Six Questions with Domino Ireland: Creator of Cowboy: A Treasure Hunt
Domino Ireland is a true and fascinating explorer. In the following Six Questions, he gives a glimpse into his exciting and adventurous life. His experiences of living life to the fullest are absolutely inspiring. He has done extensive traveling (in total unique ways), and continues to seek out the extraordinary.
Instead of keeping all of the fun to himself, he has chosen to give back by creating Cowboy: A Treasure Hunt, and by what he calls his job; he is an event and recreation planner. From his numerous exploits and his success in solving, and finding, multiple hidden treasures (like hunts of the Silver Key and Scrollquest), he is certainly qualified in the art of providing fun.
You are sure to find fun in his straight from the heart answers! Enjoy!
- 1Q) As someone who has hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, biked from Chicago to LA, and drove from England to Mongolia in a Suzuki Alto, it is obvious you must have seen some remarkable scenery and experienced incredible adventures. Your travels are highly admirable. I must ask, what attracts you to these kinds of journeys?
My most recent epic journey was the Camino de Santiago from France across Spain where not only did I get to run with the bulls in Pamplona, but, I was fortunate that the journey took me through places the Knights Templar once roamed. Every day it was fascinating to be in places that hold deep mysteries. In O’Cebreiro, it is said the Knights hid the Holy Grail for a period there. Imagine standing right there in this small church, in this tiny hamlet, in a mountainous region of Spain, that looks like it is straight out of Ireland…and hearing that the Holy Grail was once here.
The attraction is…well, it’s the road less traveled combined with the things that haven’t been done before. I suppose growing up in a trailer in Jenks, Oklahoma, simply imagining adventure was enough to actually go out and do it, to find a way, once I got things straight enough to do so. I like having created my own stories. Having pride in doing. I imagine, should I be fortunate enough to live to a ripe old age, the memories I’ll have then will bring me back. I shall then laugh, maybe cry, but always be a part of it. Funny, I used to use that line: Laugh, Cry, Become a Part of It.
- 2Q) In your treks across the country, what are a few of your most memorable sights, happenings, or moments? Where would you like to explore or do next?
My fondest memories are with the unexpected encounters with the kindness of strangers. Coming around a corner to have a couple say “you’ll be staying with our family tonight in a converted old bed and breakfast we live in around the corner.” And then finding yourself an hour later sitting with the family in a big, open room with a piano, guitar and all kinds of other music instruments eating great food and belting out tunes while the man of the house plays away on the many instruments and the kids join in on the chorus. “To think, I was going to sleep in a tent in a field this evening.” you say to yourself.
Or, sleeping in a Gur with an entire family of Kazaks in the middle of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia simply because you had mechanical vehicle issues and needed help; and they happen to be who came along, essentially saving you. When you share food, smiles and compassion with folks, and nobody speaks the same language, that’s real adventure.
On the Route 66 bike ride, we met a guy on the first day in Chicago who noticed our packed bikes as we ate our send-off breakfast at a famous eatery. He handed me his card and said “When you get to California, look me up. I am in the hotel business, I’ll put you up.” I emailed him from a motel computer in the middle of the California desert. And ya know what? He was a man of his word and serious about taking care of us. Our last night before the final ride to the end in Santa Monica was spent at the then new ALOFT hotel 60 miles from the end. We arrived to a hero’s welcome and lots of comps. It was truly amazing. Better yet, the day before as we passed through a town on the other side of the mountains, I saw the front page of the USA TODAY. There, staring back at me was a story on, ALOFT hotels. I said to my friend, “Look, I think this is where we’re staying tomorrow when we get over the mountains.”
If you have a half-mind that’s cool, interesting and adventurous things will happen, don’t panic and trust that everything will work itself out, it usually does. The famous long distance cyclist Willie Weir once said “… and adventure is what happens when a plan takes a detour.” One of my favorite quotes- ever- and I love detours that reveal adventure.
What’s Next? I would love to show up in your TV, on oh maybe, SURVIVOR, but that is unlikely. They have passed on me many times. My reality, oh I have a few adventures of various sorts on my radar; and with various stages of plans and un-plans. There are people who are “say’rs” and there are “do’rs” so I won’t be say’n until I am ready to be do’n. Some possibilities are listed at dominoadventures.
- 3Q) As stated in the introduction, you have been successful in the solving, and the finding, of hidden treasures of various hunts. Congrats! What do you feel is the most challenging aspect in making the final and ultimate find? And what has been your most exciting discovery? Did it involve an armchair treasure hunt or was it something else?
What people don’t realize is that I could hide something in your neighborhood, tell you it was there, tell you the yard it was in, and you’d still have a very difficult time finding it without something to put you right on top of it. I’ll bet if we polled geocachers -who are searching for things with exact coordinates- we’d hear tales of missing things, searching for hours only to find it right where they already looked, second guesses, blame on the GPS triangulation, etc. etc. Finding stuff is hard, especially stuff that is not meant to be accidentally found.
