Featured Question with Forrest Fenn and The Thrill of the Chase Treasure Hunt: Catsup

treasure hunt forrest fennMr. Fenn, you were in the military for twenty years and most of us never served. There must be incidents from those days that still stick in your mind. Can you share a few with us?~Thanks, Romnella


Sure Romnella, there are many.

Sometimes my memory harkens back to an incident that happened in 1950. I was a new private in the Air Force and was totally overwhelmed by high ranking sergeants. Officers didn’t bother me because I rarely saw one.

In the mess hall one day I opened a new bottle of catsup. When I did, the rim broke in my hand and small fragments of glass fell in on top. I was justifiably appalled and quickly realized that my destiny was at hand. When I approached the Mess Sergeant the six stripes on his sleeve truly intimidated me, mostly because I didn’t have any. And his many battle chevrons glared at me with impunity. I was also overawed by the knowledge that he was a survivor of the Bataan Death March.

But I was duty bound and focused on my mission. “Look Sergeant,” I pronounced with malplaced authority, “This catsup bottle is full of broken glass.” His look told me I should have eaten it anyway.

“Well Private, what the h— do you want me to do about it? Throw the d— thing in the trash.” I was slapped in the face by his words. I didn’t think I deserved a medal necessarily, but it could be argued that my alertness and quick action had saved a few lives, and in wartime no less.

Eighteen years later I was a major in war ravaged Vietnam, when I observed a Master Sergeant dump a fifty-five gallon drum of expensive hydraulic fluid on the ground. When I asked what the h— he was doing, he told me that he needed the barrel to make a BBQ pit for the troops.

Well, I didn’t know what the h— to say. It was a war zone, and morale was important. I decided to shut up because I was just a Major and he was a Master Sergeant, and I wasn’t completely sure who ranked whom. f
Best of luck with all that you seek!  And always Treasure the Adventure!

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99 Responses

  1. HeadedDown says:

    there it is again.

  2. Carolyn says:

    Thanks Forrest and Jenny and Romnella! Interesting stories.

  3. Jake Faulker says:

    What the…..

  4. Jonsey1 says:

    I imagine who out ranked who would depend on how the vegetable oil was labeled….
    As far as the Catsup…I wonder what Newton would have thought. Nah. To many acids on base. Lol.

  5. GEYDELKON says:

    I am reminded of working at a special spot where I could hear the children of the past play. I was working at radar site #351 where I would keep track of missiles and satellites. Sometimes it seemed the down range chief was ready to act if my joystick started to drift. When we had a mission hold, I would go to this spot located at the foothills on the west side of the range near the site. There I would wonder of its past. There was this old post maybe 6 inches off the ground that was showing its age and purpose. I would find pottery shards and many other tools. I would just sit there with the sun beating down on me and I could hear the children of the past running and playing. Little did they know I would be there listening.

  6. Sparrow says:

    Thank you Forrest, Jenny and Romnella. I relish stories having to do with Catsup. 🙂

    • GEYDELKON says:

      Maybe he talking about its time to “catch up”. I think the grass is growing under my feet.

      • GEYDELKON says:

        I am surprised no one caught what 6 stripes represent. Each strip on the cuff represents 4 years in service. 24 years. 18 years later =42. Just sayin.

        • pdenver says:

          Thank you, GEYDELKON. I did not know this.

          • pdenver says:

            I’m a little confused right now. I can understand 6 stripes/4 years equals 24, but, if one takes 18 years times by 4 years, doesn’t that equal 72? Maybe it’s too early for my mind to be thinking about Math right now.

        • tighterfocus says:

          GEYDELKON, I think that bringing our attention to stripes is a little teaser
          that relates to the location of the TC (for those who have a good solve).

    • JC1117 says:

      I relish these stories too, Sparrow.

      But it’s difficult to know what to make of them…so I begin by smearing a little ketchup on my shirt.

      I like to practice safe reading by wearing a condiment. :/

      And Geydelkon…I’ll have to catch up later. I have some court-mandated mental health screenings at the mayo clinic.

      Thanks for the glimpse into military life, Forrest. Thank You for Serving, Sir. God Bless You…and All Others who have Served.

  7. Woody Bogg says:

    I wonder if the catsup was HEINZ or some off brand !! Heinz declares Only the best tomatoes will do!!

