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> Cover Story
April 27, 2006
   
 

by lyle e davis

I

t’s springtime and soon folks will be getting out their fishing gear, pulling together their hiking gear, and making ready their tents and other camping equipment, all ready to go outdoors and get to know Mother Nature just a tad better.

Quite often there will be a nice big campfire around which folks will gather and see who can tell the scariest stories. It has become a ritual of passage. But, there are stories that one has to wonder about Are they true? Or are they just made up to scare someone?

Well, one of our Presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, was an avid outdoorsman and a great storyteller. He wrote some great books.

Following the tragic death of his first wife, Roosevelt had headed out to the Dakota Bad Lands where he had a ranch. Over a several year period he tracked, hunted, and wrote about the mighty grizzly bear. In one of several books he wrote during this time, “The Wilderness Hunter,” he also gathered tales of the frontier hunters and the strange things they had experienced in the wild.

From “The Wilderness Hunter,” by Theodore Roosevelt:

Frontiersmen are not, as a rule, apt to be very superstitious. They lead lives too hard and practical, and have too little imagination in things spiritual and supernatural. I have heard but few ghost-stories while living on the frontier, and those few were of a perfectly commonplace and conventional type.

But I once listened to a goblin-story which rather impressed me. It was told by a grizzled, weatherbeaten old mountain hunter, named Bauman, who was born and had passed all of his life on the frontier. He must have believed what he said, for he could hardly repress a shudder at certain points of the tale; but he was of German ancestry, and in childhood had doubtless been saturated with all kinds of ghost and goblin lore, so that many fearsome superstitions were latent in his mind; besides, he knew well the stories told by the Indian medicine-men in their winter camps, of the snow-walkers, and the spectres, and the formless evil beings that haunt the forest depths, and dog and waylay the lonely wanderer who after nightfall passes through the regions where they lurk; and it may be that when overcome by the horror of the fate that befell his friend, and when oppressed by the awful dread of the unknown, he grew to attribute, both at the time and still more in remembrance, weird and elfin traits to what was merely some abnormally wicked and cunning wild beast; but whether this was so or not, no man can say.

When the event occurred Bauman was still a young man, and was trapping with a partner among the mountains dividing the forks of the Salmon from the head of Wisdom River. Not having had much luck, he and his partner determined to go up into a particularly wild and lonely pass through which ran a small stream said to contain many beaver. The pass had an evil reputation because the year before a solitary hunter who had wandered into it was there slain, seemingly by a wild beast, the halfeaten remains being afterwards found by some mining prospectors who had passed his camp only the night before.

The memory of this event, however, weighted very lightly with the two trappers, who were as adventurous and hardy as others of their kind. They took their two lean mountain ponies to the foot of the pass where they left them in an open beaver meadow, the rocky timber-clad ground being from there onward impracticable for horses. They then struck out on foot through the vast, gloomy forest, and in about four hours reached a little open glade where they concluded to camp, as signs of game were plenty.

There was still an hour or two of daylight left, and after building a brush lean-to and throwing down and opening their packs, they started upstream. The country was very dense and hard to travel through, as there was much down timber, although here and there the sombre woodland was broken by small glades of mountain grass. At dusk they again reached camp. The glade in which it was pitched was not many yards wide, the tall, close-set pines and firs rising round it like a wall. On one side was a little stream, beyond which rose the steep mountain slope, covered with the unbroken growth of evergreen forest.

They were surprised to find that during their absence something, apparently a bear, had visited camp, and had rummaged about among their things, scattering the contents of their packs, and in sheer wantonness destroying their lean-to. The footprints of the beast were quite plain, but at first they paid no particular heed to them, busying themselves with rebuilding the lean-to, laying out their beds and stores and lighting the fire.

While Bauman was making ready supper, it being already dark, his companion began to examine the tracks more closely, and soon took a brand from the fire to follow them up, where the intruder had walked along a game trail after leaving the camp.
When the brand flickered out, he returned and took another, repeating his inspection of the footprints very closely. Coming back to the fire, he stood by it a minute or two, peering out into the darkness, and suddenly remarked, "Bauman, that bear has been walking on two legs." Bauman laughed at this, but his partner insisted that he was right, and upon again examining the tracks with a torch, they certainly did seem to be made by but two paws or feet. However, it was too dark to make sure. After discussing whether the footprints could possibly be those of a human being, and coming to the conclusion that they could not be, the two men rolled up in their blankets, and went to sleep under the lean-to.

