Friday, June 5, 2020

String Theory - Forrest Fenn's Big Ball of String

As a father, I've read quite a few books to my kids. One of my favorites was "A Big Ball of String" by Marion Holland. It was first published in 1958 but has been republished for many years since then. I still have a copy. It was an easy, rhyming read and a fun story about a boy who collected pieces of string, tied them together and did all sorts of clever things with the resulting big ball of string.

In "The Thrill of The Chase" chapter entitled "Gold and More" Forrest Fenn shares a story about collecting string when he was a child. A few things jumped out at me which, to my knowledge, haven't been discussed anywhere on the blogosphere. Maybe it was such an important tidbit, nobody ever discussed it. Of course, there's a lot of blogosphere out there, so I probably just missed it. Anyway...

In the preceding chapter, Forrest talks about his daughters Kelly and Zoe. Based on my rough calculations, "A Big Ball of String" would have been newly published while they were young. first ponderance. Could Forrest have read this book to his daughters? Could this book be the actual inspiration for the ball of string story in "The Thrill of the Chase"?

Here's the excerpt from "The Thrill of the Chase" which can be found on Forrest Fenn's website

"Then I started collecting string, and no kind or color was immune to my desire for it, but most pieces were white. The best saving technique was to tie one end of the new piece of string onto the end of the last one. I knew all of the good tricks, and one was to tie only square knots so they wouldn’t slip. Soon I had a multi-colored ball that got larger and larger with each tie-on. I hoped to tie on at least three strings a day, and after a year or so the ball was so large it couldn’t go through my bedroom door. Then one afternoon when I walked home from school in the rain my string had disappeared. It just wasn’t there anymore. I tried to explain to my mother that since the ball couldn’t get out of my room it was somewhat difficult for anyone to steal it. She didn’t answer, but just kept nodding and looking out of the window. I think she was watching for the postman or something. Even to this day the mystery of what happened to my string ball remains one of the great unsolved crimes in my family."

My second ponderance comes from this line: "I knew all of the good tricks, and one was to tie only square knots so they wouldn’t slip." I'm no Boy Scout, but I know square knots are not the best knots in the world. Do a quick google search and you'll find phrases like:
  • Not to be trusted to join two ropes together
  • It is unsafe and can come apart
So why would Forrest boast about his wisdom when it comes to tying knots in such a fashion? Presumably, he would know the truth about square knots. Was this one of those infamous "errors" (where errors = hints)?

My third ponderance is related to the second part of his story tells where he tells us that the ball of string disappeared and "remains one of the great unsolved crimes in my family." 

Now let's "tie" it all together. Think back to his poem, specifically this line:

"If you’ve been wise and found the blaze"

One of my treasured souvenirs from the Chase is that time that I followed the poem to the best of my ability. I discovered a blaze (a cairn). I approached the blaze and, nestled inside, I found... a ball of string (weathered and aged, but still multi-colored). Did I solve one of the great unsolved crimes in his family? Perhaps more importantly, was I wise? I'd like to think so. ;) 

I knew all the good tricks...
If you've been wise...