The truth about the Sasquatch
Legends are among B.C.’s famous exports. Red Wind and Running Hawk doubted this one until Captain Bromfield-Coogan’s trap revealed
I am obliged reluctantly to remember Captain Hillary Bromfield-Coogan, whose name was first made known to me when my friend Running Hawk put down his newspaper and said, "Here is word of one who ventures to gain fame through capture of the monster or wild man called Sasquatch.”
"He pursues an illusion. Running Hawk,” I said. “My cousin Abbott, who lives in the fabled Sasquatch region, declares this monster to be completely imaginary.”
“1 remember Abbott," said Running Hawk. “One hears that he is greatly admired and respected by his fellow citizens.”
"Since leaving the Reserve,” 1 said, speaking with some pride, "Abbott has acquired a large farm covered with pastures. hayfields and barns. He is a person of consequence in his neighborhood.”
“Exactly,” said Running Hawk. "So that if cousin Abbott were to find evidence that Sasquatch may be less imaginary than he supposes ...”
"Running Hawk,” 1 said, "you will please involve neither Abbott nor me in any scheme to capture this ridiculous Sasquatch.”
Running Hawk became scornful. "Red Wind, if Sasquatch is imaginary, as your remarkable cousin suggests, it would plainly be impossible to capture him. I had thought merely to color a legend as one might color a food, to make it the more attractive.”
One had to be firm with Running Hawk. “1 shall spend
no time or effort,” I said brusquely, “toward such an end.” "Indeed,” said Running Hawk, “you will have none to spend if you follow your mother's urgent suggestion and get a job in the lumber mill. The hours there are long, and the work rigorous, though no doubt of benefit to mind and muscle.”
There is of course a point where firmness becomes mere stubbornness. “I could undertake nothing," I said, “in which 1 might be asked to make false statements.”
Running Hawk leaned forward with his craftiest smile. “Red Wind, should you think it false to say that you had seen nothing when, actually, you had seen nothing? Or to deny the likelihood of Sasquatch's existence when, as you say. you have no reason to suppose that he exists?”
The logic in this seemed undeniable in spite of Running Hawk’s strong argument for the lumber mill. Running Haw'k rose, still smiling, and drew a large fur coat from a cupboard. “An heirloom,” he said, “in which I propose to make certain striking alterations.”
We had by this time quite forgotten about Captain Hillary Bromfield-Coogan.
THROUGH THE KINDNESS of a freight conductor named Smith we were able within a day to reach the junction of the Fraser and Coquihalla Rivers, where Running Hawk set otf into the forest with a large pack of camping supplies and I went on by road to the farm continued on page 67
Something crashed heavily in the bushes. “Shoot, Jake!” said Bert. A vast light Hared from Jake’s camera. “If I was in focus,” said the ace reporter, “I got him!”
The truth about the Sasquatch
Continued from page 34
of my cousin Abbott. Here I was warmly received and shown many late improvements and aids to modern living.
"This is our new freezer, Charlie,” said Abbott. "It keeps all our foods nice and fresh.” He raised the lid of an enameled tank to expose a quantity of packages grim with frost.
"And this is our new infra-red heater, Charlie,” said Abbott’s wife Julia, pointing to a panel of glass and metal on the wall. Two loaves of bread rested on a stool in front of it.
“Modern science is sure wonderful, Charlie,” said Abbott. “Now, with oldfashioned heat these loaves w'ould get hot and crumbly on the outside before they were even warm on the inside.”
"Do you alw'ays warm the bread?” 1 said.
"Well, of course,” said Abbott, “we have to. It’s frozen hard when it comes out of the freezer.”
Later that night, when he had finished his milking, Abbott sat and talked with me in the kitchen. "We’d sit in the living room,” said Abbott, “but the Calf Club is meeting there tonight.”
"The Calf Club?" I said. “Do the calves have a club?”
"That is a very funny joke, Charlie,” said Abbott. “I will tell it to the kids in the morning. You see, all the kids in our neighborhood have calves, which they raise themselves. They meet every week to talk over feeding problems and so forth. It is a very good thing for kids to have calves, Charlie. It gives them a sound aspect.”
We were sipping cocoa, sitting across from each other at the kitchen table so that Abbott faced a window toward which my back was turned. He paused abruptly in the act of raising his cup.
