Forrest Fenn and Hear Me All and Listen Good

640px-Flock_of_sheepSince I was probably about 16 years old, I have had fun asking the following simple question to people.  Interestingly, I am continually given the wrong answer to the question, multiple times.  It’s not a trick question, and to me, it is a perfect example for a ‘Hear me all and listen good’ question.

I am reminded of the below’s account when considering Forrest Fenn’s poem and going over the many new Fenn Questions.  I try to ask myself, what is Forrest really saying?  Am I listening to all he has to say, and am I hearing him correctly?

The following will not have the same powerful effect as it would have if I were to speak it to you.  It needs to be said and heard to appreciate fully.  However, ask the question to anyone else and you will soon understand what I am talking about.  I have no doubt about that.  I’ve been asking it for years.

This is the question that I ask people:

“There are twenty sick sheep.  One dies.  How many are left?

This is what 99.9% of the people always hear:

“There are twenty six sheep.  One dies.  How many are left?”

Before I ask the question, I tell them it is not a trick question.  And it isn’t.  But the #1 answer I get is, of course, 25.

When I tell them the answer is wrong, I ask them again, and clearly say ‘twenty sick sheep’.  But they still hear 26 (twenty six)sheep, and so the #2 answer I get is then, ‘oh, you didn’t say a sheep died, just that ‘one of something’ died.  So there are still 26 sheep left.’

I tell them again that their answer is wrong and I ask them a third time.  By now, they really listen good.  But you know what, the #3 answer I get is still not the correct answer.  It is usually an argument saying the answer is 25.

But I ask them again.  And after the fourth time, I usually get answers which have something to do with sheep on the right or left or in the middle.  I hear, ‘Aha! I can’t give you the answer because I don’t know how many of the 26 sheep were on the right to begin with!  Can’t trick me!’

The first time I heard that answer, I was thinking what the heck are you talking about…lol…my own question tricked me back.  And then I realized they focused on the word ‘left’ and assumed it must be a clever question having to do with where the Sheep originally were; left or right.  Which it isn’t.  I have no idea whether the Sheep were on the left or right.

They still haven’t heard me, even though I have always said it clearly to them every time I have said it.

There are many times I have to tell people what I am saying.  The first time they heard it, they took it as 26, and from that time on, no matter how slow or how straightforward I say ‘Twenty SICK sheep’, they continue to hear twenty SIX sheep (26).

There are even a few times where they insist the answer is 25.

I just walk away and say, I think the answer is 19.



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21 Responses

  1. Brian Porter says:

    Wouldn’t the answer be 20?

    “There are twenty sick sheep. One dies. How many are left?”

    You would still have 20 sheep – 19 alive, one dead. Just because one is dead doesn’t mean it’s still not a sheep… You didn’t say how many were left alive?

    If one of your relatives was deceased, you would be mortified if I told you they just didn’t exist anymore. They are still there – you go visit the grave, etc.

    Not to be offensive or non-emotional. Hope it comes across that way…


    • Jenny Kile says:

      LOL! Excellent point Brian……Tricked again by my own riddle. I don’t mind at all. Let me edit it again…:) We will see what happens now…:)

      “There are twenty sick sheep. One dies. How many are left, alive.”

      • Brian Porter says:

        Sorry 🙂 I’ve been communicating with some wily individuals who just won’t let me think normal… 🙂

      • Judy Ms.Girl says:

        I got it right the first time it was 19 not 25 nor any funny stuff. Nothing hidden here it was 19 sheep left. Way to play pass the word Mr. Fenn and most people only hear what they want to hear and not what you say. Jenny, great funny!! Hope you ask Mr. Fenn my question. Thanks, MS. Girl

  2. idahoHaldol says:

    Jenny and Brian,

    f would enjoy the correct answer as “twenty” – – a deep understanding of what question is being asked. Precisely figured out according to all the facts. This makes your example even better than you thought, Jenny.