  8. Snider says:

    That must have took a lot of courage to approach that sergeant.
    So much information in the last couple of weeks. I am still trying to figure everything out.
    I am in the process of getting the courage to use my quarter.
    Thank you Jenny
    Thank you Forrest
    Thank you catsup bottle?
    “Please don’t through me away”

  9. Madesquare says:

    Dad discovered that he could clear the mess hall tables a lot faster with a push room before wiping them down. Unfortunately the sergeant didn’t appreciate the innovation.

  10. Mindy says:

    Romnella and the missing ells….lol

  11. Chesney says:

    Thank You Mr. Fenn, and Ms. Kile…. I did manage to pull some of the “Catsup”, from the glass further down which was not contaminated with any glass. 🙂

  12. Woody Bogg says:

    Forrest Your stories are fun to read and sometimes you make me wonder . Did you expect the Sergeant to give you a new bottle of catsup or did you just want to see his reaction to it!! We love you Forrest Smile.

  13. PL289 says:

    Happy Pi day everyone!

  14. 23kachinas says:

    When in Roma?

  15. 23kachinas says:

    Write 3.14 on a piece of paper and turn it towards a mirror to spell PI.E!

    Happy birthday Einstein

  16. Lia says:

    Do mess Sargents have 6 stripes? IDK, but guessing anyone stuck with mess hall duty would have less stripes on his chevron. Speaking of Chevron, how about a connection to petro companines…EXXon, Standards Pegasus, Conoco (concy; on c) ShELL, Phillips 66. Just my rambling, random thoughts…Broken glass seems important to FF’s story, and oil drum. Are Ell and AMN the new missing D & E? Back to the BINGO game to figure that one out too. Not enough time in my life to figure out Forrest’s new posts, but fun to see he and Peggy so young and in love.

    • Jonsey1 says:

      I might throw Monsanto into that mix…or out of it….

    • tighterfocus says:

      Lia, you mentioned something that relates to a good solve, in my opinion. But I don’t want
      to say too much, because I don’t (yet) have the TC in my hands. Good luck in your solving
      and searching.

  17. Ken says:

    Is there a link where I can submit a question for Mr. Fenn?


  18. Lia says:

    Hmmm, is catsup considered a condiment? Catsup is typically branded by Hunts & D”el” Monte. If ff meant catch up, he would have used ketchup. Plenty of references to cats in ttotc. Referring back to Jenny’s visit to San Lazaro Pueblo, Medicine rock is said to resemble a mountain lion/cat up type rock. Now, Mr. Fenn I am once again chasing my tail rather than purring like a kitten. Your posts are infinetly entertaining, and apt to confuse me :-).

  19. jl says:

    Catsup~~~~~~~~ i give up f is obviously too far out there for me to walk.

  20. Passenger says:

    Very enlightening Forrest — Thank you.

  21. Lia says:

    “…I was just “A Major” could be a musical reference. The “Trout Quintet” is written in A Major; composed by Schubert at age 22; written for piano and stringed instruments including the cello and double bass. Of course I would assume that ttotc key references would be in F major. All just for fun; different ways to look at Forrest’s information; usually just sends me down the rabbit hole.

  22. Strawshadow says:

    Thank you Jenny, Romnella and Mr. Fenn.

  23. Jeremy P. says:

    I think this thread has some good explanations of why the chest remains undiscovered. You have some really smart people missing really obvious things. On one hand, people are creative and notice that the missing letters in D– and H– anagram the emailer’s name to Roman L. That’s really clever in my opinion. So then everyone’s wondering what 50 might mean. But then no one mentions that there is, in fact, three Ls.

    It’s weird. People are really good with obscurity, apparently, but miss obvious things like that.

    So if 50 matters, it could be 50 + 50 + 50, or 50 X 50 X 50, or even 350, or what have you.

    It’s like if you were to say, I dunno, something like: “I’m going to tell you the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Then you hide a ‘C’, an ‘A’, and a ‘T’ in it, and everyone gets hung up on “cats” and totally forgets about the bears. That’s probably a bad analogy, but you get the idea.

    • Kedar's Mom says:

      Why the chest remains undiscovered..because of the outrageous dare to retrieve it..who does that..haha ff. Darn, I’m out of catsup. : )

    • ace 340 says:

      Ding🙂 g

    • Zaphod73491 says:

      Hi Jeremy — there is ambiguity over whether Forrest is hinting at three L’s or four, or even eight. You have the triplet of h— and the “ell” in Romnella’s (fake) name, plus a second instance of her name in his reply, and one “fell” and two “Well”s. So is it the L’s that matter or their Roman L numerical connection to 50? The latter is perhaps more likely since he says the incident occurred in 19*50*, plus there are almost a dozen references to 50 in TTOTC.

