Sunday, August 22, 2010

When Neighbors Look Different

We were sitting in the bucket front seats of the 1967 green Mustang. Even though we were parked out in the woods and five miles from McCall up the East side of the lake, bucket seats make it difficult to do much more than kiss on a “parking date.” The other couple that had gone to the woods with us had decided to get out of the back seat of the car and sit on the trunk of the Mustang. For as late as it was, around 10pm this August night in 1968, the air was still quite warm. This was the most common type of dating in the Donnelly-McCall Idaho area for the late 60’s.

There was one odd out-of-place item in the area that we noticed on the way in to the parking space. A log that was not rotted was partially in the roadbed as if it had been dropped there. We all commented on it on the way in. It was quite a mystery for us. We have all spent most of our lives in the woods hunting and fishing. For those of you not used to the woods, here is the problem. Roadbeds that are used a lot do not suddenly have a four foot chunk of log tossed on them, particularly if the log has a diameter of about a foot and green enough to weigh around 100 pounds. It is even more of a mystery since it was not rotted at all. (Ok, if rotted it would make sense because bears will pick up and toss a rotted log, hope it breaks up a bit and dig all those yummy grubs out of it.) We have all seen bears with logs. Deer and elk will not usually move a log but they do play with them.

Well, back to the important business of the parking date. I was sitting in the front seat with my date, and my friend Don was sitting on the trunk of the car (which makes a good seat) with his date. Soon, there is a tap on my window and Don, at the closed window, is giving the universal sign for silence, a finger over the lips. So, quietly I cranked the handle, lowering the window, and giving Don a chance to whisper. What he whispered to me was that all the time they were on the trunk, something kept circling the car just out of view. He said it really stank badly like wet dog in a hot closet. Wanting to know what had circled the car, he then told me that whatever circled us was now directly in front of the car and close by. The smell was familiar, now that the window was down, but I have never figured out what made that smell. All four of us has had about 18 years in the woods from sometime after the diaper stage, and later when comparing notes, we had all smelled that smell without knowing it’s source. I slowly turned the ignition key to the power position which, by itself does not turn anything on. I grabbed the knob for the headlights and saying, “Ok, here we go…” and pulled the lights on bright.

So here are my thoughts as I remember them. Just add a dash of shock and a jigger of fear along the path of these thoughts to get the feelings of the moment just about right. In that first frozen moment when the lights came on, my very first thought was seeing a look of absolute fear in his face. His brown eyes were wide and the mouth partially open but not showing teeth; somewhat, if you were right now to say lightly “ahhhh.” His face was dark, even in the headlights and he had no beard. Then the second moment of realization swept over me. The face that made such a sudden impression on me was sitting atop the body of a person who was about eight feet tall and built like a line-backer for football team. His body was completely matted in thick hair generally six to eight inches long, except as noted, the clear face. I realized our neighbor was not human, even though much of what I saw said “he looked good,” “his eyes were brown,” or “he had no beard.” The personification was absolute. He was a person, a neighbor, but just not like the rest of the neighborhood – so to speak. By the third moment of thought, in real time likely not much more that four or five seconds, our neighbor spun around clockwise and with one lunge into the woods he totally disappeared. There was no doubt about whom we had seen. Without any doubt the answer was immediate—that was Bigfoot. It is a lot like looking for gold in the wild. You can see lots of yellow and shiny and wonder if it is gold, but once you see the real thing there is no doubt at all. No doubt about seeing gold the first time, and no doubt about seeing Bigfoot for the first time.

Whether it was the right choice or not, we went back to town. The girls were sisters and went to their house and Don & I stayed in his house for the night. Late the next morning we picked up the girls and went to the local café in the Lardo part of McCall at the west end of the lake. While there we met another couple who had an interesting story. They went out to park the night before and after about an hour they decided to head back to town. When they turned around to head out on the access road a large hairy creature that they later identified as Bigfoot was standing in the road. He had his arms over his head and holding a large log. The couple went around him between the trees and just as they got back onto the road Bigfoot threw the log at them, bouncing off the trunk of the car. As you can guess, we were at the same parking space as they were, but about an hour later. There is no way to account for the attitude of Bigfoot. In later years I would find that most of them are peaceful. It is just that once in a while one of our Bigfoot neighbors will be fed up with our human actions and then expresses the anger. At the time of this sighting I was in the Marines and home on leave.

Once my contract was up with the Marines I moved home and rented a house across from the Marina in 1971. One day an old blue pickup was lurching along the street and came to a rest just even with my porch. From that vantage point I had watched the progress of the pickup and now the owner walking around it cursing and kicking the truck. At one point he said to his truck, “If someone gave me $50 right now, I would sell you.” I dashed into the house, reached to the bottom of the cookie jar and pulled out $50. I ran out of the house to the pickup and flashed the money to the owner. His name was Tim from Missoula, Montana and he had not been sleeping well at night. Tim sold me the 51’ flathead pickup truck and I used my car to take him to North Beach on Payette Lake where he was camping. He said every night smelly bears were ransacking his camp and keeping him awake. They never bothered the tent. I knew there were no bears like he described and wanted to know more. Instead of picking up his camp, we returned to town and later went back out with my sleeping bag to spend the night. At about 3am with a full moon, we were awakened by shuffling noises around the camp. Bravely, or stupidly depending on your point of view, I opened the tent flap and stepped out. What I saw was three critters that were distinctly Bigfoot about 100 feet away and walking west along the beach. By morning light, the tracks were all over the area. Back in those days, up until the late 70’s Bigfoot used North Beach to cross the valley. I suspect that as human dwellings increased in numbers and density along the lake the Bigfoot changed their crossover location to Upper Payette Lake. Besides seeing Bigfoot just south of the beach in a “parking spot” and seeing them at North Beach, I also glimpsed quick views of them along the lagoons and gravel pits in the North Beach area. That whole region is now developed in to a busy park. However, if you camp in the hills east of the Upper Payette Lake, you will find that often at night the woodlands go suddenly silent and odd odors waft through the air.

Even though I have seen Bigfoot many times, my new bride has not. So we will be camping at just the right time up there by payette lake. There will be plenty of fresh veggies on the camp table.

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