  3. idahoHaldol says:

    I’m sorry, let me be more precise, as I am still a student in all of this.

    f MIGHT enjoy the correct answer as “twenty’. (I don’t propose to be able to state f’s likes and dislikes for certain)

    What is great about this question is that there is a “distractor” or two that may confound the person being asked the question – – whether written or spoken – – to ever get all the facts right. And then, in typical human fashion, the person won’t release the solution ideas he or she previously assumed were correct, frustrating any later attempts to precisely solve the simple question asked…!!

    • Jenny Kile says:

      Thanks for you comment, IdahoHaldol……Since writing the above article, I have learned just how twisted that simple question can get…lol….I now realize I need to just walk away and rather say, ‘well I don’t know the answer, that is why I was asking you!’ 🙂

      I think it is still a great example for contemplating Forrest Fenn’s (or any) treasure hunt. What may seem simple at first could hold much deeper implications….and meanings.

  4. Seeker says:

    “so hear me all and listen good” has many ways and meanings of looking at it. Not unlike “hint of riches new and old”. There can be so many definitions and alternative sayings to each word, phrase, stanza, that we try and pick the correct “one”.

    Maybe the real problem is we are trying not to use the other definitions and idioms and metaphors, limiting ourselves to not understanding the poem in it’s entirety. If WWWH is important to understanding the poem and a searcher manages to get part of WWWH correct but not all of it… this could be the reason searchers went pass the other clues. They may have not know all or the whole connection.

    Just like the line “So hear me all and listen good”, the line “There’ll be no paddle up your creek” has many definitions to the words as well as phrases and metaphors. Example; ‘ in a bind’, ‘Between a rock and a hard place’, ‘A difficult situation’. Do we pick one that works well with our theory? or do we use all, to see the significance of the entire poem?

    Just food for thought….

    • Sixer/Jenny says:

      Hi Seeker, I’m glad you mentioned this. The above post is only ONE example of how the line ‘hear me all and listen good’ could be taken….There definitely are others.

      I at one time, and still keep it in mind, considered it was a hint to YELLowstone….How does one ‘hear you all, and can listen good?….by YELLing…lol….

      There also was this old song dated from 1895 that I found that had YELL YELLOW YELLOWSTONE, alone, wise, happy (peace) and such in it. I can imagine kids singing it on their way to the park…did maybe Forrest??…. It is as follows:

      wah! hoo! rah!
      Yellowstone, Yellowstone

      Hi-Ho! Hi-HO!
      We’re off for the Yellowstone
      don’t you know
      Never mind the rain spots
      Don’t you miss the paint pots
      Hurrah! for the geysers
      see them blow

      Yell Yellow Yellowstone
      Go on parties not alone
      See the wonders and the geyser
      Go home happy and the wiser.

  5. NTMI says:

    As someone who has sold postal stamps in the course of everyday work life for almost a whole career, I can relate! Although I am SOOO grateful that we now have a Forever stamp, I am aware that the honing of my listening skills back in the day helped me to ensure that a customer got 140 4-cent stamps instead of one hundred 44-cent stamps. LOL!

  6. Kellen says:

    Jenny, here’s a potential clue you may not have thought of: In the book TTOTC, Forrest tells a story about showing school children famous paintings in his art gallery. I think there is a subtle clue hidden in this story. Forrest emphasizes the importance of using several senses to experience art and he even allows the childen to touch the expensive paintings in his gallery. This could mean that you need to use more than just your sense of sight to solve the poem. Look at the line “hear me all and listen good.” This is potentially a clue directing the searcher to listen to the sound of flowing water then go into the water “effort will be worth the cold” in order to retreive the treasure. I don’t believe the treasure is hidden underwater but I think you must cross through water to retreive it.

    • Jenny Kile says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Kellen. So many different ways to interpret the poem lines. I appreciate yours. I love thinking about the various meanings. I do believe ‘hear me all and listen good’ leads to something important. And more than just our sight sense might be needed.

