Thursday, November 17, 2016

Collectin' ... The Historical Print Publications Series

Kickin' back with the November 1961 issue of True, The Man's Magazine ...
     Howdy, y'all! While I'd much rather be out in them woods collectin' evidence or a type specimen, this post will be the first in a series of "Bigfoot", Sasquatch and Yeti related items that I have personally been collectin' over the past 40 some-odd years. Now, I'm not talkin' trinkets or souvenirs here. What I have collected the most are historical print-media related items. Some are hard-bound books, while others are paperbacks; however, quite a few of them are magazine publications which feature historical accounts of these still yet to be discovered mystery primates. I've safeguarded several classic paperbacks purchased over the past 45 years by the likes of John Green, Rene Dahinden and Peter Byrne. And, while I can still remember network broadcast news accounts from the late 1960's, what I remember most are readin' these accounts and stories in specific publications ... a number of which I still have. One of my most memorable reads is an article published in the January 1969 issue of Reader's Digest, which I have re-explored several times throughout the past four decades. Others I recall were articles from men's adventure magazines such as Argosy, Saga & True, which were culled from my late uncle's dental office. Well, I was much too young at the time to purchase these types of magazines for myself, but I have found quite a few of these issues over the past several years. I've decided to share some of these printed gems with y'all from time-to time, so let's start with an issue of True. Beforehand ... a backstory:


Dr. James Allen Jones ...
born January 15th, 1933
 in Mathis, Texas; proudly
 servin' his country as a
U.S. Army paratrooper.
     First of all, let me tell y'all about my uncle, Dr. James Jones. He was a true man's man, and the local dentist in the small northeastern Louisiana town of Jonesville. Uncle Jimmy was an avid angler, hunter, outdoorsman and an ardent reader as well. He probably had every book ever written by Louis L'Amour as well as most every issue of Field & Stream, Outdoor Life and Sports Afield ever published durin' his lifetime. What I remembered most were his amassed collections of Argosy, Saga and True that were brought home from his dental office. He had stacks of these at his home, which I visited frequently. I fondly remember readin' these cover-to-cover, time and time again. The only other publications that I had read more were my own collections of Famous Monsters of Filmland ... the first of which I purchased in about 1968. The difference between these types of pubs was that the FM's (Famous Monsters) were strictly Hollywood fantasy; while the MAM's (men's adventure magazines) seemed to publish "true" accounts of abominable snowmen, "Bigfoot" ... missing links, Sasquatch, wild-men and Yetis. Why, if national magazines such as these were publishin' articles about specific mystery animals ... they just had to be true, right? As an impressionable young boy at that time, at least that's what I had initially thought. I'd hafta say that lookin' through all these marvelous publications, accompanied by iconic photos and amazin' illustrations had left a mark on me, and I have my uncle to thank for that! R.I.P., Uncle Jimmy.


A great read; check it out!
     Secondly, it was just a couple of years ago while researchin' some of my personal MAM issues that I came across an excellent blog from Robert Deis at MensPulpMags.com ... which featured a few of the magazines I had collected. Then, in June of 2015 I'd happened upon an entry on his blog which prompted me to purchase the most wonderful book, Cryptozoology Anthology ... edited by Robert Deis, Dave Coleman (The Bigfoot Filmography) and graphic designer Wyatt Doyle. Not only did this book contain the full articles from the select MAM's it featured, it also contained most of the dramatic, full-color artwork used in these publications as well. As both a novice collector and a graphic designer, I was so impressed by this publication that I bought the e-book version for my Kindle too. I highly recommend either or both of these for your readin' and viewin' pleasure! I do wanna caution y'all beforehand; as far as MAM's go, collectin' some of these older publications can become quite addictive, and if you're not patient ... quite expensive as well. Most all of what I have collected were found over the years in used bookstores, antique shops and a few more recently on the internet. I'll go into more detail about locatin' some of these treasures later ...


Was this a Yeti track-way?
The media reports as such,
but is that really accurate? 
     One of the mags in my collection, published before I was born ... is the November 1961 issue of True, The Man's Magazine which featured an article by biologist and author Ivan T. Sanderson, titled "Abominable Snowmen Are Here!". In the 1950's & 60's, Sanderson was frequently published in Argosy, Sports Afield and True, most of which I have copies of. Many of y'all will recognize Sanderson from his book, Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come To Life. This very lengthy article starts with a call-out above the 55 year-old headline that reads, "A large part of the earth is unexplored, uninhabited, unmapped, unknown, and a great many unbelievable creatures - long believed extinct or merely myths... have been found there. Now, after 30 years of scientific research and study, this famed zoologist makes the startling statement ..." which is then followed by the aforementioned header, makin' a claim still unproven to this day. I was immediately hooked; now, that's how to get a reader's attention ... and in my opinion, how to sell some dang magazines! I should mention that Sanderson obviously disfavors the appellation "abominable snowman" and further states, "Worse, it is usually prefixed with the article "the", just as if there was but one lone mate-less, childless and parent-less monster...". This really hit home for me, 'cause I cannot tell y'all how many times I run across folks that truly believe that "Bigfoot", Sasquatch or Yeti are some solitary entity. This in-turn makes me really just wanna ask 'em, "Hmmm, what's it like to be an idiot?" Lord, I apologize ...


