"
    "Yes."
    I flipped through some more pages and asked the obvious question, "Is this the same autobiography that is in the chest?"
    Small hesitation on Forrest's part, "The copy in the chest is condensed from this." That would explain why his family would hold the copyright over the chest version since this was the full original.
    "Does your family know about this?"
    "No, only me." And, of course, now me. I was expecting him to add something about me needing to keep it secret, but that ask never came. I like to think that he trusted me enough to know that I would hold the secret until I felt the time was right, which turns out to be today. I imagine by now that his family must have found the book.

    If I had known that COVID was going to soon put an end to my visits and that Forrest would pass soon after that, then I would have done things completely differently. I would have dragged him to the couch and gone through it page by page with him. Asked for every single story. But in my mind, I had all the time in the world to talk to him about it later. So I closed the book and put it back in its place on the shelf.

    I said, "Thanks." Forrest nodded and that was the end of it.

    Russ

  • #2
    Thanks Russ, these are really interesting stories!
    Post-it note

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    • #3
      Wow, Russ -- thanks for sharing some details about Forrest's mysterious autobiography. You have enough unique inside information that you could write a very good biography about Forrest. *I* would certainly read it.

      So Forrest's autobiography sounds more expansive than the details he's shared in his trio of memoirs. Do you have an opinion about whether Forrest's "Ramblings and Rumblings" (which he also started off writing in pencil on a yellow pad before transitioning to his computer) could actually be the condensed version of his autobiography that he shrunk at Kinko's and sealed inside the olive jar (and presumably also in his bronze bells)? The word length is about right.

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      • #4
        You're a good writer, Russ. Probably because you're a good reader.

        I always thought one of the funniest tricks that people (some searchers) believed in was that Forrest wasn't well read. I took one read of TTOTC and said "Yeah, right. Forrest Fenn!" And I think that's one of the funniest parts about it. People missed when he talked about the fox dressing like a hound. The fox is the clever one. He disguises himself by pretending to be foolish. Forrest was a very bright person. You stories are fun to read.

        I thought it was hilarious that he screwed up A Farewell To Arms because how can you summarize a book you haven't read? Hilarious. And the idea that he didn't read the Nick Adams stories by Hemingway seemed odd to me, since they were all about a veteran trout fishing. Did you ever see any Hemingway on those shelves or others? Thanks in advance and keep the content coming. Great stories from a brand new perspective of someone who knew him well and was actually his friend.

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        • #5
          Thank you for these little glimpses into Forrest's life. I am curious, did he know you were a searcher? He seemed to be willing and interested in sharing. My impression is that he was very genuine with you, more so than with others.

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          • #6
            By the way, thank you for sharing that nice high-resolution image of a good chunk of Forrest's book collection. I can probably make out close to a hundred of his book titles, and can finally read the labels on some of the Fenn alcohol bottles that I couldn't read before: starting on the left next to his sabre tooth cat I can make out Fenn Tequila, followed by three wine bottles I can't read, then Fenn Kentucky bourbon, Fenn Extra Dry Gin from London, and another Fenn Tequila bottle. Three shelves down I see what looks like a wine or champagne bottle (Veuve Cliquot?), but what's the bronze-like object that looks like it has a handle sitting atop that box of 6 similar-looking books?

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Zapster View Post
              Wow, Russ -- thanks for sharing some details about Forrest's mysterious autobiography. You have enough unique inside information that you could write a very good biography about Forrest. *I* would certainly read it.

              So Forrest's autobiography sounds more expansive than the details he's shared in his trio of memoirs. Do you have an opinion about whether Forrest's "Ramblings and Rumblings" (which he also started off writing in pencil on a yellow pad before transitioning to his computer) could actually be the condensed version of his autobiography that he shrunk at Kinko's and sealed inside the olive jar (and presumably also in his bronze bells)? The word length is about right.
              Great questions, Zap. I'm not Russ but wouldn't it seem odd if the R&R is the bio he put in there? It ends before he even gets to Santa Fe, and it's got a lot of information about people who aren't him. Maybe it was, but in my mind I pictured it as something different. R&R is a bit jumbled to me.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by June Did Everything Right View Post

                Great questions, Zap. I'm not Russ but wouldn't it seem odd if the R&R is the bio he put in there? It ends before he even gets to Santa Fe, and it's got a lot of information about people who aren't him. Maybe it was, but in my mind I pictured it as something different. R&R is a bit jumbled to me.
                As you say, June, R&R looks like rough-draft material, and Forrest seemed to be still actively adding to it ... up until it abruptly ends with his review of Eli Levin's book "The Art Colony".

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                • #9
                  Russ, your stories always leave me speechless....

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                  • #10
                    Wow. Now that’s what I’m after.

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                    • #11
                      What a cool story
                      “Positivity triumphs over negativity” - famous quote by the famous Cowlazars 2018

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                      • #12
                        Russ, Id like to spend a week in your library! How long have you been collecting books? (Two of the best smells in my opinion are old books and new coffee!)
                        Last edited by Grizzbait; 10-21-2020, 08:08 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Thank you for sharing, Russ.
                          I would’ve loved to sit with Forrest for even one day and listened to some of his stories and seen a few of his books.

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                          • #14
                            I will note the family owns the copyright and has been asked (when discovered) to not reproduce or sell. This is the finder’s story. And a valuable one.
                            “Positivity triumphs over negativity” - famous quote by the famous Cowlazars 2018

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                            • #15
                              On the second shelf from top, on far right, I see Forrest's copy of "Eighty." I'd have loved to pluck that volume from the shelf and seen Eric's scrawl. Did you ask Forrest about it, Russ? Thanks for sharing.

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