Congregations across eastern New Mexico and West Texas are planning a day of prayer for rain on Sunday.
It’s a reaction to a relentless drought that afflicts much of the western U.S.
From the heart of New Mexico to West Texas and Oklahoma, the pressures of drought have resulted in a resurgence of faith — from Christian preachers to American Indian tribes using their traditions in an effort to coax Mother Nature to deliver some much needed rain.
The faithful gathered Wednesday night in Oklahoma City to recite a collection of Christian, Muslim and Jewish prayers for the year’s first worship service dedicated to rain.
The drought has left farmland idle, herds of cattle have been decimated, the threat of wildfire has intensified and cities are thinking twice about the sustainability of their water supplies.
… to your playlist. Sign in. Transcript Statistics Report. Published on Apr 12, 2013. An imprisoned man whose infatuation with Justin Bieber included a tattoo of the pop star on his leg has told investigators in New Mexico he hatched a plot to kill …
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For more than a decade, he packed and repacked his treasure chest, sprinkling in gold dust and adding hundreds of rare gold coins and gold nuggets. Pre-Columbian animal figures went in, along with prehistoric “mirrors” of hammered gold, ancient Chinese faces carved from jade and antique jewelry with rubies and emeralds.
Forrest Fenn was creating a bounty, and the art and antiquities dealer says his goal was to make sure it was “valuable enough to entice searchers and desirable enough visibly to strike awe.”
Occasionally, he would test that premise, pulling out the chest and asking his friends to open the lid.
“Mostly, when they took the first look,” he says, “they started laughing,” hardly able the grasp his amazing plan.
Was Fenn really going to give this glistening treasure trove away?
Three years ago, he lay two of his most beloved pieces of jewelry in the chest: a turquoise bracelet and a Tairona and Sinu Indian necklace adorned with exotic jewels. At the bottom of the chest, in an olive jar, he placed a detailed autobiography, printed so small a reader will need a magnifying glass. After that, he says, he carted the chest of loot, now weighing more than 40 pounds, into the mountains somewhere north of Santa Fe and left it there.
Next, Fenn self-published a memoir, “The Thrill of the Chase,” distilling the autobiography and, intriguingly, including a poem that he says offers clues to lead some clever — or lucky — treasure hunter to the bounty.
It wasn’t long before word of the hidden trove got out, and the publicity has caused a mini-gold rush in northern New Mexico.
But it has also set off a debate: Has Fenn truly hidden the treasure chest or was this, for the idiosyncratic, publicity-loving 82-year-old who loves to tell tales, just another way to have fun, a great caper to bolster his legacy?
One friend, Michael McGarrity, an author and former Santa Fe County sheriff’s deputy, acknowledges it could be “a private joke,” though he believes “Forrest has certainly buried something.” If it was the treasure he saw, well, “it really is quite an astonishing sight to see.”
There certainly seems to be no shortage of believers, including Doug Preston, whose novel “The Codex” about a notorious treasure hunter and tomb robber who buries himself and his treasure as a final challenge to his three sons, is loosely based on Fenn’s story.
“I’ve seen the treasure. I’ve handled it. He has had it for almost as long as I’ve known him. It’s real. And I can tell you that it is no longer in his vault,” says Preston.
“I am 100 percent sure that he really did go out and hide this thing. I am actually surprised that anyone who knows him would think he was blowing hot air. It is just not his personality. He is not a tricky, conspiratorial, slick or dishonest person at all.”
Fenn says his main goal is to get people, particularly children, away from their texting devices and looking for adventure outdoors.
But probably few are having more fun with the whole adventure than Fenn himself, a self-described schmoozer and endless flirt who is reveling in what he says are 13,000 emails from treasure hunters — not to mention 18 marriage proposals.
“His net worth is much higher than what he put in the bounty,” says Preston, guessing the treasure’s value is in the million-dollar range. “He is having way more than $1 million worth of fun with this.”
It all began, Fenn says, more than 20 years ago, when he was diagnosed with cancer and given just a few years to live.
That’s when he decided to buy the treasure chest and fill it with some of his favorite things
.”Nobody knows where it was going to be but me,” he recalls thinking. He revised the clue-poem’s wording several times over the years, and made other changes in his plans. For a time, he thought of having his bones with the treasure chest, though how that might have been accomplished is unclear.
“But then,” Fenn says with a mischievous twinkle in his blue eyes, “I ruined the story by getting well.”