A bear?  A monkey?  I'd say an ape ...
look at the width compared to the boot.
     Sanderson starts the True article discussin' the stories of these so-called "snowmen" in the Himalayas and how early track finds were compared to bear and even monkeys at a London exhibit. Sanderson immediately got my respect for statin', "If you will compare the tracks pictured with this article with a bear or a monkey you will see how ridiculous this is. How even a stay-at-home scientist in a museum could be so stupid, I fail to understand." Frustration felt, 'cause as we say here in the south, ya just cain't fix stupid. The picture accompanyin' this article was of a very clean, fresh track photographed by Eric Shipton, who was mountaineerin' with Sherpa Sen Tensing and Dr. Michael Ward. This track, in my personal opinion, shows somethin' not associated with a bear, monkey or even a human for that matter. Skeptics have tried for years to explain away this crucial piece of evidence as a distortion due to snow-melt or wind erosion. Well now, zoom-in by clickin' on this photo and y'all can see for yourselves how clean and fresh the track really is. I was happy to see that this particular photo was used for the article, showin' a boot for scale as opposed to the infamous photo showin' an ice axe. I don't reckon many of us common folk know much about the size of that particular tool! As far as the track-way photo goes, it was stated that the photo was taken earlier and those tracks were not made by the same animal. Supposedly, the negatives were filed together and the media just assumed and ran with it. I've also read unsubstantiated accounts over the years that claim Shipton either played a practical joke or possibly perpetrated a hoax ... but once the photos became worldwide news, he couldn't recant. I guess we'll never know. I do know that Shipton's original photographs were sold in an on-line Christie's auction back in 2014 for around $8,000!

     Sanderson postulates that there are hundreds if not thousands of unknown anthropoids (and, more importantly to me, anyways) of at least half-a-dozen kinds, runnin’ all over 5 continents! This may explain the diversity of size and appearance of these mystery animals which have been reported from different parts of the globe. But these track-ways found in the snow-covered Himalayas were not the only famous finds of the time. His article eventually moves the locale to northern California, where he tells of tracks that were left overnight at an isolated construction site ... some as large as 22" long with strides of up to 60"! These are the tracks that tractor operator Jerry Crew made plaster casts of back in 1958 (Sanderson wrote of this account in True, December 1959, which I'll post about next month). He adds that the media stir caused by both of these events had brought to light the fact that, track-ways such as these had actually been reported over the last century; from places like Idaho, Oregon and Washington ... all the way up into British Columbia. On a personal note, I once came across a large, barefoot humanoid-lookin' track in a place so random that I immediately knew that no one could have placed it there to punk me. The feelin' was quite disconcertin' to say the least. I wear a size 9 Cabela's snake-proof boot, and this track was almost twice as wide and 6" or so longer than my booted-foot. I cannot even fathom comin' across a track-way with multiple impressions, with some as large as 22" long with strides of up to 60".


Sir Edmund Hillary, with Kunyo Chumbi
posin' with their supposed Yeti scalp ... 
     Sanderson's article touches upon the fact that there are so many of these tracks/track-ways found in so many different places, that hoax and misidentification become so utterly ridiculous that they are not even worth discussion. He also makes the point that hoax and misidentification are the most common points of view that are most read in an explanation on this matter, as an attempt to disprove these animals entirely by debunkin' one small aspect of evidence for them. This brings him to the discussion of the Hillary debacle.  No, not that Hillary debacle ... the infamous Sir Edmond Hillary fiasco of the Himalayas where he claimed that his secondary objective was to capture a Yeti! While I am not tryin' to tarnish the accomplishments of this mountaineerin' pioneer, explorer and philanthropist, I will say this larger-than-life legend obviously had a bad case of "cabeza grande" (big head) as far as his fame was concerned! Sanderson was none too happy with him; he lambasted the mountaineer for his lame attempt at zoology and anthropology, aimlessly roamin' the barren mountain snowfields to look for somethin' he knew little about. Incidentally, no Yeti was ever seen or found by the members of this expedition. To obscure the fact that he had failed, Sanderson claims that Hillary actually tried to parade a questionable Yeti scalp around in attempt to debunk the animal's existence entirely! After his expedition, Hillary flew around the world to display this bogus trophy. He appeared on television shows with a Nepalese tribesman named Kunyo Chumbi (I'll assume for street-cred), said to have been sent along to guard this sacred artifact. Hillary even freely gave tissue and hair samples of this taxidermed noggin knowin' that scientists would identify it as some known animal. Once the scalp was debunked, this would disprove the existence of Yetis and again show Hillary in a triumphant manner. Brilliant! Not ...


Obviously, an uncomfortable moment
as Sir Edmond Hillary gets caught-up
awkwardly tryin' to answer questions
concernin' his "reports" of Yeti tracks.
Chumbi's look is priceless, as if askin'
"Dude! Did you really just say that?"
     His collusion soon began to backfire on one of his sensationalized broadcast media tours. Sanderson states that Hillary was asked, if debunkin' this scalp disproved the existence of Yetis ... then, what about the tracks that he himself had (several times) reported? Accordin' to Sanderson, Hillary replied that all of the tracks were made by foxes; get this ... walkin' in each others identical tracks ... which were then enlarged by snow-melt! Really? Sanderson notes at the time that he was unable to trace any reference of any species of fox ever bein' collected from that upper mountain region where the tracks were purported. When Hillary was asked why the tracks consistently showed clear toe prints in a specific arrangement with distinctive muscular impressions, as well as how the same tracks could be made in mud, he could not provide an answer. BOOM! I would love to be able to watch the footage from one of these old television interviews y'all, 'cause it sounds to me like ole Hillary let stardom take its toll! Further in this article, Sanderson claims that there was other physical evidence collected by various parties in the region, such as scalps, skins, a hand, hair, scat, blood and parasites; but sadly, gives no conclusion. Too bad nobody had the foresight to do any collectin'! The rest of this article details at length several historical accounts from the mid-1800's up to the late 1950's, too much for me to go into here. If you would like to read the article in its entirety, and do not have access to this legendary issue of True ... it can be found on the late Bobbie Short's Web site, Bigfoot EncountersLook on the sidebar menu under Newspaper and Magazine Articles. Bobbie's site remains a great repository of all things "Bigfoot", so if you haven't already gone there ... I suggest givin' it a look-see!


