The barn door had been torn from its hinges. I stepped inside and tugged on a string to switch on the lone overhead bulb. Several feed bags were ripped open and scattered over the floor. Buster, my runt calf, was backed into the wall foaming at the mouth. I walked toward him, he bawled and tried to escape into the corner.
The floor creaked behind me. I turned. Dad stepped into the barn. He was breathing heavy, due to his sprint from the house. He stuck a cigarette in his mouth and dug in his Levi's for a lighter. "Looks like ol' Clarence wanted some oats."
Clarence was the name Dad fondly called our local Bigfoot.
"No Dad, it wasn't Clarence. It was just a stupid old bear."
I plopped down on a partially opened bag of oats and molasses and scratched Buster under the chin.
"I thought for sure it was going to be a Bigfoot, this time."
Dad crouched beside me. Rustled my shaggy hair with his hand. "Maybe, next time, Son"
I grew up on a small farm in southern, Oregon. To the south were hundreds of miles of the Siskiyou Mountains. The nearest house was a vacant cabin a mile to the north. The Warneke's were our closest neighbors, nearly two miles from us down Wilderville Lane. If you continued north on Wilderville Lane you would eventually come to Wilderville, a small town which consisted of a country store, a gasoline pump and a little Methodist Church.
Stories about Bigfoot were plentiful, growing up on Wallace Mountain. It seemed everyone had seen one, except me. All I ever encountered were black bear, which were a constant nuisance. Rummaging for food, they would strew trash cans around, tear barn doors from their hinges, raid the chicken coop and trample the vegetable garden. Dad set live traps for them, which was nothing more than a small trailer with a trap door. Once caught, we would hook the trailer to Dad's '54 Chevy pick-up and haul them deeper into the mountains, release them, and hope they didn't greet us when we returned.
Bigfoot, on the other hand, are curious and mischievous creatures and though they are too smart to get caught in one of Dad's traps, they mimic the bear and make it very difficult to determine the difference between Bigfoot mischief and black bear rummagings. My Dad, however, was a skilled big game hunter and could spot evidence of Bigfoot while most others were assuming black bear.
It wasn't until we were at Babyfoot Lake in the summer of '95, that I became a true believer. Patrick was seven and I was nine when Dad took us there on our first camping and fishing trip. We had no way of knowing that we were about to have the most incredible Bigfoot encounter to ever be documented in the journals of the Southern Oregon Bigfoot Society, which met the third Thursday of each month, except November, at the Black Forest Inn.
After pitching the tent and setting up camp, we grabbed our poles and walked along the lake, looking for a good fishing spot. Dad, with his incredible eye for the indecipherable, spotted some wild life signs. He knelt, picked up a small stick and pointed at the track in the mud. Patrick and I huddled around the impression, curious to learn what creature left this mysterious print on the shore of the lake.
"A Babyfoot walked through here, say about four and half hours ago."
"Wow!" I was impressed. "What's a Babyfoot, Dad?"
"A Babyfoot is a baby Bigfoot." He stood and walked to another print then another. We followed, careful not to step on the nine or ten inch long tracks.
"Yes, a baby Bigfoot probably about three, maybe four years of age. You can tell baby Bigfoot tracks because they are similar to adult Bigfoot tracks only smaller."
It seemed everywhere we went we saw Babyfoot tracks. Especially near the public swimming area. With so many Babyfoot around, I really hoped to have my first encounter. I didn't, unfortunately, but Patrick did. And what an encounter it was.
That night, while everyone slept, Patrick woke because something was stirring in the camp. He's normally a very heavy sleeper, but while camping, he sleeps like a cat. He saw the silhouette of a creature on the tent wall. Up right and with large outstretched arms, the monster walked toward us. Patrick held his breath, when he did breathe again, he noticed a strong musky odor as the shadow circled the tent. It stopped on Patrick's side and tore a small hole in the tent with its fingers. Then the creature put its eye to the hole and peeked in. Patrick, not easily frightened, stuck his finger through the hole and poked the Babyfoot right in its big yellow eye.
It yelped, fell backwards and left. A few minutes later the curious, or perhaps hungry, creature crept back to the tent, and circled a second time. Then it stopped at the entrance, reached through the canvas flap, grabbed Patrick by the feet and dragged him out, sleeping bag and all.
Apparently the Babyfoot planned to drag him along the shoreline to its den and eat him with the other adult Bigfoot. But, Patrick wasn't going without a fight. Like a crazed badger, he managed to grab a big stick and started battering the Babyfoot on the head. It ran off screaming, low guttural grunts, into the forest. Patrick returned to the tent with his wet and dirtied sleeping bag and went back to sleep.
The next morning we would have never known about Patrick's incredible confrontation, had we not noticed his sleeping bag was wet and a putrid odor emanated from it. It smelled suspiciously like a Bigfoot, I thought.
Dad very upset that the new sleeping bag had been violated. He told Patrick he couldn't continue to camp with us if he couldn't keep his sleeping bag dry. Patrick insisted it wasn't his fault, and though not a braggart, he commenced to tell us about his death defying night-time rendezvous.
I was excited that Patrick had his first Bigfoot encounter, but at the same time I was sorely disappointed it hadn't grabbed me instead. Now, I was the only one in our family who had not seen a Bigfoot.