In ”The Thrill of the Chase,” he lays out his unusual rags-to-riches story while sharing memories of his favorite adventures and mischief-making.
From the outset, the book tells readers the recollections “are as true to history as one man can average out that truth, considering the fact that one of my natural instincts is to embellish.”
Average out the truth? Instinct to embellish? Well, one thing is certain: He certainly knows how to tell a tale.
Fenn was raised in Temple, Texas, where his father was a school principal, according to the book. The family was poor, he says, only eating meat on Sundays if there was a chicken to kill. But, Fenn writes,
they spent every summer in Yellowstone National Park, where young Forrest and his brother Skippy launched many an adventure. He describes the brothers trying to fly a homemade plane and tells about being left on the side of the road after an argument during a road trip.
Fenn never went to college, although he did attend classes at Texas A&M University with his friends for a short time, before it was discovered he was not a registered student, the book says.
He married his high school sweetheart, Peggy Jean Proctor, and spent nearly two decades in the Air Force, including much-decorated service as a fighter pilot in Vietnam.
After returning to Texas, he, his wife and two daughters moved to Santa Fe, where, over time, he became one of this artistic enclave’s best known and most successful gallery owners.
Details on how a man with no art background made such a dramatic but successful transition are scarce in his book. When asked to elaborate, he says simply, “I never went to college. I never went to business school. I never learned the rules that make businesses fail.”
Those who know him credit his love of people. As an art dealer, he hosted a virtual who’s who of the rich and famous at his gallery and guest house, including Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Sam Shephard, Jessica Lange and Michael Douglas, to name a few. Even at 82, he still throws one hell of a party, friends say, mixing up the guest list with the many actors, artists, writers and political leaders who live in or frequent this artistic mountain hideaway.
Perhaps the biggest misconception about Fenn — whom some locals refer to as Santa Fe’s Indiana Jones — is that he was a treasure hunter himself.
“Forrest is a trader,” said Dan Nietzel, a professional treasure hunter who has searched for Fenn’s treasure. “He traded for these things. I think people think he went around digging all these things up.”
But there are some intangibles Fenn has spent his life searching out.
“I love mysteries. I love adventures,” he says.
As a teen, scouring Yellowstone every summer, he almost led friend Donnie Joe to an early demise when they got lost on horseback in Montana’s Gallatin National Forest trying to retrace the steps of Lewis and Clark, according to his memoir.
“Donnie got in a serious swivet and wouldn’t speak to me for a while, except to say that our unfortunate adventure was ill-conceived, dumb thought out, and I was over-rated like my horse,” he writes.
His book moves on to the Vietnam War, describing his Air Force service, his combat missions and even his survival after being shot down.
While it’s sometimes hard to know whether Fenn’s zest for “embellishment” adds to his stories, military records emphatically back this chapter. They confirm that as a fighter pilot he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, silver and bronze stars, a purple heart and other medals. In one engagement, enemy fire shattered the canopy of his jet, cutting his face, and yet he continued to attack, the records show. In another, he showed “outstanding heroism,” making repeated low strafing passes to draw fire until wounded forces on the ground could be rescued. He rose to the rank of major.
Fenn also describes himself as an amateur archaeologist. In the mid-1980s, he bought a ranch near Santa Fe that includes the 57-acre ancient pueblo of San Lazaro, where he has spent years digging up bones, pottery and other artifacts that he keeps in a room off his garage.
And while he says he made his fortune selling paintings, his love is clearly of antiquities. His personal study, which was designed to house a 17-by-28-foot Persian rug from the late 1800s, is filled from floor to ceiling with valuables, ranging from gilded fore-edge books to war memorabilia, a brandy bottle left in his guest house by Kennedy Onassis, and even what he says is Sitting Bull’s pipe.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2006 raided his home as part of an antiquities theft probe, but Fenn was never charged.
“Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.”
That’s part of the poem of clues to the treasure’s location, which Fenn published in his memoir three years ago. News reports have created a run on the book.
Based on the more than 9,000 emails Fenn says he has received just in the past few months, he estimates thousands of treasure hunters will descend on northern New Mexico this spring.
Dana Ortega, director of sales and marketing at Santa Fe’s Inn and Spa at Loretto, said the hotel, which offers a special package starting at $300 that includes a copy of Fenn’s now hard-to-find book, has seen a huge spike in interest.