     I hope y'all have enjoyed this-here outré review of this venerable publication from yer old sloughstalker. If not, let me ask a question: Does the noise in my head bother y'all? Well, obviously not ... 'cause a bunch of y'all just keep comin' back for more! Thank y'all for that! Like I'd said earlier, due to my collectin' I have several other copies of vintage publications that I plan to share with y'all right here in the near future. The fabulous Cryptozoology Anthology was a contemporary bonus to my flourishin' cryptid collection, and hopefully will become a part of yours as well. There was a hint dropped on Bob's blog that a second volume is in the works, so I'm chompin' at the bit to add that one to my collection too! Hell, I'll prob'ly continue collectin' 'til someone finally collects a type-specimen ... ultimately puttin' to rest the "myth" of these mystery primates once and for all. Until next time, I hope that you and yours will have a great Thanksgivin' holiday and safe travels as well. If yer lucky enough to be doin' any huntin' ... keep yer eyes and ears peeled for anything outta the ordinary, and y'all be careful runnin' 'round out there in them woods!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Gatherin’ …

An awesome Oklahoma sunset as seen from behind The Bowman Lodge ...
     Howdy, y’all!  I've just had the privilege to attend a gatherin’ of investigators and associate members of the North American Wood Ape Conservancy in eastern Oklahoma this past weekend.  Yet again, I was humbled to be amongst some of this country’s cuttin’-edge field researchers to discuss our past & future efforts to provide science the definitive proof needed for the existence of this mystery primate.  Members from across the U.S. drove from as far north as Montana, Minnesota and Illinois to be there!  Others of us came from Tennessee, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas to attend our NAWAC Annual Retreat, which was held at The Bowman Lodge.  This venue was as magnificent as the attendees who met there, and we could not have been blessed enough ... not only by the gorgeous weather, but by the camaraderie experienced by all!

     I opted to camp along with a few other members, and we could not have picked a better weekend for our retreat.  Folks, I’m not tryin’ to sound derogatory, but this was not some sort-of “Bigfoot” conference; we don’t sell anything, play campy movies, ruminate historical sightings or share experiences in some town hall fashion.  What we had discussed this past weekend is what we have personally documented in our area of research over the past several years, and strategized on how we hope to bring it to the next level.  NAWAC members are a serious "boots on the ground" bunch doin’ some serious time in the grime ... and I mean serious enough to have had the foresight to have documented everythingWhat documentation, you may ask?  Again, if you have not already done so … I urge y’all to go to our Web site at http://www.woodape.org and read the NAWAC’s Ouachita Project Monograph.  This free, downloadable PDF details several years of study performed by our members.  These folks have all volunteered serious time, effort and personal finances to try and provide definitive proof of the existence of this yet undiscovered mystery primate.  And after this goal is attained, we'll be gatherin' steam and goin' all-out to preserve the species and its habitat.

Dr. Angelo Capparella discusses future research opportunities with members of the North American Wood Ape Conservancy ...
     I cannot emphasize enough what a game-changer this will be; the discovery process of this species will be the scientific news of the century.  Period.  And you, too could become a part of this process as well!  It's a team effort, and the North American Wood Ape Conservancy welcomes volunteers who can bring their talent to the table for this epic quest.  Keep in mind this group does not participate in or plan any paid “Bigfoot” expeditions ... or random weekend campouts in the woods in the disguise of serious research.  The NAWAC is, however, a very seriously focused group of like-minded volunteers who are working for a non-profit conservation organization with a specific mission.  None of us are, or for that matter ... claim to be any kind of experts.  As a matter of fact, there are no experts in what we are doin’, and we find on a regular basis that we all learn somethin’ new quite often!  The fact of the matter is, we all have worked quite hard as a team to get where we are at this point, as far as our knowledge of these animals and our experiences with them goes.  Commitment and the ability to work as part of a team are the most critical traits for any applicant; so, if you have what it takes to contribute, please step-up to the plate!  I won’t guarantee you a wood ape sightin’ … but I’d be willin’ to bet that you will most probably experience things that most folks couldn’t even dream of!  There is a Membership tab at the top, right-hand corner of our Web site which tells how you can possibly help us with our efforts.

