26 October 2007

Chasing Chewbacca with Chickens (free-range of course)

Seems the hunt for Bigfoot (or Sasquatch or Yeti or Omeh) is heating up on California's north coast. Led, or at least chronicled, by a former Humboldt County politics and society blogger known as "Captain Buhne", the search leads into directly into our neighborhood's "Haunted Forest", otherwise known as Redwood National Park.

Curious? Check out the tabloid-ish cover story from this week's North Coast Journal, "Bigfoot Trapped by Norcal Fanatic".

Now perhaps I'm too much a skeptic. I have spent a summer reading about science, reason and faith courtesy of Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Unitarian preachers after all. Hundreds, possibly thousands of secretive, breeding primates wandering the backhills of America's most road-strewn national park? You'd be better stashin' your faith in a world-savin' Jew borne of a teen virgin and an elderly carpenter. Oh yeah, guess that one's still floatin' out there too.

So our good Captain Buhne sets off to prove Bigfoot's existence by concocting several thousand words documenting the complete lack of evidence for any such beast. Short of any convincing documentation via the scientific record, the Captain baits the redwood forest with Bigfoot's favorite cuisine: whole free-range chickens bungied to tree trunks. Why the mysterious creature would turn his nose at a chicken from one of our national industrial chicken factories isn't explained. (Perhaps Sasquatch read The Omnivore's Dilemma, previously reviewed on these very pages.) Finally, we're treated to the Captain's determination to wait the requisite 10 days for a legal firearm to embark on an illegal hunt with a national park to "bag" a Bigfoot of his own, the fame and fortune of great scientific discovery revealed finally to an appreciative world.

Let's take a look at the Captain's thought processes, shall we?

A long time ago, a couple of Humboldt cowboys curiously carrying a movie camera while riding in the remote forests captured a few seconds of iconic footage of a hairy and large-tittied Sasquatchette, who now goes by the classic 60s name of Patty. (Why doesn't anyone name their kid Patty anymore?) Though no one else has ever produced any footage of similar Patty Bigfoots, or Patrick Bigfoots for that matter, it doesn't seem to bother Captain Buhne or the true believers. It's enough that the photographer died without admitting to the lie, and that his trusty sidekick hasn't coughed up a better explanation in all these intervening years. Captain, the lack of a deathbed confession isn't proof that it happened.

The Captain relates his own close encounter in Redwood National Park's "haunted forest" three years prior. While wandering back to his vehicle in the shadowy mists, he heard three knocks on the trees followed by another set of three knocks. Suddenly. a shower of "golf-ball sized stones" rained down upon our valiant seeker. Knock three times roughly translates as "Ready. Aim. Fire" in Yeti it seems. (Or was Tony Orlando fuckin' with the Captain's mind?) The Captain claims to know that it wasn't woodpeckers tossin' stones at his head since there's no proof that woodpeckers can actually throw things. Apparently he's never seen the Woody Woodpecker Show. Giant blue woodpeckers with white gloved hands haven't been positively documented in the redwooods either, but that doesn't mean they don't exist, does it?

Captain Buhne tries to breathe a little science into the discussion. "Academics...posit that Bigfoot is likely Gigantopithecus blacki", an ancient precursor to modern orangutans. While the Captain would like us to believe that G.blackis wandered over the Bering land bridge 12,000 years ago alongside our own first Americans, scientists have already shown that the G.blackis disappeared from the evolutionary record more than 100,000 years ago and no sign of 'em has ever been found in North America.

Those damn inconvenient facts. No problem for the believers though, because there are several mysterious plane crashes in the northwestern forests that prove that you'll never find remains of Bigfoot either. (Huh?) Yes, according to the captain, the lack of evidence confounded by irrelevant analogies= proof.

Want more? To prove that the redwood forests support enough food for a population of thousands of wandering Bigfeet, Captain Buhne notes the enormous populations of Roosevelt Elk. That elk can find food enough proves there's plenty for the Sasquatch family. If there's enough grass for the elk, then there must be enough chicken for the Wookie goes the logic.

Let's end this with the Captain's attempt to photograph Redwood National Park's Bigfeet through hidden cameras and not-so-hidden chickens.

"I strapped several cheesecloth pouches of raw chicken to nearby trees, fastening the juicy bundles to trunks in view of the game camera such that, arms outstretched, the baits are positioned well above my own 6-foot, 3-inch head. (The oozing pockets of free-range, organic poultry would sit out-of-reach of every known forest inhabitant, I calculated.)"

Raw chicken, oh so carefully placed out of reach of every known forest inhabitant? Apparently our Captain's never heard of black bears, known to climb high into the redwood trees in search of the sugars and bugs hidden under redwood bark or the carelessly hung food sacks of unwary campers. Nor does he know the qualities of ravens who scour the forests for anything edible. Racoons? Must not have 'em here.

But yet, the Captain's camera did snap photos of black bears and foxes drawn to the smell of the hanging free-range snacks. But suddenly, or somewhere in the span of three hours when the camera apparently didn't take any photos at all, the chicken vanished. Something had taken it while the camera rested. Not the bears in the photos most certainly, but a critter with opposable thumbs! Captain Buhne's camera did spy a black-hair covered shoulder. Bigfoot? Bear? Skinnydippin' Greek camper? There's your proof of the existence of Bigfoot in the redwoods.

Thanks for all your efforts Captain Buhne. And good luck on the hunt. We eagerly await your follow-up report.
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Ya know. I generally trust the North Coast Journal more than I don't. The tabloid cover and the impossible story so close to Halloween imply to me a good Halloween ghost story. A Sidd Finch tale for Humboldt County.

Ya almost had me there, Captain Buhne. I'll give you a call you if Tony Orlando starts banging on trees next time I'm hikin' the Lady Bird Johnson trail.

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