At midnight Bauman was awakened by some noise, and sat up in his blankets. As he did so his nostrils were struck by a strong, wild-beast odor, and he caught the loom of a great body in the darkness at the mouth of the lean-to. Grasping his rifle, he fired at the vague, threatening shadow, but must have missed, for immediately afterwards he heard the smashing of the underwood as the thing, whatever it was, rushed off into the impenetrable blackness of the forest and the night.

After this the two men slept but little, sitting up by the rekindled fire, but they heard nothing more. In the morning they started out to look at the few traps they had set the previous evening and put out new ones. By an unspoken agreement they kept together all day, and returned to camp towards evening.

On nearing it they saw, hardly to their astonishment, that the lean-to had again been torn down. The visitor of the preceding day had returned, and in wanton malice had tossed about their camp kit and bedding, and destroyed the shanty. The ground was marked up by its tracks, and on leaving the camp it had gone along the soft earth by the brook, where the footprints were as plain as if on snow, and, after a careful scrutiny of the trail, it certainly did seem as if, whatever the thing was, it had walked off on but two legs.

The men, thoroughly uneasy, gathered a great heap of dead logs and kept up a roaring fire throughout the night, one or the other sitting on guard most of the time. About midnight the thing came down through the forest opposite, across the brook, and stayed there on the hillside for nearly an hour. They could hear the branches crackle as it moved about, and several times it uttered a harsh, grating, long-drawn moan, a peculiarly sinister sound. Yet it did not venture near the fire.

In the morning the two trappers, after discussing the strange events of the last 36 hours, decided that they would shoulder their packs and leave the valley that afternoon. They were the more ready to do this because in spite of seeing a good deal of game sign they had caught very little fur. However it was necessary first to go along the line of their traps and gather them, and this they started out to do. All the morning they kept together, picking up trap after trap, each one empty. On first leaving camp they had the disagreeable sensation of being followed. In the dense spruce thickets they occasionally heard a branch snap after they had passed; and now and then there were slight rustling noises among the small pines to one side of them.

At noon they were back within a couple of miles of camp. In the high, bright sunlight their fears seemed absurd to the two armed men, accustomed as they were, through long years of lonely wandering in the wilderness, to face every kind of danger from man, brute or element. There were still three beaver traps to collect from a little pond in a wide ravine near by. Bauman volunteered to gather these and bring them in, while his companion went ahead to camp and made ready the packs.

On reaching the pond Bauman found three beavers in the traps, one of which had been pulled loose and carried into a beaver house. He took several hours in securing and preparing the beaver, and when he started homewards he marked, with some uneasiness, how low the sun was getting. As he hurried toward camp, under the tall trees, the silence and desolation of the forest weighted on him. His feet made no sound on the pine needles and the slanting sun-rays, striking through among the straight trunks, made a gray twilight in which objects at a distance glimmered indistinctly. There was nothing to break the gloomy stillness which, when there is no breeze, always broods over these sombre primeval forests.

At last he came to the edge of the little glade where the camp lay, and shouted as he approached it, but got no answer. The camp fire had gone out, though the thin blue smoke was still curling upwards.

Near it lay the packs wrapped and arranged. At first Bauman could see nobody; nor did he receive an answer to his call. Stepping forward he again shouted, and as he did so his eye fell on the body of his friend, stretched beside the trunk of a great fallen spruce. Rushing towards it the horrified trapper found that the body was still warm, but that the neck was broken, while there were four great fang marks in the throat.

The footprints of the unknown beast-creature, printed deep in the soft soil, told the whole story.

The unfortunate man, having finished his packing, had sat down on the spruce log with his face to the fire, and his back to the dense woods, to wait for his companion. While thus waiting, his monstrous assailant, which must have been lurking in the woods, waiting for a chance to catch one of the adventurers unprepared, came silently up from behind, walking with long noiseless steps and seemingly still on two legs. Evidently unheard, it reached the man, and broke his neck by wrenching his head back with its fore paws, while it buried its teeth in his throat. It had not eaten the body, but apparently had romped and gambolled around it in uncouth, ferocious glee, occasionally rolling over and over it; and had then fled back into the soundless depths of the woods.