Alton Higgins (left) and Daryl Colyer (right) both presented to the group on our past accomplishments and future strategies.
     I genuinely wish that I could share with y’all what-all I have learned over the past weekend; however, those sorts of things are for our members, associates and investigators only.  The closest I can get is to tell y’all to keep-up with our Web site, our Facebook page, podcasts and again, to read the Ouachita Project Monograph.  After listenin’ to the presentations by the likes of Alton Higgins, Dr. Angelo Capparella & Daryl Colyer … I cannot wait for an opportunity to finally get back into the field in Oklahoma.  God willin’ … I hope to be available for whatever is asked, whether that task be site maintenance, documentation or any other type of support.  Until then, I have a few things planned for the next few months, such as gettin’ back into the Big Thicket, and then possibly another trip to the Ozarks that will be solely ape-related.  Also, I am just about finished gatherin’ all the pertinent info that I can share with y’all about my second week spent in Area X back in July of 2015.  But before I post anything, I’ll need my other two team members to substantiate my written interpretation of how it all went down prior to publication; so, y’all just hang tight!  Until then, take care, be careful out there and … y’all come back now, ya hear?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Yakin’ …

Yakin' down the White River outta Norfork, Arkansas last month; an annual trip that almost wasn't.  It was much needed R&R ... God is good!
     I didn’t think I’d be writin’ this-here entry, but I'd actually got the green-light pert-near last minute to go on my annual kayakin’ trip on the White River in northern Arkansas.  My partner in crime Ty Johnson and I were the token Texan’s (by locale, not by birth) who joined 20+ “Arkies” last month for a few days of fishin’, drinkin’ and much needed R&R at The Riverside Retreat just outside of Norfork, Arkansas.  This trip may be a last hurrah for some of us, and I was blessed to be able to attend.  A few of us are gettin’ a bit long in the tooth and some have acquired health issues; others of us have problems on the job or family responsibilities that have taken precedence on our yearly Hell raisin’.  But evidently, none of us could pass-up an excuse to get together & fish!  On top of that, our host for several years has put the place for sale, so who knows if we’ll be able to do this again next year.  It was do or die time; so this-here "standard redneck" chose to live it!  My job would just hafta wait ‘cause my ass was cashin’-in on some much needed PTO (Paid Time Off, not “pick the orifice” as some employers seem to do).

     I began this adventure at 8:45 P.M. on a mid-September Tuesday evenin’ for a 4hour drive to Plano to pick-up Ty.  Early Wednesday mornin’ … not tryin’ to beat the ambulance to the wreck, we cruised along at a good clip until we hit the Ozarks.  Trust me, when you see a sign that says, “Curve 15 MPH” you’d better not be doin’ any over … unless you want to literally make an impromptu trail down a friggin’ mountain!  During our journey we both discussed our work issues, but soon decided that the subject was a friggin’ mood killer ... other than the fact of bein' blessed that we were both currently employed.  We stopped here & there for gas & grub, and hit a few antique/junk shops to break-up the tedious drive … arrivin’ shortly before 6:00 P.M.  This year, I had made it a point to travel as light as possible … even though I’d brought all of the fixin’s for a 22-quart chicken, deer-sausage & egg gumbo.  Yeah, that’s right … I said eggs!  Don’t knock-it ‘til you try it; my cousin George Jones had taught me that lightly-forked hard-boiled eggs will soak-up all of the flavor of your gumbo.  On top-of that, I didn’t wanna test whether or not fresh Gulf seafood would keep safely on ice for a 12-hour+ friggin’ drive.  And NO, I don’t consider anything that comes from a friggin’ “Y’all-Mart” actual fresh seafood.  Period.  The only overkill were my coolers full of Lone Star Beer, which insured me that I wouldn’t be runnin’ out!  Them dang Arkies ain’t too keen on drinkin’ Lone Star.  Yeah, it’s a Texas thang, y’all; however, I’ve got ‘em likin’ the Robert Earl Keen and Pat Green music that I bring for the porch.  Oh, and a big thanks to Buzzard Mike’s son-in-law “Nick the Greek” for helpin’ out with the gumbo!  It’s a big task … so, thanks fer steppin’-up, Nick!  And, as usual … no one went hungry.

Rest & relaxation, with beautiful scenery around every bend. The ridge to the right is of particular interest to me ... read on for further details.
     The water was down this year, so I figured yakin’ would be less dangerous and I could actually concentrate on fishin’ and not dodgin’ rocks & trees.  Last year, that water was so friggin’ high that the 10-hour trip only took only 4½ hours!  Not much time to fish when you’re worried about tumpin’.  And yes, y’all … “tump” is a word here in the South.  Our host had told me last year that if I’d have tumped, my yak & gear would most probably not be retrievable.  He’d also said to look-out for submerged trees while tryin’ to swim to a shoreline … ‘cause even wearin’ a PFD (personal floatation device) I’d likely get hung-up and drown.  Well, Ty had never kayaked before, so I’d convinced him that this was some genuine bucket-list sh¡t and he abso-friggin’-lutely had to try it!  Keith Mathis and I would be on him like ducks on a June bug in case he had any “uh-oh’s” along the way, and we made dang-sure he wore a PFD as well.  Now, did I mention that beer was involved?  Even though I’ve joked about not (yet) bein’ able to get a BWI (boating while intoxicated) citation in a kayak, Ty and I are the most probable culprits for that friggin’ scenario; thank God that Keith don’t drink!


Keith Mathis (left) with Ty Jonson on his very first kayak trip; he did good & had fun, so maybe now he'll catch the bug & get a yak of his own!