      • Jeremy P. says:

        You forgot “or none”, as in maybe he’s not hinting at anything 🙂

        Maybe he likes to anagram. Maybe he never did before the Chase but he sees everyone posting anagrams on here all the time and thinks, “That looks like fun.” So someone actually named Romnella writes to him, his imagination reads it as a Roman L, and he works a little creative writing into his answer to her. Maybe it has nothing at all to do with the Chase. That’s actually the safest assumption.

        I think if you did want to tie it as a hint related to the Chase, it would most certainly correlate to something in the poem or the book. Another safe assumption would be that everything you need to find the chest would already be in there somewhere. So if three L’s, four, five, or what have you matters, it would be in the original material and wouldn’t need hints here except as maybe a reminder.

        • Zaphod73491 says:

          Hi Jeremy — yes, could just be a coincidence that Romnella anagrams to Roman Ell, and that he chose to dash-out the h— and d— for reasons other than that those 6 letters are all in the Romnella name. However, irrespective of whether L or 50 has any connection to the poem solution, the likely-fictitious Romnella name combined with the MacGuffin of this story happens to provide the same clue *for me* that Forrest has hinted at dozens of times in TTOTC, TFTW, the Scrapbooks and elsewhere. If you get the same answer over and over again using a wide variety of delivery methods, it gets pretty hard to dismiss it as random chance. I think Forrest intentionally provides variable hint types figuring that no searcher will recognize them all, but many searchers will at least catch one or two of them.

          But I recognize that many searchers won’t accept that Forrest might continue to provide subtle hints outside of what appears in the poem, TTOTC and TFTW, even though they are useless for solving the clue. But they really aren’t “hints” at all; more like Easter eggs for people on the right track.

      • Lia says:

        Zaphod – may also relate to the ancient Roman mile or Roman ell. Question then becomes…how many ell’s and are they distance or gps related numbers. I give up. Perhaps someone here can make sense of how to apply. http://www.unitconverters.net/length/mile-roman-to-ell.htm

        • JC1117 says:

          Good catch, Lia.

          Maybe there’s a link between Roman ells and Forrest’s “66,000 links north of Santa Fe” comment…no pun intended.

          Is Forrest taking some kind of Poetic License there?

          Maybe…maybe not. You don’t get to be a fighter jet pilot without being very precise.

          An example of poetic license might be Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. Most everyone’s first thought when they read that title is…”Wow! That must be really deep!” Which it is. In fact…1 league is 3.45 miles. So 20,000 leagues is actually 69,047 miles! That’s pretty deep…especially considering that planet earth is only 7,917 miles in diameter.

          Well…long story short…Jules Verne is referring to distance traveled “under the sea” (submarine) and not actual depth.

          You’re welcome. Now you don’t need to read the book.

          Just throw that one right in the ol’ dumpster. 🙂

          Just kidding.

          The point is…we have to find out the hidden meanings that Forrest is concealing…and not just what his words seem to mean on the surface. I suppose that goes without saying. LOL!


          • Lia says:

            A”Good scratch” of the surface is more accurate Jc1117. To be honest I’ve spent 3-4 years just scratching the surface of what forrest fenn might be intending layers in his poem to mean. Have officially decided I won’t be the one to solve it or find the gold. Taking a girls trip to Santa Fe to punctuate my ttotc journey’s end with a smile and move on. Best wishes to you.

        • Jeremy P. says:

          I didn’t know “Ell” was a unit of measurement.


          Yikes. This does not bode well. I don’t know what Forrest hints at, if anything, ever, but one thing is pretty certain. The only real reason measurements would matter in a treasure hunt is if the thing is literally or practically buried. 🙂

  24. astree says:

    I think there are a lot of things you can do with the name (including reading it backwards, and ALL N MORE, but am missing where the D, H, and extra L come from?)

    Shifting the letters in GLASS give KP..EWW – does that count? :)

    • astree says:

      Oh, you were talking about the cursive words that he blanked in his narrative? Still missing how they anagram to ROMAN L.

      • nmc says:

        RomAN ELL. There were 3 ELLs altogether. H_ , H_ and RomnELLa.

        • Buckeye Bob says:

          There’s also a D_, so A, M, and N are missing too.