Bauman, utterly unnerved, and believing that the creature with which he had to deal was something either half human or half devil, some great goblin-beast, abandoned everything but his rifle and struck off at speed down the pass, not halting until he reached the beaver meadows where the hobbled ponies were still grazing. Mounting, he rode onwards through the night.

Can you imagine hearing, or reading, this tale and then trying to go to sleep in your sleeping bag while out in the woods?

The thing is, Roosevelt was not given to telling fanciful tales. He reported on what he saw and heard from folks he trusted. He is recognized as a great naturalist, writer, historian, soldier, and politician who later became the twenty-sixth president of the United States.

Written during his days as a ranchman in the Dakota Bad Lands, this tale endures today as part of the classic folklore of the West. The narrative provides vivid portraits of the land as well as the people and animals that inhabited it, underscoring Roosevelt's abiding concerns as a naturalist.


Theodore Roosevelt

This story also provides a foundation for the subject matter of today’s cover story in The Paper dealing with . . . Sasquatch. His account of the incidents confronting Mister Bauman and his partner suggest descriptions consistent with those down through the years that others have given of what we in America call Sasquatch, or, “Big Foot.” The creature is most often seen in the wooded areas of the northwest. Eye-witnesses describe the creature as being 6 feet to 8 feet tall, walking upright on two legs (bipedal), weighing 500-800 pounds and being covered in hair. Another American version is known as The Florida Skunk Ape, which is supposedly a seven-foot-tall gorilla-like creature said to resemble the legendary Abominable Snowman. Witnesses in the Florida Everglades have claimed to have spotted the red-haired Big Foot, known locally as a Skunk Ape because of its appalling smell. The National Parks Service dismisses the stories as a hoax, but American tribes that live in the swamps insist it is real. In Australia the creature is known as Yoser. It has been reported in remote areas of the outback ever since the first colonists landed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The sightings of Yoser more or less correspond with those of other "Bigfoot"-like creatures, in that it is always reported to be a large primate, between eight and nine feet in height, and approximately 300 pounds in weight. Yoser, apparently, is a close relative of Sasquach and Bigfoot, his fur being an overall brown to black in color. The sightings of Yoser have become more and more confined to Australia's interior as the continent has become more populous. The original sightings were relatively close to Sydney.

In the Himalayas the creature is called Yeti or the Abominable Snowman. It is described in some accounts as having long white hair.

Yeti sightings are found in the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal. Yeti is also described as a large primate. Approximately 8-9 feet tall. The body is covered in fur.

They travel on all fours like the apes, but fight very comfortably standing erect. Unlike most apes and gorillas, the Yeti does not have an opposable toe on its feet. They wear no clothing or ornamentation. The spoor, or smell, of a Yeti is very subtle in cold climates, but in confined or warm areas, they have a strong, musky odor.

The eyes of a Yeti are icy blue or almost colorless. They have a transparent second eyelid, which allows the creature to see in blowing snow, and prevents its eyes from freezing in extreme temperatures. Their claws and flesh are ivory white. Unlike many arctic creatures, the Yeti does not have a thick layer of body fat to keep it warm. Instead, it relies upon the special properties of its thick, warm fur.

One of the world's leading cryptozoologists - scientists who study rumored, mythological or extinct animals that are presumed to exist but for which there is no conclusive proof, is Loren Coleman.

For those skeptical of cryptozoology, Coleman points to the many animal discoveries once rumored to be myth. Among these are mountain gorillas, the megamouth shark, the coelacanth (a six-foot-long, walking fish), and most recently, the ivory-billed woodpecker.

"In Brazil, they've found a new monkey every year during the last decade," Coleman said. Once a discovery is made, traditional science takes over and cryptozoology moves on to the next mystery. Coleman believes about 80 percent of the reports he investigates are fraudulent or the result of human error or imagination.


Loren Coleman with statue of
Sasquatch, showing size differential

"That left me with 20 percent of the cases that were unknown and that's what's exciting."

Certain facts are known:

It's a fact that for more than 400 years people have reported seeing large, hair-covered, man-like animals in the wilderness areas of North America.

It is a fact that sightings of these animals continue today. Real or not, these reports are often made by people of unimpeachable character.