      One thing I like to ask about this particular line is; what is Forrest referring to when he uses it? The whole poem? Sometimes I feel he uses it to get our attention in order to seriously consider the following line of; ‘your effort will be worth the cold’…..Sometimes I feel that line connects to ‘where warm waters halt’ and may hold a key to finding the treasure……… and then sometimes I don’t. lol… Always fun!

    • Joe Jarrett says:

      exactly ,dittos about crossing.
      it’s the ww in wwwh
      that drives me nuts.
      from N of S.F.,,thru MT.., there is so much natural ww, some not,even shown on topos. due to low flow volumes.

  7. stronzo says:

    If you have 20 sick sheep and one dies, you have 19 sick left. The FDA is going to come in and destroy your 19 sick sheep, so you have no sheep left. So the answer is 0.

  8. astree says:

    My grandfather loved this riddle ( so I heard it as a kid ). I guess it depends on what defines a “trick question”, because it does rely on a trick of hearing. Branching out, what did Megan Trainor mean when she sang “it’s all about the BASS?” … lol … is that a clue? BASS are 4 of the 6 first letters of each verse.

    Back to the poem, and your topic – There seems to be an apparent shift in the grammar of the poem around this area, using the “done it tired” and “listen good”.


  9. EnidYJenne says:

    Once I initially commented I seem to have clicked on the -Notify
    me when new comments are added- checkbox now any time a comment is added I recieve
    four emails with the very same comment. Perhaps there is an easy method
    it is possible to remove me from that service?

  10. lee workman says:

    Most of the “sick sheep” trick relies on our human reliance on context to simplify our interpretation of the world. In our day-to-day operations, unless we are sheep farmers, we would subconsciously assume a number, rather than consideration of the health of the sheep to be a qualification. Especially since the question is posed in terms of math, and not sheep condition. We do this constantly, to allow greater bandwidth by filtering out things that “don’t jibe”. Young children are much less susceptible to this. We do the same thing with our eyes as well – it’s been proven in psych tests: things are just “not seen” if they don’t fit. Our brain edits our perceptions as a survival tool, but unless we are trained, we cannot learn to shut it off at will.

  11. Andrew Jef says:

    Jenny, today for the first time I realized that the phrase “hear me all and listen good”, although (in my opinion) it
    may be grammatically wrong, reminds me of Mark Antony’s speech after the death of Julius Caesar. The
    speech (per Shakespeare) begins with “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” . . . which sounds to
    me a lot like telling many people to listen carefully to what I say. This famous speech, by Antony, came shortly
    after the death of an important person (Caesar). Forrest has told us that “MY WAR FOR ME” is the most important
    chapter in TTOTC, and I believe it. The old saying “war is hell” is almost an understatement, in my opinion, and I
    believe that many people would agree with me here. It’s brutal, to say the least . . . please pardon me for a minute . . .
    my eyes are filling with tears as I type this . . . and I’ve never been in a war. Never even been in the military, although
    I have relatives that have. When I think of how many lives have been lost due to greed, corruption, and — yes — the
    downright EVIL that was in the hearts of certain people that caused wars to happen, I want to cry every time.
    I think that Forrest may not have known much about the realities of war when he joined the Air Force. He may have
    just figured that it’s a cool thing to do, as well as a pretty stable career path. I don’t know whether he feels any guilt
    about having effectively done his job, which is likely to have caused many deaths. I do believe that he is strongly
    anti-war, and I’m with him in that regard. I think (and hope) that most of us would prefer all war to be in the past,
    rather than also in the present and the future. Anyway, I think the place where Forrest hid the TC was chosen, in
    part, because of some symbolism that the location evokes for him.

  12. ROLL TIDE says:

    Begin it where warm waters halt . . .
    warm waters halt
    warm waters halt
    warm waters halt
    warm waters salt.

    Look quickly down your quest to cease . . .
    your quest to cease
    your quest to cease
    your quest to cease
    York West to cease.

    And yes, there is one in the RM’s.

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