“About 50 people came in on the package last year,” she said. “Now our phones are ringing off the hook. … So many people have the book so they are not all doing the package, but they call and want to stay here.”
The local Chamber of Commerce should “give Forrest an award for increasing tourism,” says McGarrity, his friend.
He talks of being stopped on the street by a man in a big truck with Texas plates, pulling an all-terrain vehicle and asking if he knew where Forrest Fenn lived.
“Are you hunting for treasure?” McGarrity asked.
“You betcha!” the Texan said.
But the publicity has also raised safety concerns.
A few weeks ago, a woman from Texas, drawn by a network report about the treasure, got lost searching the mountains near Los Alamos. She spent the night in the rugged terrain of Bandelier National Monument and was walking out the next day when rescuers found her. But the case prompted officials to warn searchers to be properly prepared for the outdoors. They also reminded the public it’s illegal to dig, bury an item or use a metal detector on federal lands.
Also a concern: Fenn says he has had people ringing the buzzer at his gate and trying to follow him when he leaves.
For the most part, though, he says people reaching out to him are just trying to convince or trick him into giving more clues.
So far, the best anyone seems to have gotten out of him is that the treasure is more than 300 miles west of Toledo, not in Nevada, and more than 5,000 feet above sea level “in the Rocky Mountains. (Santa Fe, whose Sangre de Cristo mountains mark the start of the Rockies, is 7,260 feet above sea level.)
But he emphasizes two things: He never said the treasure was buried, and he never said it was in Santa Fe, or even New Mexico for that matter.
Nietzel says the most common place the clues about “where warm waters halt” first lead people is to Eagle Nest Lake, about 100 miles north of Santa Fe, because it has a dam that holds back warm water and is known for its brown trout.
Others are sure it must be in Yellowstone, because of Fenn’s history there and his deep knowledge of the park.
Nietzel says he has made 29 searches for the treasure in six states, and he plans to resume his efforts when it gets a little warmer in the mountains.
Another friend of Fenn’s, Santa Fe jeweler Marc Howard, says he has made about 20 searches, and is “still trying to match my wits against a seemingly impossible poem.”
The scheme is similar to a treasure hunt launched in 1979 by the author of a British children’s book, “Masquerade,” which had clues to the location of an 18-carat jeweled golden hare hidden somewhere in Britain. That rabbit was found in 1982, although it was later revealed it was found with the help of the author’s former live-in girlfriend.
Fenn, who lives with his wife in a gated estate near the center of town, insists he is the only person who knows where his treasure is hidden. Asked what his two daughters, Kelly and Zoe, think of him hiding part of their and their seven kids’ inheritance, he replies only that “they’ve been saying for years that I am crazy.” He doubts they have any interest in finding it, but says he wouldn’t be surprised if one of two grandsons has gone looking for it.
And he is ambivalent about whether the chest is found soon, or even in his lifetime.
But “when a person finds that treasure chest, whether it’s tomorrow or 10,000 years from now and opens the lid, they are going to go into shock. It is such a sight.”
|Back in December, we told you about the Breaking Bad-like plan involving two New Mexico hitmen who were to kidnap, castrate, and murder Justin Bieber, a plan that went awry when one of the would-be killers was apprehended on an outstanding warrant at …
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UPI News Service, 02/20/2013. Audiotape of phone calls made from a New Mexico prison that pertain to a plot to abduct and kill pop singer Justin Bieber were released, police said. ADVERTISEMENT. Police said Dana Martin, an inmate in a prison near Las …
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|ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Details are coming to light about the alleged plot to murder Canadian teen pop star Justin Bieber. Audio has been released of phone calls made last November from a prison near Las Cruces, New Mexico, detailing how Bieber was to …
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LAS CRUCES, N.M., Feb. 20 (UPI) — Audiotape of phone calls made from a New Mexico prison that pertain to a plot to abduct and kill pop singer Justin Bieber were released, police said. Police said Dana Martin, an inmate in a prison near Las Cruces who …
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|Police say New Mexico inmate is mastermind behind plot to kidnap, kill and castrate pop star.
Mandi Smith’s 5-month-old puppy disappeared from the family’s Fort Campbell, Ky., yard 18 months ago. So when Smith got a call saying Pooka had turned up in northern New Mexico, she says she was more than a little surprised.
“At first I thought someone was playing a trick on me,” the 26-year-old Smith said Wednesday, adding that she played the voicemail from the Espanola Valley Humane Society more than once.