The bluff just past the mouth of Goose Creek, which splits at Gather Hollow and becomes
Twin Creek.  Just north of here was a Class 3a report taken by Tal Branco back in 2002 ...
     Well, if you’ve actually read this much of this entry, some of y’all are probably wonderin’, what in the Hell does this redneck road-trip have anything to do with sloughstalkin’ or “Bigfoot”?  Well, lemme tell y’all that this-here area is prime wood-ape territory.  There ain’t that much difference between this terrain and that of the Ouachita’s … which are only a mere 150 or so miles away (as the crow flies).  And if you happen to visit the North American Wood Ape Conservancy’s Website, they have this great feature called “report explorer” which is an interactive map of actual reports taken by actual NAWAC investigators.  And if y’all click HERE you can read about a Class 3a encounter that happened in the fall of 1988 … less than 3 miles from our lodge!  So, last year when I told them Arkies about my personal experiences while in the Ouachita Mountains … only a couple of ‘em joked about it.  This year, I’d decided to do a nighttime hike through the woods … up and into a rock quarry that is off a rocky road close to the lodge owner’s property.  My main objective was to get remote and try to illicit a response to wood-knocks in that area.  So, here's how it went down ...


This rock quarry was about a fifteen-minute walk from the lodge; the elevation and seclusion captivated my curiosity enough to explore it ...
     A couple of them younger Arkies, Drew and Spencer nutted-up and joined me on my 11:00 P.M. hike.  Just hours prior, Drew and I had scouted the area shortly before dark, findin’ a trail on a ridge off to the right with a large dyin’ tree.  This looked like a good place to knock … and the sound would echo throughout the quarry and surroundin' woods.  I noted that not only would someone need 4wd to traverse the trail in, but also that the trail itself was overgrown and looked fairly unused for quite some time.  The full moon aided our navigation, and I remembered that both weeks I'd spent in the Ouachitas back in 2015 were full moons as well … with lots of activity.  I had a feelin’ that this full moon might be special, due to the rare lunar eclipse the night before.  The quarry was 300-400 yards long by a hundred yards or so wide.  I explained to them that once I knocked, it was imperative that no one talk or make any noise so we could listen closely for any possible response.  Well, we heard no responses or any other “monkey business”.  The woods were alive with the sounds of coons, frogs & other critters; but after I knocked … all of 'em shut-down for several minutes on both occasions.  After no responses, we traversed the steep, rocky and thickly-wooded terrain back to the lodge.  On the walk back, Spencer suddenly jumped when he heard what he thought was a low, loud growl!  Upon closer observation … it ended up bein’ the echo of distant thunder through the mountains to our west.  I kept waitin' for Buzzard Mike to jump out from the woods and try to scare someone, but evidently the talk of wood apes in the area kept him on the porch.  By the way, Buzzard Mike has had a huntin' lease in the Ouachitas for a few years.  In conversation, he'd claimed that he's both heard and seen some pretty strange things out there, but attributed them to people or pranksters.  After listenin' to my experiences, he'll now hafta think a bit more about these peculiar instances, and be a bit more observant while runnin' 'round out there in them woods!


Here are the remnants of my "basket of deplorables" on the mornin' of our departure.  What a great bunch of guys! Ty obviously wasn't sober
enough to put his shirt on correctly ... as Buzzard Mike (front right corner) duly noted!  I'd list everyone, but a few may still have warrants ...
chuckle-chuckle, comedy club! Seriously, these guys are a fun group to be around, and everyone had a blast. Hope to see ya'll again next year!

     I’ll try and pin Buzzard Mike down to post more details about what-all he's seen & heard on his lease at a later date.  Like I said, I didn’t even think I’d be able to write this entry or even go on this trip due to my work commitments.  And I just cain’t wait ‘til my next trip, which will be a chance to see my fellow NAWAC investigators and meet our new associate members in Oklahoma.  I’d be willin’ to bet that their experiences in the Ouachita’s this past summer will make my trip to the Ozarks seem pretty insignificant, but only where the wood ape experiences are concerned.  My time with them Arkies, however brief … was nothing short of awesome!  Many memories were shared, and as usual much fun was had.  Those boys will always remain in my thoughts and prayers, and hopefully, we shall all meet again next year; that is, if God’s willin’.  Take care and y’all come back now, ya hear?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Rats, Buzzards and Other Distractions …

Alpha male at Disney's Animal Kingdom; hope to get as clear of a shot on
a wood ape, 'cause ya'll won't see any "blobsquatches" on this-here blog.
     Howdy!  I know that my last post was several months ago, and there is no excuse for neglect.  Lotsa drama on the job, lotsa honey-do's & projects around the house, some huntin’, some much needed family time, some fishin’, a couple of North American Wood Ape Conservancy outreach events and an auto accident involvin’ my parents have all since transpired.  Yeah, much has happened … so, no excuses; I simply should’ve made the friggin’ time to post.  Period.  Excuses are like assholes, and everybody has one; Lisa just happens to have me.  My beautiful bride has reminded me on numerous occasions that there are abso-friggin’-lutely no “buts” after an apology.  So for those who still read this, I sincerely apologize and thanks to all of y’all for comin’ back.  "But" ... those of you who actually know me should already know by now that I ain’t technically a butt, but more of a hemorrhoid … ‘cause I tend to irritate most assholes.  And over the past few months, it seems that I’ve done quite a bit of that!  Lately, I’ve been distracted by rats & buzzards, all while still bein’ haunted by my memories of last summer in Oklahoma.  So first off, let’s talk about the rats & buzzards …