The most challenging thing is thinking, making sense of things from and to form your own theories. With the internet, it is pretty hard not to “Google’fy” everything. It is hard not to read blogs and theories presented elsewhere by others. What people don’t realize is just how bias reading that stuff makes you. Think about it, either you agree, reject or are indifferent…for now. But you are forever changed, biased, challenged because you read that stuff. I keep up with who is doing what I suppose, the best I can. But, I make sure I have a well established theory or group of theories before I read anything on the net that relates to what someone else thinks. If you are solid, you’re solid.
- 4Q) In an email to Forrest Fenn (author of The Thrill of the Chase treasure hunt), I mentioned how I felt you were one of the top competitors for the finding of his million dollar treasure chest. I think some people may not realize the many hunters who contemplate, plan, and search quietly. Do you have any thoughts you would like to share about Forrest Fenn’s hunt? What do you like most about it?
What I like most about it is that I feel a deep connection to Forrest, like I am fortunate enough to be cut from the same cloth in many ways. The fact that there is a well sought after “pot of gold” out there doesn’t hurt none either. I treat it like I am the only one looking for it (which, until recently, there weren’t that many people actually committed to it)
I do thank you for the kind nod to Forrest. I hope to prove you right but you may never know.
And, I don’t share much with this hunt. I have quietly worked on it since 2011. Folks would be really surprised how much I have worked on it, the theories I have come up with that I have shot down myself, without taking one step. That is one of the hazards of armchair treasure hunting, getting locked on an idea. Being so damn sure that you are correct you are blind to other things about the hunt. Proximity to where I believe it to be makes me a little more cautious with my thoughts and actions.
I will share this. You better believe that if he says there are 9 clues, 3 of them at least are some you’d never be able to simply Google. You are going to need to get your feet on the ground, get looking. What I do is theorize about which ones are things you could learn from online and hard research and, what clues will likely be something you will discover going in with an open mind. Then, you develop theories about what those things could be, not what you think they actually are definitively.
Indecision doesn’t work either. Jimmy Buffett said, “Indecision may or may not be my problem.” You have to be decisive, believe in your thoughts and theories. One must get to know them intimately and where they point, plus how they relate back to the man himself- Mr. Fenn. If you can’t do that, you probably have the wrong location. People spend more time posting every flipping theory they can conceptualize in hopes to lay some personal “I thought of that” claim when and if a treasure they are working on is found, instead of putting their own thoughts -each one of them- to the test, being their own devil’s advocate. But in the Thrill of the Chase, like I alluded to before, if your entire posted theory includes a Google Earth based theory mixed with a bunch of jargon you read somewhere on the web geared toward all 9 clues you think you know from a 24 line poem, you’ve got the wrong location. Blind ambition is killer.
- 5Q) In 2010 you created Cowboy: A Treasure Hunt and hid 1,000 Cash somewhere in the lower 48 states for anyone to find! I find this fantastic. The gift of a challenge is one of the best. What inspired you to design and provide such an adventure for others?
I love treasure hunts, scavenger hunts and adventure. And, I always wanted to write a book. I had always thought about the karma that surrounds found money, having always had this motto about watching the floor, especially in bars, dance clubs and at events. I can spot money on the ground fairly easily and know that I have found over a thousand dollars in my lifetime. What better way to “give back.” I had the money and some other stars aligned so I got to work.
The real choice that most folks don’t realize was not where to put it; I had discovered that place by accident. It was actually about which piece of art to theme the story, clues and puzzles. As an event guy, I had founded a fine art festival in the Miami area. Through that I made some wonderful friends and am fortunate to know some very talented artists pretty well. I also collected a few pictures through that experience and the artists that I treasure immensely. COWBOY by Sheri Friedman and THE SEEKERS by Jonas Gerard, both fit very well with finding treasure. So I started by asking both of the artists if I could have permission to use their piece as the inspiration for a treasure hunt. And, they both agreed. Maybe I will honor Jonas with another treasure hunt sometime in the future but, for this, COWBOY just fit in so many ways. The, what I call “cheesy” story came easily after that. I even threw in a poem I had partially published many years ago that honors a deceased friend, Bruce Marsan.
Incidentally, if your readers want a hunt for a real American treasure by Jonas Gerard (Asheville, NC), I recently visited him and found out about a very special lost piece of art that has a new mystery surrounding it. During our country’s Bicentennial, Jonas presented President Ford with a fantastic piece he had done to commemorate that time in history. WE THE PEOPLE was given to the President right there in the White House. It’s a BIG, round piece of art that is very unique (I won’t go into details as that is what treasure hunters love to find/figure out). Well, this art was eventually put up in the Smithsonian for everyone to enjoy. Now, it is missing. Yes, gone. As I have been told, a few years back the Smithsonian underwent some renovations. After they were complete the art was GONE, bye bye. To make matters worse, they claim no record of it. They claim it was never there. Crazy.
