Seebert’s best kept secret
A Halloween Tale
February 12, 1907
The young teacher had been eyeing the ominous clouds all morning through a window of the one-room schoolhouse. It had been a warm start to February, so she wasn’t too concerned. If anything, it might rain, she thought.
By early afternoon the temperature was dropping fast, and the snow started coming down; slowly at first. The teacher held off releasing the 23 children until they were finished with their compositions.
By the time the children started for home, it was snowing hard, and the wind was picking up.
For most of the students, the walk to their homes was less than a mile as the crow flies. For the Finch children, Annabel and Daniel, the hike down to their farmhouse near Seebert took a lot longer due to the distance and making several crossings over Stamping Creek along the way.
The two siblings were beginning to shiver uncontrollably. Lost in the blinding snowstorm, nothing looked familiar to them. Sometime earlier, they stumbled off the familiar route that they walked daily from school to home.
Coming upon a massive chestnut tree, they took shelter on the lee side of the tree. They had heard their parents often say that to never fall asleep if you are caught out in the cold. They thoroughly understood why this is so.
These children were of mountain stock, and they didn’t panic. Both accepted the fact that no one could search for them until the blizzard stopped. Huddled together, they fought overwhelming drowsiness, each intent on keeping the other awake as long as they could.
Why the teacher allowed the children to go home in an impending storm is still debated. Yet, a story grew from this event that vastly overshadows the poor decision of a rural schoolteacher.
Pocahontas County, Present Day
Ask most of the younger adults in Seebert if they believe in Bigfoot, and they will say that they think it is just a legend. But when you ask the same thing of the older folks, you will almost always get a firm response that they believe that Bigfoot exists.
One might wonder why they are so sure of their belief!
When the big commotion about Bigfoot took place in the late 1980s, cryptid hunters from all over poured into the area. They filled up campgrounds and cabins all up and down the river.
But their reception in Seebert was chilly, to put it mildly.
Most of the older residents wouldn’t talk to the hunters or reporters at all. And those that did vigorously denied that there was anything remotely resembling a Bigfoot to be found in the area.
You may draw back a bit and think, “This writer just told us in a previous column about how friendly and obliging the people of Seebert are. Now, he’s saying they gave short shrift to out-of-town visitors. What gives?”
Well, I gave some thought to this dichotomous behavior. And suggest that there may be some practical reason why these cryptozoologists weren’t welcomed with open arms.
Imagine an army of wild-eyed cryptid hunters pouring out across our mountains and hollows. It is unlikely that many of them had any knowledge of farming or familiarity with the rugged and unforgiving terrain of Pocahontas County.
And as such, would be prone to leave gates open and trample down crops and fences. Not to mention falling into open-pit caves or getting snake bit up in some rocky hollow.
That’s the practical side of it, but there may be another reason that the fine folks of Seebert are averse to promoting that specific activity.
Maybe, just maybe, they are protecting someone or something.
Pocahontas County, February 12, 1907
In rural areas like Pocahontas County, stories are a vital connection to family history. They are passed down through the generations and become a part of familial identity.
Sometimes these stories become a shared history. At other times they are a closely guarded secret. But, ever so often, a singular event becomes the stuff of legend.
However, the combination of words that make up this particular story is only spoken among those families that were affected by something truly extraordinary. An event they felt that the outside world would not fully appreciate nor understand.
You, reader, will soon know this secret. And I can only hope that the guardians of Seebert’s skeleton in the closet will forgive me for revealing their long-held confidence.
As well, I trust that you will understand the magnitude of the following incident.
Annabel and her brother, huddled together against the great chestnut tree, were starting to lose consciousness. Soon, frostbite and a rapid drop in body temperature would take their brutal toll on the children.
The oldest of the two, Annabel, tried desperately to keep Daniel awake by rubbing his hands and cheeks, but he was fading fast.
Suddenly Annabel saw an immense dark figure looming above her and her brother. Instinctively, she drew Daniel back into an alcove at the base of the tree, never taking her eyes off the motionless creature that towered over them.
It began making a sound so much like a mother cooing a baby that Annabel immediately felt at ease. She seemed to know that the creature was a female and sensed that she and Daniel were not in immediate danger.
The Bigfoot very slowly extended one hand, and gently placed it on Annabel’s head. The young girl did not so much as flinch but, instead, gazed into the creature’s large almond-shaped eyes.
Something ever so important was silently communicated between them, an understanding as old as life itself. The creature was attempting to comfort the two children. This is not an unheard-of phenomenon between different species.
The female Bigfoot bent down toward the children, gently gathering them up in her massive arms. The heat from her body caused Daniel to rouse as she held both children snuggly to her chest.
Shielding them as best she could with her body, the creature set off walking effortlessly in the deep snow.
She seemed to know where the children lived and proceeded likewise in a direct path to the Finch house. In doing so, the creature crossed through several farms enroute, stepping easily over the fences in the way.
When the Finch house came into view, the snow suddenly stopped, momentarily brightening the landscape. Annabel sensed that the Bigfoot was more cautious now, looking this way and that as she approached the house.
Upon reaching the big oak tree in front of the house, she gently set Annabel and Daniel on the ground. The sound of a door opening frightened the creature, and she spun around and loped away into the dusk.
When Mrs. Finch saw her children standing under the tree, she ran to them, falling to her knees in the snow hugging Annabel and Daniel, and thanking God at the same time.
She called for their father, who was in the barn saddling a horse in preparation of searching for them. When he arrived at the children, he scooped them up in his arms, saying, “How, how did you make it home?”
Annabel pointed down to the snow beyond the tree.
The sight of the large retreating tracks in the snow caused him a moment of confusion. “What?” was all he could get out of his mouth.
“Leave it be for now, Harlan,” Mrs. Finch said. “Let’s get the children in the house and into warm clothing. We’ll talk about it tomorrow.”
News spread quickly through the community about the bizarre rescue of the Finch children. Unfortunately, the term used to describe the female Bigfoot was “an unknown beast.”
Silas Barnes, a perpetually angry man and scorned by most, had no interest in the rescue itself. His only interest was in the creature. He mounted his horse late in the morning and picked up the astonishingly large tracks near Mill Point on Stamping Creek.
At some point, a mile or so upstream, he dismounted and quietly pulled a 50 caliber Hawken rifle from its scabbard. He carefully slid the octagon barrel over the seat of the saddle. A single loud shot rang out, immediately followed by a pitiful scream of anguish.
Both sounds overlapped and echoed throughout the valley for what seemed a long time.
Then, all was deathly still.
Postscript: Silas Barnes was himself assassinated a few years later. No arrests were made and a short article in The Pocahontas Times announcing the death of this bully simply stated, “He was not a well-liked man.”
Like the creature, Barnes was buried in a remote grave. But, unlike the creature, his grave has been long forgotten.
By now, you must be wondering where the grave of the compassionate creature is? Don’t ask; no one around here will tell you.
Nor will I.