     I have worked for the same business for over 20 years.  Over that period of time, I have met some truly amazin’ folks, some of whom have become like my family away from home; however, work will always be a four letter word.  While I am truly blessed to be employed, at the same time I’m cursed to find myself in an environment where I simply no longer enjoy what I do.  My creativity has been quelled by too many cooks in the proverbial royal kitchen.  You’d think that after 20 some-odd years I’d be the king of this thing; however, my reality is that I’m just a pawn … evidently expendable in the endgame.  Upon my last performance review (which was supposedly good) I was told to simply play the cards that were dealt.  Really?  Dodgin’ bullets in the workplace is the easy part, but dealin’ with rats and buzzards was never part of the master plan.  Y’all know that I’m Greek, right?  Well, the Greeks have lots of sayin’s … such as, keep yer friends close but yer enemies closer.  I refuse to become the friggin’ sheep that is eaten by the wolf … ‘cause lately, the best defense is a good offence.  I have a tendency to come-off a bit offensive at times, but I’m sure that it’s due to becomin’ a product of my work environment.  The Greeks also say the walls have ears, and one shouldn’t wash dirty linen in public.  Well, I simply don’t give a rat’s ass about what’s considered public.  All I know is, I’ve been a very loyal soldier and expect to be treated as such.  Period.  My absolute favorite Greek sayin’ is “Κόρακας κοράκου μάτι δε βγάζει.” (which translated means, “Hawks will not pick-out Hawk’s eyes”).  But, instead of soarin’ with majestic raptors, I seem to be dealin’ with friggin’ rats & buzzards.  What fresh Hell?  Lately, this paradox called work seems like it’s all just Greek to me.

I checked-out the gut pit on a friend's huntin' lease in The Big Thicket
on New Year's Day, which was the first day of open carry here in Texas.
     Incidentally, I did find me some genuine down-to-earth buzzards on a huntin’ trip this past New Year’s Day.  I finally ventured to the gut pit on my buddy’s deer lease out in The Big Thicket.  If y’all remember, I’d written about my friend who’d had an experience with what was most probably a wood ape in this very spot about a year or so before … which backs-up to the Nueces River.  Well, that whole river has been well outta its friggin’ banks quite a few times since January.  Just gettin’ to the gut pit was a slow cruise in 4WD with rushin’ water close to mid-door in some spots.  I didn’t find any evidence of apes, but it damn-sure looked-like prime ape territory to me!  I’m gettin’ a little long in the tooth to be settin’-out all night in 30° temps in the wet, even though I feel confident enough to spend the night out there alone.  And, even though I friggin’ blew a no-brainer shot on a doe from a box-blind … I did score big when I got back to the lease.  I had promised not to divulge their identities, but two of the lease members I met were both very familiar with these mystery primates.  One is an employee in the forestry/lumber industry, who said that just talkin’ about these animals was a sure-fire way to get fired!  Even though he had not personally seen any of these critters, he’s seen the barefoot tracks and heard things such as wood-knocks, mouth-pops, grunts, growls & howls that could have come from nothin’ else.  He also said that he had heard stories from other employees who had seen ‘em, but that’s second & third hand info, so I won’t go into that here.  The other feller however, is now officially retired.  He told me that he’s seen ‘em up-close & too dang personal, but said they never showed any aggression towards him.  Let’s just say he was both a forestry service and parks service worker who’s been around in them woods for quite some time.  Oh, and both of these southern gents have personally seen black panthers!  One feller told about how he shot one, trackin’ it for a couple of miles ‘til he lost the blood trail.  I wouldn’t ever rat either of these men out, and I’m ever-so appreciative of ‘em bein’ so candid with an outsider like me.  I’ll try and get a bit more detailed about what-all was said in an upcomin’ post …

The Landrum's 2016 winter vacation ...
     And speakin’ of rats, evidently the world is not so bleak if yer rat is actually a famous mouse in a Magic Kingdom!  My queen arranged a quest for her king, the princess and reluctant prince as a family Christmas gift.  In mid-January, the Landrum clan took a trip to Orlando’s Disney World and Universal Studios for a wonderful week’s escape!  If anyone thinks that place is just fer the kiddos, they’re sadly-friggin’ mistaken.  Our 23 year-old daughter was in heaven, although our 20 year-old son wanted to be elsewhere; that is, ‘til he finally got there.
The Yeti exhibit naturally
caught my eye; Hmmm ...
  We all had a blast, and that trip will rank-in with one of our more memorable vacations.  Kudos to “Mrs. Incredible” for all her hard work in makin’ the “Magic” happen for all of us!  There was nothin’ disappointin’ about Disney, especially Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Baloo got a ‘lil offended when “the old silverback” wanted his picture taken only with King Louie, and I even found a cool exhibit of all things Yeti on the Expedition Everest ride.  Now, it wasn’t near as excitin’ as the Ouachitas last summer in Southeast Oklahoma, but it sure was fun!  Probably the best memory that I have is watchin’ the gorillas, which were awesome.  Observin’ the females carin’ for their young was absolutely fascinatin’; however, everyone backed-up as the alpha-male stood-up and knuckle-walked past the crowd.  I don’t know how sturdy that glass was, but I was in no rush to find out.  I knew right then and there that what I’d had under me in Oklahoma one June night last summer surely dwarfed this alpha-male.  I was terrified and truly outta my element as far as bein’ a hunter was concerned.  It also made me realize that I would do everything humanly possible to never see a wood ape bein’ paraded around in captivity like this.  Period.

The gorilla exhibit at Disney's Animal Kingdom had me in awe; these animals are in captivity due to the onslaught of poachers.

