A Halloween Overture
“The man who believes nothing is just as foolish as the man who believes everything.”
~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
All along, I have been under the misapprehension that Seebert is just a rustic and charming little village situated on the banks of the Greenbrier River. Except for the occasional flood, not much out of the ordinary happens here.
Seebert is the kind of town where everybody stops to speak with their neighbors. If a neighbor is found to be in need, everybody rushes in to mow their lawn or pick up some groceries for them.
One lifetime resident of Seebert regularly calls me just to see if I am okay. That type of kindness and concern for one’s neighbor is rare indeed.
We may be one of the few places left in the country where local etiquette demands a friendly wave to all oncoming vehicles. Or, at the very least, raising all four fingers from your grip on the steering wheel. However, for some, that is considered a lethargic but minor slight.
Few people bother locking their car doors, day or night. And the highlight of the day is getting an ice cream cone at Jack Horner’s Corner. There’s just not much to raise one’s stress level here in Seebert.
Then, I got some visitors from Ohio who thought otherwise.
My old friend Delbert Hinkle paid a brief and unannounced visit to my home here in Seebert last week. Delbert came down from Mudwallow, Ohio (my hometown, as Garrison Keillor used to say) with another fellow that he introduced as a cryptozoologist.
Not being aware of such a discipline, and not wishing to appear ignorant, I ventured a guess saying, “You must be one of those people who deciphers codes for the CIA?”
“No, I think you are talking about cryptologists. We search for things like the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot and such,” Delbert’s friend replied
“Oh, I didn’t know that there was such a job,” I exclaimed.
“This is not a paying job,” Delbert piped up. “We do it for the same reason some people hunt for lost treasure – it’s fun. Wendell here just got back from a little village in Mexico where he was chasing down a chupacabra.”
“They just started selling them at the Taco Bell in Lewisburg last month,” I said, once again sticking my foot in my mouth. “I haven’t got to try them yet.”
Wendell set me straight in a condescending tone, “A chupacabra is ‘not’ a Mexican food item. It is a creature that sucks the blood out of goats.”
I pondered that gruesome image for a moment before replying.
“Well, did you catch one of them?” I asked.
“No, not really,” he said, “We finally caught the critter that was terrorizing the village. But it turned out to be a dog with a horrible case of mange and an appetite for chickens.”
“Well, if you’re looking for chupacabras here, I don’t think you’ll find any. I haven’t heard of any goats missing any blood here in Pocahontas County,” I said half-jokingly.
“Actually, we’re on our way down to Louisiana to track down the Atchafalaya Swamp Monster that’s been scaring off all the duck hunters and birdwatchers,” Delbert replied dryly. Delbert is not known for his sense of humor.
“Don’t forget to tell him that the swamp monster was also stealing crawfish traps,” Wendell said, adding, “I’m surprised the monster hasn’t gotten himself shot by a Cajun fisherman. They don’t take kindly to anybody stealing their traps. And if you ask me….”
Delbert interrupted Wendell’s rant, saying, “You just told him, Wendell. He’s standing right beside you.”
“Well, we’ve got to get going if we want to get the first good video footage of the swamp monster,” Delbert continued. “But, the reason we stopped by is to inform you that you are living in prime, and I do mean prime, Bigfoot country.”
“I didn’t know that, Delbert. Thanks for keeping me informed. I’ll walk you out to your car now,” I replied, trying to hurry them along their way.
“You really need to get some good video footage being that you live in a high-density Bigfoot area. It would be a big boost to the true believers and convince some of the skeptics, too. You owe it to your community,”Delbert said.
“Well, Delbert,” I said, “I’m not a cryptozoologist, and I don’t know anything about capturing monsters. So maybe I should just leave this task to you professionals.”
Delbert, not one to be put off so easily, replied, “Remember, Ken, you are a cryptozoologist if you say you are a cryptozoologist. Just get yourself one of those motion sensor game cameras and a night-activated sound recorder, and you’re in business.
“I don’t know, Delbert, cryptozoologist is a hard word to even pronounce,” I said in another feeble attempt at humor.
Ignoring my quip, Delbert exclaimed, “Oh, for god’s sake, Ken, you’re in the woods every day of your life. You have a better opportunity for finding the irre-futable evidence that would bring credibility to our efforts.
“Me and Wendell spend our days working on an extrusion press at the plastic plant in Marietta. We don’t have the luxury of spending as much time as you could looking for cryptids.”
I knew Delbert was right. I am in the woods nearly every day. But, I cannot say that I have ever seen a Bigfoot or any other “cryptid.” And, for that matter, I’m just not sure that they exist.
However, I have to admit that any new obsession Delbert gets involved in, he gives it his all, no matter how misguided.
So, with grudging respect for Delbert and feeling shameful about my overt skepticism and mocking attitude, I said, “All right, here’s what I’ll do. It’s almost Halloween, so there would be no harm in writing a story on the subject.
“I’ll shake the trees a bit, no pun intended, and see what I come up with on Bigfoot activity in Pocahontas County.
“You have my word on this, Delbert.”
The two men slowly drove away, but I could only read a few of their many bumper stickers before they got into the first curve and disappeared.
One said “Official Bigfoot Response Vehicle,” another proclaimed, “I’d Rather Be Squatchin.” But, by far, my favorite ironically stated, “Bigfoot Doesn’t Believe in You.”
At first, I felt a little sorry for Delbert and Wendell. Two grown men with boring jobs and yards to mow. And Mudwallow doesn’t offer much in the way of excitement. After all, I left there for that very reason. I can understand how the adventure offered by proving the exis- tence of an exotic creature could have a certain appeal to Delbert and Wendell.
If I was being honest, I would have to admit that I don’t know if these “cryptids” exist or not. However, I have friends that I regard as rational, sane and highly credible who have seen things that mainstream science maintains do not exist.
I will keep my word to Delbert. I will research Bigfoot as it affects this part of West Virginia and see what I come up with. Who knows, they may really be out there.
Every community has one individual who serves as the collective memory of all that has transpired there through the years.
I telephoned ours.
If anything out of the ordinary has ever happened in Seebert, this fellow will know. We’ll call my friend “Mac,” and when I asked him about Bigfoot, I really expected a laugh on the other end of the line. *
Instead, I got an earful about a period of time in the 1980s when our area was abuzz with Bigfoot aficionados combing the mountains and valleys of Pocahontas County. Mac said that the activity even caught the attention of CNN, who made an appearance here.
Then he said something that made my hair – that I no longer have – stand on end!
Is the peaceful community of Seebert hiding something? Is it a sinister secret, or, perhaps, something that they cherish?
Find out in next week’s installment of For Your Consideration – where science meets the unknown, particularly around Halloween.
And readers, if you have a story about Bigfoot or any other cryptid, please share your story at my email address below. Names will be withheld upon request.
Disclaimer: Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental. Even if you’re one of those who is always saying with a revelatory smile, “There are no coincidences.”
There are – but just not always.
* Before cell phones, there was a device called a “telephone.” When you called someone, you were literally connected by copper lines. We still have them here in Seebert.
You will not see people here walking around like distracted zombies staring at a three-by-six-inch screen. There’s just too much beauty surrounding us to spend our time gazing at plastic.