"What is the matter, Abbott?” I said. "Are you in pain or something? Perhaps a sudden headache?"
Abbott put his cup down and blinked sharply. “It is nothing, Charlie,” he said. "I must have swallowed a little cocoa the wrong way.” He raised his cup again, only to choke into it and spring halfway to his feet, spilling the cocoa.
"Abbott,” I said, "let me help you to your room. This attack will no doubt shortly pass.”
Abbott strangled briefly over a large handkerchief. "It is all right, Charlie,” he said in a rasping whisper. “Only please excuse me while I go outside for a minute. I forgot to shut the hens in.”
On the following evening, after an uneventful day, I was somewhat startled by the arrival at the farm of a large policeman. "This is my cousin Charlie, Constable Bjornson,” said Abbott. He showed us into the living room and snapped on a television set. "I hate to bother you about nothing. Constable Bjornson." said Abbott, "but I figured it might be my duty as a citizen to report a thing like that.” He looked at me apologetically. "I haven't told Charlie or Julia.” Abbott said, "because I didn't want to scare them.”
Constable Bjornson sat down and
“Coarse hairy face, glaring eyes, protruding teeth. Whatever makes you think it’s a hoax?”
made a chest at himself in the mirror of a golden-oak sideboard. “Always ready to look into these things, Abbott,” he said. “Appreciate your co-operation, Abbott. Only wish more of your people might take the same attitude.” I may only have imagined that with the words he cast a glance at me.
“But like I told you, Constable Bjornson,” said Abbott, appearing to sweat lightly across his forehead, “maybe I was just seeing things.”
“Well, Abbott,” said Constable Bjornson, “no harm in checking up. Our job, you know.” He nodded to both of us.
“Would you care for a cup of cocoa, constable?” said Abbott. “We have a new electric kettle that I can plug in right here in the living room.”
We had nicely begun on our cocoa when the constable, who sat facing a window, rose with a loud snort. “Stay where you are, boys!” he said.
He had dashed all the way to the door before seeming to remember that he still held his cup of cocoa. He returned, placed it carefully on the television set and dashed again to the door.
“You’re trying to open the door the wrong way, constable,” said Abbott. “Just pull it toward you.”
Constable Bjornson yanked the door back and plunged through the opening. His feet pounded outside the house. He returned presently, breathing hard. “Nothing?” said Abbott.
“Nothing,” said the constable. He turned to me. “What did you see?” “Nothing,” I said. The constable gradually recovered his breath.
“Abbott,” he said, “something queer about this. Highly peculiar. Inexplicable, I might say. Hardly a police matter, though, unless something develops. What I think we’d best do is call in the newspaper boys.”
JAKE SCHICK, ace reporter, scribbled in his notebook and glanced from Abbott to me. “What do you think, Joe?” he said.
“The name is Charlie,” I said. “I think it is a hoax. That is, if Abbott and Constable Bjornson really saw anything.”
“What do you mean, if we really saw anything?” said Constable Bjornson. “What Abbott described was exactly what I saw. Do you think we’d both imagine the same thing?”
“Coarse hairy face, glaring eyes, protruding teeth,” said Jake Schick, stabbing at his notebook. “Why do you think it’s a hoax, Joe?”
“Charlie,” I said. “It is either a hoax or Sasquatch. One merely considers the most likely thing.”
“Who'd be doing it, and why?” said Jake.
“Since the face appeared here at Abbott’s,” I said, “I should say some Indian. For a joke, perhaps, or more likely for profit.”
“And how would the profit come in?” “Probably through raising interest in a popular notion to the point where false information might be sold or used to obtain rewards.”
“You’re a pretty smart cookie, Joe,” said Jake Schick. “That language of yours goals me. Where did you learn it?”
“In college,” I said. “Where did you learn yours?”
“Okay, okay,” Jake said absently. He stroked his chin and turned to a small
rumpled reporter who stood at his elbow. “What do you think, Bert? Can we take it past the rumor stage?”
“I don’t know, Jake,” said Bert. “What do you think, Jake?”
“Well, I don’t know, Bert,” said Jake. “We’ll get our hides nailed to the masthead if we boil this chicken and it turns out to be a crow.”
“Maybe we ought to scout around a little first, Jake,” said Bert. “Look for clues.”