Here is a true, two part hunt for treasure seekers. Ok, maybe three part. First, Jonas might be very happy to receive simply a picture, or set of pictures, someone may have taken of WE THE PEOPLE while visiting the Smithsonian in the past. This alone would offer proof. Second, what happened to it? For what reason has it disappeared? This screams “conspiracy theory” in my opinion and, I have heard some takes on what might have happened. I guess if you solve some of the second you may very well be able to address the third…go FIND IT! Should you attain any of the three, Jonas can usually be found at his studio in Asheville, North Carolina teaching and entertaining his guests with performance art and selling his highly sought after works. Someone solve this. Tell him I sent ya.
Sheri is a wonderful artist, person and friend. However, she has absolutely no idea where the Cowboy’s treasure is hidden. Visit her if she is in studio if you ever get a chance, you may be inspired to treasure something as well.
I was inspired by dreams and people; then I acted when the stars aligned.
- 6Q) Are you surprised no one has solved Cowboy: A Treasure Hunt yet? Are you happy to let the prize remain unfound until someone is able to solve it by following the initial clues? Or do you feel the need to offer more, so it can be found sooner?
I once attended a talk session with Billy Joel. He told us his take on making songs. He mentioned how he thought of them as his kids when they are first created. He does what he can, nurtures them and then lets them become whatever they become. Shameless, I think I remember him saying and demonstrating, was meant for someone like a Jimmy Hendricks…and yet, it grew up to be in Garth Brook’s family. That’s how I feel about treasure hunts I create. I let them become whatever they are after a point, when you really have no control over them anymore.
A few years ago I hid the first of now three hunts that start at The Flying Saucer in Raleigh written on plates I have earned by downing a beer or 200. That first one was a $100 bill. I put it in a waterproof bill bottle, hid it, and made a hunt out of it. It took a year and seven months before I discovered it had been found. A note was left for me in the cylinder by someone named Paul. I have asked every Paul I have ever met at the FS but nobody has ever claimed to be him. On the current hunt called ANOTHER, I get to see firsthand how someone is solving my hunts because, like so many other hunts, lack of initial success weeds out the hunters down to those that are truly committed. Josh”UA” Hamilton (a fairly new Twelever BTW) solved the second hunt. Inspired, he is one of only a few working the hunt and since I know him, I constantly get theory updates and see him have the “ah ha” at each stage after going through so much…which at times is simply “soul search.”
As for offering more on COWBOY (www.cowboytreasure.com), I don’t know if more people hunting will propagate better solutions or finding it “sooner.” My first thought is, sooner than what? The longer it is out there, the more the mystery. Besides, I can always create another (12-12-12 Hunt is a national hunt out there too, unsolved) and, I haven’t found much money lately. When I do find money, I usually buy a good beer with it.
What I tried to do when designing COWBOY was to think of the questions I had when looking at some of my favorite hunts like THE SECRET and WHISTLE PIG. Not solve questions but questions about the find. I show you in the video the two biggest questions: How? And What it looks like? You can see I went to great measures to show the money and how “sealed” it is, what container it is in, etc. And the “what” is more than a location. But in the ground, how deep, what it looked like when buried, etc.
I did, for a year, offer up additional clues on my Twitter account about how to solve things in the book. I can tell you this, I get emails, IM’s, etc. about it -more random now than earlier- that come at me with stories about where they have been, theories, fishing questions and even complaints. I smile.
I really appreciate anyone that took not only the money to purchase COWBOY but dedicated any part of their life’s time to solving any or all of it. If they have travelled, that is freaky amazing to me. I am about the adventure of it all. Forrest calls it “the thrill of the chase” yet I like to refer to it as real adventure. It is not canned in anyway. You can’t get it at the travel agent. It is adventuring into the unknown with what you think you do know only to discover things you never thought of and maybe, just maybe, you get that rare, sought after “AH HA!” It is a wow factor that few get to experience. But it is real. I smile because I know someone is close. I smile because I know someone has been close. Maybe many someone’s out there. It could be in your favorite place and you know it’s there, but until you get your hands on it, you just never know for sure do you?
Keep a smile on your face,
Thanks so much for sharing, Domino! Your genuine love for adventure and daring attitude reminds us all of what an amazing life this can be if we would just reach out and grab it! Brilliant and inspiring. I know I will come back and read this over many times. Your words spur such a sense of ‘I need to go ‘do’ something!’ They encourage me to do those things I dream to do. Thanks.