        • Buckeye Bob says:

          nmc, I’m replying here for more room. About your “ALL MEN” question…
          No, that’s not the way I see the Fenn hints working.

          Think mirrors (glass) here.
          M and N divide the alphabet.
          If you are stuck in the middle (between the mirrors as two halves of the same alphabet), go back to the beginning (A).

          We’re talking “aberrations” and “dichotomies” here.

          I hope this doesn’t help TOO much, 😉 .

          • nmc says:

            Nope, you’re safe 🙂 I’ve been more about looking for aberrations on the edge, but could certainly apply to one “in the middle” as well, or if you want to anagram catsup, one “at cusp” (horn of a crescent).

  25. Wensley Dale says:

    80% of you are nuttier than squirrel dung….anagrams…catsup/catchup indeed!

    All this says to me is that his character is such he’s told a few inconsequential fibs in the past.
    He’s a quick thinker and fast mover…catch him if you can!

  26. pdenver says:

    Thank you for another “Featured Question,” Jenny, and Mr. Fenn.

  27. Buckeye Bob says:

    It seems to me that people are playing catchup again, and that means there’s someone in the lead.
    Also, just noting that mirrors are made of glass.
    There might be more because ff doesn’t like to miss the bananas.

  28. 23kachinas says:

    Condiments version of Rock-Paper-Scissors

    A1 beats ketchup on steak
    Mustard beats ketchup on sandwiches
    Ketchup ties mustard on hot dogs
    Veganiase beats mayonnaise
    Ranch beats ketchup and mustard on fries
    Plastic beats glass when it comes to condiment containers

    Ok that didn’t work as well as I had planned, good thing it was just IMO


    • GEYDELKON says:

      How about ketchup on your hash browns. I earned a few stripes while I was in the Navy. They are also called hash marks. Just sayin.

  29. JDA says:

    When Forrest was a private, I am sure that ANY sergeant was impressive.

    As a Major, Forrest was smart enough to know that he couldn’t fly were it not for the Non-coms (Non commissioned officers – the Sergeants – E5 – E-10)
    Sure he “Out ranked” the Sergeant, but did it really matter? Probably not.

  30. Sparrow says:

    Hey Stealth, you still around? Another post you might be interested in.

    ..The glass FELL IN.
    “Well, Private…..”
    “Well, I didn’t know….”

    Your theory about a well is beginning to make more sense. 🙂

  31. ace 340 says:

    Well, he certainly was courageous.

  32. JohnR says:

    “Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before
    I swore — but was I sober when I swore?
    And then, and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand
    My thread-bare Penitence apieces tore.”

  33. Nate Beck says:

    I love military stories. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  34. Madesquare says:

    “Ell” could be instructions. The final form of the anagram is L shaped, as in scrabble. You get an extra letter to work with, 9 instead of eight.

  35. BW says:

    Reading about the Bataan Death March is unbelievably gut wrenching. I’m guessing Mr. Fenn felt respect more than fear for the Mess Sergeant.

  36. Sparrow says:

    You can mess with the Sergeant just don’t mess with the poem.

  37. Snider says:

    It is safe to say that Forrest knows when to face his fears and follow his destiny. Spring into action and save maybe a few lives.
    It is also safe to say that Forrest also knows when to keep his mouth shut.
    I find this very comforting.

  38. Heidini says:

    6 stripes… 6 chevrons… chevrons are inverted v’s. Could it be a V6 engine??? Maybe a “chev-y” V6?

  39. tighterfocus says:

    Forrest has provided a couple of (minor) hints here that support a correct solve of the poem, while
    not helping anybody who isn’t “in the know”. I apologize for anything I’ve said here that offends
    or bothers anyone. Forrest is teasing (some of) us, and having fun at the same time. And if he has
    referred to anyone in particular, I think he’s barking up the wrong tree, because I don’t think that
    particular person has much chance of finding the TC.

    • Buckeye Bob says:

      No offense meant, tf, but just to point out that that person you think doesn’t have much of a chance would be the same one the rest of us are playing “catsup” with…right?
      I’m hoping you are seeing the humor here. 😉

      Actually, it occurs to me that wintertime is a “catsup” period for everyone so maybe there’s no one person implied.

  40. Buckeye Bob says:

    Has no one looked up the meaning of “ell” yet?
    There’s an obvious meaning that I didn’t see yet, and it always scares me a little when those things don’t get mentioned.

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