“Great, Bert,” said Jake. “Only we’ve got other crocks cooking. And there are no Sasquatch hunters in the country to catch clues for us.”
Like Running Hawk and myself, the reporters seemed entirely to have forgotten about Captain Hillary BromfieldCoogan.
“How about Huxley here?” said Bert. “Maybe he could run something down.” “That’s a thought,” said Jake. “We might put him on the roster as Our Special Native Correspondent.” He turned to me and arched his brow. “Would you like to take a flyer on the phrase market?”
“I could try,” I said.
“Great,” said Jake. “By the way, what’s your name?”
“Joe,” I said.
The reporters roared off in a sports car and I earned a pleasant half-day's wages by lying under a huge tree and peering through its branches in search of a clue. During late afternoon the pot, as Jake might have put it, began to simmer. Three members of the Calf Club came racing home to report having seen a large, hairy, upright creature dash from a disused road into the fern and undergrowth of the forest. A neighbor brought word that something had knocked over seven ricks of wood in his back yard. Most alarming, while Abbott went to investigate the upset wood, a large cut of beef, freshly prepared for the freezer, was taken from a slaughtering shed beside the barn.
“Police matter now, no doubt of it,” said Constable Bjornson, searching keenly for tracks. Jake and Bert, who had come roaring back in their sports car, prowled helpfully through the slaughtering shed.
“If this is a gag,” said Bert, “it’s a. dinger. Did you find anything on your own, Huxley?”
“Virtually nothing,” I said. “Merely a depression in the fern where some large animal apparently had slept.”
Jake Schick cried out sharply. “ ‘Virtually nothing,' he says. ‘Merely,’ he says. ‘Large animal,’ he says.” Jake pressed both hands to his head.
“We’ve got a genius here all right, Jake,” said Bert. “Huxley, leave us go at once to this depression in the fern. Bring your camera, Jake.”
I led them down an intricate path behind Abbott’s barn. “I have the definite feeling,” I said, “that this place was arranged to be discovered. I now more than ever suspect a hoax.”
“He suspects a hoax, Jake,” said Bert. “Oh, I know it’s a hoax, Bert,” said Jake. “The minute Joe said so I knew it was a hoax.”
Something crashed heavily in the bracken to our right. “Camera, Jake!” said Bert. Jake fumbled desperately with his camera. There was a further, somewhat impatient crash from the bracken. “Shoot. Jake!” said Bert. A vast light flared from Jake’s camera, turn-
ing the gloom of the thicket into sharp criss-cross patterns of fern stems anil branches. After a moment of dusky silence the crashing began again, and retreated in a sort of satisfied gallop.
"If I was in focus I got him." said Jake.
"If you got him we're in focus," said Bert. “On the beam and in the groove. Let’s get back to town and peck a piece of pica."
On the following day. in the comfortable seclusion of a forest camp. Running Hawk and I inspected a large picture on the front page of Jake's and Bert’s newspaper. "Exquisitely and obscurely suggestive." said Running Hawk. "Moreover. a bit of pure luck. The idea of a photograph occurred to me only when I saw that those two simpletons carried a camera.”
"What happens next?” I said.
"Nothing for the moment," said Running Hawk. "The goose promises to lay at modest but regular intervals. With your command of language and my talent for drama we may extend an output of newspaper material over many weeks."
I returned to the farm to find a small group of Indians watching television with Abbott in the living room. "Hello, Charlie,” said Abbott. "I invited a few neighbors in to meet you. This is Gabriel Smith. This is Peter Isaac. Gabriel and Peter, my cousin Charlie.” I shook hands with Gabriel and Peter, and went on to the others as Abbott presented me. "I will now plug in our new electric kettle,” said Abbott, “and make some cocoa for all of us. We just wanted to say, Charlie, that we’d like to get in on this deal with you and your friend."
For a moment I was able only to stare at the television screen, upon which the image of an attractive young woman in brief underwear climbed awkwardly down a drainpipe.
“Friend?” I said. “To whom can you possibly refer, Abbott?"
“Why,” said Abbott, "to the one who peeked in the windows and scared the kids and pushed over the woodpiles and stole my beef and let himself get taken a picture of by the reporters."
I watched fascinated while the young woman dropped from the end of her drainpipe and was overpowered by two great hulking men in overcoats. Abbott distributed cocoa to the Indians, all of whom wore vests, ties and starched collars. Peter resembled a schoolteacher. Gabriel might have been a churchwarden.
