Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2013

Boojums and Belly Plants

As I think back on it, there were parts of my formal education that were really quite special. I had professors who were the “first in their field” or who had been students of the “first in their field” which made me an academic “son” or “grandson” of some of the very best. For example, I am the academic “son” of Robert R. Humphrey, an ecologist who figured out the role of fire in natural ecosystems, and the “grandson” of Fritz Warmolt Went who, among other things is famous for the Chelody-Went Model of plant growth—it has to do with hormones.

Both of these guys were characters. Dr. Humphrey, though deceased, is still the world’s foremost authority on boojums and the nearest competition for that title is Charles Lutwidge Dodgson of snark hunting fame (look it up). Dr. Humphrey made his living during the Great Depression by catching rattlesnakes in the Catalina Mountains and selling them to whomever happened to want a rattlesnake. Once, while on a family outing, he had caught two of them (by which I mean rattlesnakes) so his hands were full when he spotted another one. He made his wife take the first and his sister-in-law the second while he chased down the third.

Boojum Tree, Baja California (Tomas Castelazo, Encyclopedia Britanica).

Boojum Tree, Baja California (Tomas Castelazo, Encyclopedia Britanica).

Among many other things, Prof. Went was interested in the phototropic and gravitropic properties of monocot sprouts (look it up) and then he invented the climatron.  Knowing this, if you fly over St. Louis and see that big round glass building at the Missouri Botanical Gardens you can impress your seatmate by saying, “See that big round glass building?” “It’s a climatron and it is there because of F. Warmont Went. And, when you spray your weeds with an herbicide, those weird, curly, deformed plant stems that show up are caused by Prof. Went’s hormones.”

When Prof. Went gave up his position in St. Louis, he went to Nevada and once again became a real botanist. He would take his students on field trips and after awhile they would see him sprawled out on his stomach calling for them to come over. Soon, they would all be sprawled out in a circle on their stomachs while he explained the wonders of the small desert plants in the center: “How is it that these tiny things can last through the drought and the heat and what does that mean for every thing else in this inhospitable place?” he would ask, just before he answered his own question. He called them “belly plants” because only when on your stomach could you get close enough to really enjoy, as well as to learn from them.

Climatron, Missouri Botanical Gardens, St. Louis (Wikimedia Commons).

Climatron, Missouri Botanical Gardens, St. Louis (Wikimedia Commons).

These two guys taught me a lot of other things as well but what they taught me that is relevant to treasure hunting is that both the “strange” and the “small” are worth looking at.

Take Forrest Fenn’s Memoir. There are any number of things in there that are strange and some that are small and some that are both. The photograph on page 133—the famous MAP page is a case in point. What you see there, are a MAP, a coin, four gold nuggets and a Tairona gold frog with beautifully designed feet which are much different from the grotesque frog feet that Forrest Fenn put on his handcrafted bronze bell on page 134.  Does this mean that Forrest believes the myths concerning the fearful denizens a fen supposedly holds and, thus, it would be a perfect place for his treasure?

Forrest Fenn's map in "The Thrill of the Chase."

Forrest Fenn’s map (Page 133, The Thrill of the Chase).

And while you are looking at page 134, notice that the caption to the photograph says, “Ring the bell loudly—for he who dies with over fifty dollars is a failure.” And then notice that “dollars” in the caption is “dollers” on the bell! That seems strange but then you read on the next page (135), the third and fourth lines from the bottom, that Forrest has given all of this “. . .a lot of thought because little things can be so important in our lives.” Or is it that the spell check of wax figures is no better than that of Microsoft?

Ring the bell loudly--for he who dies with over fifty dollars is a failure. Page 134, Thrill of the Chase.

Ring the bell loudly–for he who dies with over fifty dollars is a failure. (Page 134, The Thrill of the Chase).

Imagination is better than knowledge (Page 136, Thrill of the Chase).

Imagination is better than knowledge (Page 136, Thrill of the Chase).

IMAGINATION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN KNOWLEGE (Page 138, The Thrill of the Chase).

IMAGINATION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN KNOWLEGE (Page 138, The Thrill of the Chase).

However, since Forrest Fenn grew up a Mountain Man, it may be that his spelling is no better than theirs—although it is probibly beter then mine.  We can check out that theory on pages 138 and 139, especially if we compare those pages to page 136. There, the caption to the photograph of an elegantly designed bell reads, “Imagination is better than knowledge” and the inscription on the bell reads, “Imagination is better than knowledge.” Sounds good.

But then, in the text on page 138, he more or less repeats the words, in all caps, no less, and says, “IMAGINATION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN KNOWLEGE.” And, then, on page 139 he has placed two images of one jar with a similar inscription although we cannot see all of it; but what we can see is the word “knowledge” only here it is spelled “KNOWLEGE.” Bad luck with the wax spell check again? Maybe. However… when you look at the caption to those photos you see, “Imagination is more important than knowlege” even though Bill Gates’ spell check or the editor, or both, would almost certainly have caught the error. But they didn’t.

Imagination is more important than knowlege (Page 139, The Thrill of the Chase).

Imagination is more important than knowlege (Page 139, The Thrill of the Chase).

So now I am confused. Why do the bells and the jars give the same idea but with different words and why is “knowledge” spelled correctly on one and not the other—including in the caption, the text and the jar?

I must confess that I have no idea on this one. Pleez, can someone help me out here?

take Kair,

r/

Read Full Post »

It is still snowing, still cold and still winter in the land of those who search for gold. So, I have added to my bio. Just go there, scroll down the text until you get to “279 Days, 22 Hours and 36 Minutes” to get an idea of what my wife and I were up to during our tenure in Chile. r/

Read Full Post »