“I thought I’d never see her again.”
But it was no joke. The now 2-year-old Chihuahua-dachshund mix, also known as a “chiweenie,” was found wandering the streets in Espanola on Jan. 12. She was traced back to her military family by a microchip that Smith says had been installed just days before she went missing.
Smith and the dog were reunited Wednesday at Albuquerque’s airport.
Surrounded by cameras and reporters, it was unclear if Pooka recognized Smith. But she clearly looked content to be snuggled in her arms.
Pooka has been staying with a foster mom, Melanie Lopez, who brought the dog to the airport for the reunion. Also on hand was Claudia Inoue, a Santa Fe animal lover who donated Southwest Airlines frequent flier awards to Lopez. Southwest Airlines waived the $75 fee for Smith to carry the dog home on the plane.
Smith says she had Pooka for just four months when she disappeared after the family let her out to do her business.
“I don’t know if she got out through a hole in the fence or what,” Smith said.
Smith planned to head straight back to Kentucky, where she said the now full-grown dog would be welcomed into a much larger household.
With Pooka missing, Smith got two new dogs, a German Shepherd and a German Shepherd mix, because “I was depressed.”
And Smith recently gave birth to a fourth child.
Nina Stively, community outreach manager at the Espanola Valley Humane Society, said Pooka had recently given birth herself and was still nursing when she was found. Attempts to find her puppies were unsuccessful.
The rest of the dog’s story and how she traveled more than 1,220 miles to New Mexico, however, will likely forever remain a mystery.
“I have no idea,” she said. “And she’s not talking.”
Retired Cardinal Roger Mahony and other top Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles officials maneuvered behind the scenes to shield molester priests, provide damage control for the church and keep parishioners in the dark, according to church personnel files.
The confidential records filed in a lawsuit against the archdiocese disclose how the church handled abuse allegations for decades and also reveal dissent from a top Mahony aide who criticized his superiors for covering up allegations of abuse rather than protecting children.
Notes inked by Mahony demonstrate he was disturbed about abuse and sent problem priests for treatment, but there also were lengthy delays or oversights in some cases. Mahony received psychological reports on some priests that mentioned the possibility of many other victims, for example, but there is no indication that he or other church leaders investigated further.
“This is all intolerable and unacceptable to me,” Mahony wrote in 1991 on a file of the Rev. Lynn Caffoe, a priest suspected of locking boys in his room, videotaping their crotches and running up a $100 phone sex bill while with a boy. Caffoe was sent for therapy and removed from ministry, but Mahony didn’t move to defrock him until 2004, a decade after the archdiocese lost track of him.
“He is a fugitive from justice,” Mahony wrote to the Vatican’s Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI. “A check of the Social Security index discloses no report of his demise, so presumably he is alive somewhere.”
Caffoe died in 2009, six years after a newspaper reporter found him working at a homeless mission two blocks from a Salinas elementary school.
Mahony was out of town but issued a statement Monday apologizing for his mistakes and saying he had been “naive” about the lasting impacts of abuse. He has since met with 90 abuse victims privately and keeps an index card with each victim’s name in his private chapel, where he prays for them daily, he said. The card also includes the name of the molesting priest “lest I forget that real priests created this appalling harm.”
“It remains my daily and fervent prayer that God’s grace will flood the heart and soul of each victim, and that their life journey continues forward with ever greater healing,” Mahony wrote. “I am sorry.”
The apology stands in contrast to letters Mahony was writing to accused priests more than two decades ago.
In 1987, he wrote to the Rev. Michael Wempe — who would ultimately admit to abusing 13 boys — while the priest was undergoing in-patient therapy at a New Mexico treatment center.
“Each of you there at Jemez Springs is very much in my prayers and I call you to mind each day during my celebration of the Eucharist,” Mahony wrote to the priest, adding that he supported him in the experience.
The church’s sex abuse policy was evolving and Mahony inherited some of the worst cases from his predecessor when he took over in 1985, J. Michael Hennigan, an archdiocese attorney, said in a separate series of emails. Priests were sent out of state for psychological treatment because they revealed more when their therapists were not required to report child abuse to law enforcement, as they were in California, he said.
At the time, clergy were not mandated sex abuse reporters and the church let the victims’ families decide whether to contact police, he added.
In at least one case, a priest victimized the children of illegal immigrants and threatened to have them deported if they told, the files show.