Jared Alphonso, "bassmaster"!
     On top of all the honey-do’s, cleanin’, limb-cuttin’ and such ‘round our place, I actually got my boat, the Sloughstalker ready and put it through its paces on Clear Creek.  After cleanin’ everything up, the only 2 items I had to replace were a couple of switches in the foot-control on my Minn-Kota trollin’ motor.  Shortly thereafter, my buddy Jared Alphonso and I entered a bass tournament at the last minute, and ended-up placin’ 5th outta 19 boats!  That ain’t bad considerin’ we only pre-fished for less than 4 hours the day before. 
Sahil tryin' to comfort the rescued Bo.
The very next weekend, my buddy Sahil Dilwali and I fished a 45-50 lb. dog we found tangled-up under some tree roots from the risin’ tide in the not-so friggin’ “Clear” 65° water.  It had a collar & tag, so we contacted the vet, who contacted a couple of different police departments to track-down the owner as well as an animal control officer.  Accordin’ to the owner, Bo the shepherd mix, was 12 years old and had been missin’ for a day-and-a-half.  Although we all tried, sadly, Bo had to be euthanized that evenin’.  The
Sloughstalker was s’posed to accompany me & Lisa on our annual week on Caddo Lake, but that trip was cancelled due to the recent, historic 50-year floods.  The locals are still devastated due to flood damage, and my buddy The Goob has said that the Giant Salvinia is worse than he’s ever seen it.  Y’all be sure to keep those folks in yer prayers, ‘cause they’ve been through a bunch!  Makes me wonder where all the wood apes & other critters went after gettin’ displaced …

The North American Wood Ape Conservancy doin' some community outreach
at The Baytown Nature Center. Josh Hall, Tommy Gilley & Jay Southard field
 questions from the crowd. Inset is Tod Pinkerton, Jay Southard, Josh Hall &
Dusty Haithcoat, who are just a few of the members volunteering their time
to educate the public about this yet undocumented species.  We hope to try
to dispel any myths or misinformation given about these mystery primates. 
     For the first couple of weekends in April, I had the privilege to help-out with the North American Wood Ape Conservancy in doin’ some community outreach at a couple of local wildlife events.  First, we were at The Texas Wildlife & Woodland Expo, held at the Lone Star College Montgomery Campus in The Woodlands.  This free, family event is held annually and the NAWAC has had our presence known for a few years now.  Our goal at these events is to educate the public on these yet undiscovered primates and our efforts to scientifically document the species, as well as the protection of its habitat.  I urge y’all to visit our Web site at http://www.woodape.org and see what-all we do.  There is a free PDF download of the NAWAC’s Ouachita Project Monograph … detailin’ several years of study performed by our members.  Now, the second event I mentioned was The Baytown Nurture Nature Festival held at the Baytown Nature Center.  This venue is top-notch in my opinion, and we had 4,200 people attend!  Both the children as well as the adults flocked to our enclosure, and the crowds were evidently pleased.  Not only did we get to educate the public, but a few attendees shared their experiences with us, such as one hunter finding barefoot trackways durin’ deer season well off any trail.  One lady told of actually seein’ one of these critters face-to-face!  This happened in the Caddo Lake Wildlife Management Area by a National Park Service associate.  Again, I will divulge more details in an upcomin’ post.

Angels, airbags & seat belts, y'all ...
the collision was center from the rear
and catapulted them into the divider.
     Sometimes, life will just up and blindside ya; back in mid-April, my parents were simply headin’ to church for a Greek Orthodox Easter service.  While goin’ up the Galveston Causeway, they were violently hit from behind by some friggin’ idiot who felt the need to do well over 90 mph durin’ rush hour traffic.  Lisa and I got the call from my father that they were bein’ transported by ambulance to the hospital, and I cain’t remember ever hearin’ Dad sound like that!  It was a miracle that they weren’t killed.  All airbags deployed and did their job, and it's a miracle that they were not catapulted off the bridge. They both suffered from the effects of whiplash; we initially thought that Dad got the worst of it with 3 broken ribs and a fractured L1.  Dad went to a specialist in Austin and is now doin’ much better.  Mom, however is still in physical therapy but is finally off the pain medication.  She had a shattered T-12 finally got the same procedure from that same specialist in Austin.  Both are doin' better and are finally on the road to recovery.  Again, thank God ‘cause it could’ve been much worse.  My family and I have been helpin’ ‘em with anything they might be needin’ no matter how menial the task.  Keep in mind that my parents are both in their 70’s and were basically robbed of their independence.  My wife’s been an absolute angel, but I’ve been kinda feelin’ the exact opposite.  I’ve done everything in my power not to have any more thoughts of exterminatin’ the rat that hit ‘em.  It seems that this upstandin’ citizen has a long rap-sheet and had just been released a day prior to causin’ the wreck from, get this … a criminal evade charge!  I know that I ain’t been havin’ very Christian thoughts towards this f-tard; God help me, I’ve been tryin’ ‘cause them buzzards ain’t circlin’ ‘round that rat’s grave just yet.  Again, thanks for all the prayers!