It is a fact that, for over seventy years, people have been finding, photographing, and casting sets of very large human-shaped tracks. Most are discovered by chance in remote areas. These tracks continue to be found to this day.

It is a fact that the cultural histories of many Native American and First Nation peoples include stories and beliefs about non-human "peoples" of the wild. Many of these descriptions bear a striking resemblance to the hairy man-like creatures reported today.

"The Lakota, or western Sioux, call Bigfoot Chiye-tanka (Chiha-tanka in Dakota or eastern Sioux); "chiye" means "elder brother" and "tanka" means "great" or "big". In English, though, the Sioux usually call him "the big man."

The Iriquois, the Cree, the Ojibway . . .the Hopi . . . the Kiowa, most every Indian nation recognizes some form of Sasquatch . . . though they call him by different names . . . the description is almost identical.
In the Northwest, and west of the Rockies generally, Indian people regard Bigfoot with great respect. He is seen as a special kind of being, because of his obvious close relationship with humans. Some elders regard him as standing on the "border" between animal-style consciousness and human-style consciousness, which gives him a special kind of power.

However, among many Indians elsewhere in North America ... as widely separated at the Hopi, the Sioux, the Iroquois, and the Northern Athabascan -- Bigfoot is seen more as a sort of supernatural or spirit being, whose appearance to humans is always meant to convey some kind of message.

In February of 2000, a forensics expert, Jimmy Chilcutt, 54, and who is skeptical by nature, decided to try and debunk the ‘myth’ of Sasquatch. His job as a fingerprint technician at the Conroe Police Department requires hard-nosed judgments and painstaking attention to detail. He is highly regarded by agents of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and state and local law enforcement agencies because of his innovative techniques and ability to find fingerprints where others fail.

Chilcutt was primarily interested in apes. After checking Chilcutt's credentials, the Yerkes Regional Primate Center at Emory University in Atlanta arranged for him to take prints of apes at the Atlanta zoo during an annual medical checkup, while the apes were anesthetized. Since then, Chilcutt has amassed a collection of about 1,000 nonhuman primate prints. He has 350 prints. He said there are only about four or five researchers working with nonhuman fingerprints. He now believes that some of the fingerprints he has studied and compared are the genuine prints of a reclusive animal that has yet to be documented and studied. "I believe that this is an animal in the Pacific Northwest that we have never documented." "If there is a Sasquatch, only a handful of people in the world know the difference between a primate and a human print," Chilcutt said.

And so, this professional skeptic has become a believer that there is some type of animal or hominid out there.

Even local government has recognized that something extraordinary is going on. In the state of Washington, Skamania County, the following Ordinance:

Skamania County Ordinance
Ordinance No. 69-01
Be it hereby ordained by the Board of County Commissioners of Skamania County:
Whereas, there is evidence to indicate the possible existence in Skamania County of a nocturnal primate mammal variously described as an ape-like creature or a sub-species of Homo Sapiens; and
Whereas, both legend and purported recent sightings and spoor support this possibility, and
Whereas, this creature is generally and commonly known as a "Sasquatch", "Yeti", "Bigfoot", or "Giant Hairy ape", and has resulted in an influx of scientific investigators as well as casual hunters, many armed with lethal weapons, and
Whereas, the absence of specific laws covering the taking of specimens encourages laxity in the use of firearms and other deadly devices and poses a clear and present threat to the safety and well-being of persons living or traveling within the boundaries of Skamania County as well as to the creatures themselves,
Therefore be it resolved that any premeditated, wilful and wanton slaying of such creature shall be deemed a felony punishable by a fine not to exceed Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000) and/or imprisonment in the county jail for a period not to exceed Five (5) years.
Be it further resolved that the situation existing constitutes an emergency and as such this ordinance is effective immediately.

ADOPTED this 1st day of April, 1969.
The above ordinance was partiallyrepealed and amended in 1984 by Ordinance 1984-2:
The ordinance was amended to make the crime a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in the county jail and/or a $1000 fine.

The new ordinance also created a million-acre refuge within the County. Board of Commissioners of Skamania County.

Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sasquatch
http://www.coverups.com/bigfoot.htm
http://www.lorencoleman.com/myakka.html
http://www.southernillinoisan.com/content/articles/2005/10/26/