"Abbott." I said, "as you will kindly remember, I insisted from the first that this business was a hoax.”
"Oh. yes, Charlie," said Abbott. "I know you did, and after a while I got to wondering why you did. Please have some cocoa, Charlie. It is good for the nerves and promotes sound restful sleep."
“Thank you, Abbott," I said. "Perhaps you will explain how you have
come to entertain this monstrous suspicion."
"Why, Charlie," said Abbott, "you forgot that we grew up together. You were a very smart boy. Charlie. You got prizes for writing with muscular movement and for drawing, and you won scholarships and went to college. You used to notice everything, Charlie."
"It is easy for stupid guy to look smart," said Gabriel Smith, "but it is hard for smart guy to look stupid."
"That is just it, Charlie,” said Abbott. “A smart fellow like you would have seen everything, and you pretended to see nothing. You should never try to act stupid, Charlie. You are too smart to get away with it."
"But. Abbott," I said, "you would have little to gain by intruding, even if this fantasy were truth. My fees from Jake Schick's newspaper are very small. I should make more money in the lumber mill at home."
"You would also work harder, Charlie,” said Abbott, "and get up earlier. But it is not altogether a matter of money, Charlie. We do not like having our kids scared and our woodpiles knocked over and our meat stolen. You and your friend must give us a little control or stop this nonsense at once."
"Again presuming fantasy to be truth." I said, "suppose that we refuse."
"Then, Charlie,” said Abbott, “we will bring in another Sasquatch and run you out of business.”
AS YOU see, Running Hawk." I said.
"we have managed already to kill the goose."
"But it was traditional!" said Running Hawk. He ran his fingers furiously through his hair. “Sasquatch has always frightened women or children, and has always knocked over woodpiles."
“And Abbott's meat?”
Running Hawk winced. "A well-laid plan. Red Wind. 1 had reduced the cut to a gnawed bone, leaving authentic tooth marks with a farrier's clippers. This bone I had placed on the bed of fern toward which you were leading the reporters when I was tempted by my unfortunate inspiration.”
"We had better learn when Conductor Smith is to bring another freight up the line,” I said. “There is nothing further to be gained by staying here.”
"Rather, Reil Wind," said Running Hawk, “there is nothing further to be lost. Moreover. I am convinced that this contemptible Abbott and his friends arc bluffing. Their crude agricultural instincts would defeat any attempt at artistic deception." Running Hawk rubbed his hands together with a vast show of confidence. “Red Wind, Sasquatch will appear tomorrow at Mile 90 on the highway. A bus is due there at ten, and you'll wait at the next village to interview the terrified passengers.”
I waited next day at the village and
duly interviewed the terrified passengers. A rancher returning to the Cariboo admitted having seen “some kind of furry critter" leap into the hush as the bus passed. A salesman suggested that it might have been a bear. A vivacious little old lady was more encouraging, and stated positively that she had seen Sasquatch. who had been nine feet tall and proportionately broad. I mailed off the story, and on the following day, after it had appeared in print, chanced to meet Abbott in the village. I had by this time, of course, delicately withdrawn from Abbott's household and was living with Running Hawk in his forest camp.
"Well, Charlie,” said Abbott, "I guess it didn't do any harm to put on a show for the bus people. When do we get our money?”
"Please be less crass, Abbott,” I said. "I shall pay for your meat, which was probably stolen by some wandering dog.
I shall pay also to restore the woodpiles, which were no doubt blown down by the wind. Beyond that I shall pay nothing.”
“Well, Charlie," said Abbott, "I see it is no use trying to make you listen to reason. 1 guess we will just have to go ahead and fix your wagon for you.”
NOW I never have learned who of Abbott's group conceived the plan by which, in the space of a few days, our careful myth was annihilated. Its economy of effort was even more amazing than its result. Sasquatch appeared, as before, by the side of the highway. But on this occasion he reappeared, and continued to do so. over the space of an hour or more, until he had been clearly observed by the occupants of over two hundred automobiles and buses, and until he had been photographed by scores of cameras. And on this occasion too, as if to remove all doubts on identity, the monster carried a huge sign in block lettering that read:
LOOK. ME SASQUATCH.