The files are attached to a motion seeking punitive damages in a case involving a Mexican priest sent to Los Angeles in 1987 after he was brutally beaten in his parish south of Mexico City.
When parents complained the Rev. Nicholas Aguilar Rivera molested in LA, church officials told the priest but waited two days to call police — allowing him to flee to Mexico, court papers allege. At least 26 children told police they were abused during his 10 months in Los Angeles. The now-defrocked priest is believed to be in Mexico and remains a fugitive.
The personnel files of 13 other clerics were attached to the motion to show a cover-up pattern, said attorney Anthony De Marco, who represents the 35-year-old plaintiff. In one instance, a memo to Mahony discusses sending a cleric to a therapist who also is an attorney so any incriminating evidence is protected from authorities by lawyer-client privilege. In another instance, archdiocese officials paid a secret salary to a priest exiled to the Philippines after he and six other clerics were accused of having sex with a teen and impregnating her.
The exhibits offer a glimpse at some 30,000 pages to be made public as part of a record-setting $660 million settlement. The archdiocese agreed to give the files to more than 500 victims of priest abuse in 2007, but a lawyer for about 30 of the priests fought to keep records sealed. A judge recently ordered the church to release them without blacking out the names of church higher-ups after The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times intervened.
They echo similar releases from other dioceses nationwide that have shown how church leaders for decades shuffled problem priests from parish to parish, covered up reports of abuse and didn’t contact law enforcement. Top church officials in Missouri and Pennsylvania were criminally convicted last year for their roles in covering up abuse, more than a decade after the clergy sex abuse scandal began to unfold in Boston.
Mahony, who retired in 2011 after 26 years at the helm of the 4.3-million person archdiocese, has been particularly hounded by the case of the Rev. Michael Baker, who was sentenced to prison in 2007 for molestation — two decades after the priest confessed his abuse to Mahony.
Mahony noted the “extremely grave and serious situation” when he sent Baker for psychological treatment after the priest told him in 1986 that he had molested two brothers over seven years.
Baker returned to ministry the next year with a doctor’s recommendation that he be defrocked immediately if he spent any time with minors. Despite several documented instances of being alone with boys, the priest wasn’t removed from ministry until 2000. Around the same time, the church learned he was conducting baptisms without permission.
Church officials discussed announcing Baker’s abuse in churches where he had worked, but Mahony rejected the idea.
“We could open up another firestorm — and it takes us years to recover from those,” Mahony wrote in an Oct. 6, 2000, memo. “Is there no alternative to public announcements at all the Masses in 15 parishes??? Wow — that really scares the daylights out of me!!”
The aide, Msgr. Richard Loomis, noted his dismay over the matter when he retired in 2001 as vicar for clergy, the top church official who handled priestly discipline. In a memo to his successor, Loomis said Baker’s attorney disclosed the priest had at least 10 other victims.
“We’ve stepped back 20 years and are being driven by the need to cover-up and to keep the presbyteriate & public happily ignorant rather than the need to protect children,” Loomis wrote.
“The only other option is to sit and wait until another victim comes forward. Then someone else will end up owning the archdiocese of Los Angeles. The liability issues involved aside, I think that course of complete (in)action would be immoral and unethical.”
Mahony preferred targeted warnings at schools and youth groups rather than a warning read at Masses, Hennigan said. Parish announcements were made two years later.
Baker, who was paroled in 2011, is alleged to have molested 20 children in his 26-year career. He could not be reached for comment.
The files also show Mahony corresponded with abusive priests while they underwent treatment out of state and worked to keep them out of California to avoid criminal and civil trouble.
One case involved the Msgr. Peter Garcia, a molester whom Mahony’s predecessor sent for treatment in New Mexico. Mahony kept Garcia there after a lawyer warned in 1986 that the archdiocese could face “severe civil liability” if he returned and reoffended. Garcia had admitted raping an 11-year-old boy and later told a psychologist he molested 15 to 17 young boys.
“If Monsignor Garcia were to reappear here within the archdiocese, we might very well have some type of legal action filed in both the criminal and civil sectors,” Mahony wrote to the director of Garcia’s New Mexico treatment program.
Mahony then sent Garcia to another treatment center, but Garcia returned to LA in 1988 after being removed from ministry. He then contacted a victim’s mother and asked to spend time with her younger son, according to a letter in the file.
Mahony moved to defrock him in 1989, and Garcia died a decade later.