The effect was indescribable. No doubt primed by our earlier efforts, the public took up the absurd catch line and quoted it virtually to death. It appeared in advertisements, in political cartoons, and crept into the desperate patter of radio comedians. A humiliated monster who appeared briefly on a logging road was chased into the forest by a group of children. “Look!” they said, hooting and shouting. “Him Sasquatch!” Running Hawk arrived a few moments later at our camp, out of breath and speechless with rage. He rolled his altered heirloom coat into a hairy wad and hurled it upon the fire.
“Let us find Conductor Smith at once,” said Running Hawk.
I attempted one more newspaper story, proposing that a sordid advertising plot had lain behind the Sasquatch appearance. The story was returned to me along with an insulting printed card assuring me that my work was commendable but unsuited to the newspaper's present needs. A scrawled postscript read, “Fade away, Huxley.” I was leaving the post office with this irritating communication when 1 almost collided with Jake and Bert, who were backing across the sidewalk from their sports car while a small man in khaki danced excitedly after them.
"Has everyone in this country gone mad?” said the small man. He flung away from the reporters and toward me as if in appeal, so that 1 pressed fearfully against the wall. "Are you all out of your minds?" said the man, whom 1 now supposed to be some sort of religious fanatic. He waved his fists in my
face, so that I raised my arms defensively-
“Excuse me, sir,” I said. “I fear that l fail to recognize you, sir.”
“I am Captain Hillary BromfieldCoogan!" said the small man. "I am an Associate of the Royal Council on Anthropological Research.“ He controlled his breathing as if with difficulty. “I have spent the past weeks remote from civilization,” he said, “in the crowning effort of a work pursued for years by our council.” Ffe drew himself rigidly erect.
“I have discovered the legendary Sasquatch,” said Captain Bromfield-Coogan.
"Sure, sure, professor,” said Bert. “I'll bet you get a badge for it too. But you'll have to do more than that before you can tly up from Brownies to Guides.”
"I have done more than that!” said Captain Bromfield-Coogan, quivering violently. “I have caged a living breathing Sasquatch whom in all humanity I must release if no one will travel with me to accept the evidence of plain eyesight and verify my achievement.”
“Does your Sasquatch have buttons, professor?” said Jake Schick. "Because the ones with zippers are a sub-species and don’t count.”
Captain Hillary Bromfield-Coogan collapsed against the wall of the post office and clutched feebly at his inside coat pocket. 1 assisted him in drawing out a crumpled telegram and a large photograph. The telegram was from the Western Branch, Royal Council on Anthropological Research, and read, “SORRY OLD MAN. YOU HAVE BEEN HAD. THAT THING HAS BEEN SEEN EVERYWHERE EXCEPT ON TELEVISION. SYMPATHY. ABERNATHY.” The photograph was evidently of a large, mild-faced, gorilla-like creature that bore no resemblance whatsoever to Abbott’s travesty or to Running Hawk’s fur coat. It struck me with a shock that there was an unmistakably genuine quality about the picture, but Bert and Jake only squinted casually through smoke from their cigarettes.
"Bert," said Jake, “do you fail to see what I fail to see?”
“Sure 1 do, Jake,” said Bert. “This party in the picture is a fake. He isn’t carrying his sign.“ Bert thumped his chest briefly. “Look,” he said in a hoarse bass. “Me Sasquatch!” Callously ignoring a groan from Captain Bromfield-Coogan, the reporters stepped into their sports car and roared away. 1 am happy to state that I have never seen them since.
MAKE yourselves at home in the parlor car, boys,” said Conductor Smith. “I have some big hats due aboard later, but I guess we can accommodate you then in one of the Pullmans up ahead. Soft pine mattresses and sliding doors on the lavatories. Who's your friend?”
“A broken man,” I said. “He journeys with us to the peace of our northern for' csts.”
“These are good days, conductor,” said Captain Bromticld - Coogan, coughing weakly. “Guileless children of nature. They assisted me when I was forced to release my Sasquatch.”
“When you were forced to release your whatsquatch?” said Conductor Smith.
“A male of fine physique, conductor,” Captain Bromfield-Coogan said in a whisper, “l ost to science.”
Our powerful locomotive, starting into motion a mile ahead, jerked the caboose from under our feet so that we fell violently to the floor.
“All aboard,” said Conductor Smith. ★