     So as y’all can see, much has transpired since my last post.  That’s life, and I’m obviously blessed enough to still be livin’ it!  Albeit rats, buzzards and other distractions, I will dang-sure make a better attempt to update this blog in a more timely fashion.  Due to my current work situation and personal schedule, I still don’t foresee that I’ll be able to take off to Oklahoma anytime this summer.  My annual kayakin’ trip on the White River looks like it’s shot as well.  However, as promised … I still need to share with y’all about my second full week spent in the Ouachita Mountains with two fellow NAWAC investigators last summer in Area X.  I wish to spend some long fall weekends in The Big Thicket, The Sam Houston National Forest or maybe take a trip back to Caddo Lake, but we’ll just hafta see.  So until next time, y’all be real careful while runnin’ ‘round out there in them woods … especially, on yer travels to and from as well!  Remember, the main thang is to always try and have ya some fun!  Life’s too short to worry about the rats, even with them dang buzzards a circlin’ ‘round overhead.  Now that I think about it, I’d much rather deal with the chiggers & ticks my own-self!  Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Spendin’ …

Livin' large yakkin' the Ozarks last September ...
     Howdy y’all!  It sure was a busy year for me, and an expensive one at that!  I just got finished tallyin’-up all the road-trips I went on and realized how much I’d been spendin’!  Good Lord, for just the cost of my fuel alone, I was really thankful that gas prices were down.  I’ve been to Caddo Lake & back … twice … pullin’ a boat for a total of 1,100 miles; to the Ouachita Mountains and back … twice … for a total of 1,700 miles; and then went to the Ozarks and back for another 1,500 miles; and finally, to the Bowman Lodge for the NAWAC’s Annual Retreat for another 975 mile round-trip.  That comes to a total of 5,275 miles since May, which means spendin’ a minimum of 90 hours of time just drivin’ my truck.  Now, if I averaged about 15 miles per gallon, it means I must’ve been spent about $900 in fuel on just these 5 road-trips alone; and, that don’t even include all the extra crap I bought runnin’ in and outta gas stations!

     For example, here in Texas we got these huge super-stations named Buc-ee’s.  If you’ve ever passed one you’d definitely know, ‘cause everybody goes and their parkin’ lot is always full.  Goin’ in and outta one of these places is kinda like wanderin’ around a friggin’ “Y’all-Mart”.  Hell, all you need is a beverage or a bag of ice; but then, maybe a snack … or maybe some new road music, or, hmmm … maybe I’ll even get me one of them-there Yeti cups everyone’s been braggin’ about.  Before you know it, you end-up spendin’ almost $90.00, and that didn’t even include any friggin’ gas!  How in the Hell did that happen?  I don’t know, but I’d bought $75.00 worth of crap at that exact same Buc-ee’s the trip before!  I seem to remember that included more Texas road music CD’s and some t-shirts for my kids.  And then, there’s the Buc-ee’s Beaver Nuggets … OH, MY GOD!  My inner fat-kid is kept at bay unless it comes to Beaver Nuggets.  And if I really wanna binge, I’ll mix ‘em with a bag of Crunchy Cheetos.  Hey, don’t knock-it ‘til you try it, ‘cause it’s damn-near as good as a Lone Star Beer poured over a couple of scoops of Vanilla Blue Bell Ice Cream in a tall frosty mug!  The downfall of mixin’ Beaver Nuggets & Crunchy Cheetos (besides all the friggin’ calories) is gettin’ a mess of sticky nugget-shards and artificial cheese-dust on the black upholstery of my truck!  About the time that my sugar-high counter-balances the carb-crash is about the time I start to wonder, “Hmmm … I thought I’d just vacuumed them dang seats?”

     And then there’s road food.  I usually try to stick with somethin’ simple that I can eat while drivin’, such as a Whataburger with cheese & jalapenos.  This always seems to end-up drippin’ mustard down the front of my shirt or, of course, on my dang seats!  On this last trip to Oklahoma, I stopped at this place called Bigfoot’s Barbeque.  It was this ‘lil shack on the side of the road which had at least three big-rigs parked out front … so I figured the food just had to be good.  I walk in, and there’s this 7’ Chewbacca-lookin’ “Bigfoot” prop standin’ just past the entrance, and the TV was blarin’ on H2 with Giorgio Tsoukalos spoutin’-off about everything bein’ friggin’ “alien”.  So me bein’ the other weird Greek with effed-up hair, I sorta felt right at home … sat-right down and ordered me a full-rack of pork ribs with an ice-cold beer!  Actually, I wasn’t disappointed; that is … until I went to the men’s room to try and wash my hands.  The sink had tape across it, with a crude hand-written sign on the mirror that said, “Please use the sink in the Ladies Room” … and yes, I knocked first.  To my disappointment though, that sink looked backed-up as well.  As I paid, I reported this to the woman at the register, who quite frankly replied, “Yeah, I just saw that; but it kinda looked to me like someone had just gotten sick.”  I sh¡t you not, I won’t be goin’ back to that friggin’ place, no matter how good them dang ribs were!

Loggin' miles after my White River trip!
     Seriously, I estimated spendin’ at least another $100 per round-trip on food & drink while travelin’ … but that ain’t countin’ all the stuff you have to buy to eat while yer actually at yer destination!  I try to pre-cook the majority of all my meals a few days before and then freeze ‘em.  Blasphemy, you say?  Yeah, I like to grill-out myself, but there’s a big difference between grillin’ while chillin’ at Caddo Lake than there is while tryin’ to hunt in Area X.  Out there, your need to sustain is usually immediate, and then it’s back to business; I’d rather heat & eat than spend valuable time preppin’ & cookin’.  On top of that, it’s kinda hard to observe or watch yer dang back if you have to concentrate on cookin’.  I guesstimate I spent just under $150 on food for each week that I had spent in Area X … includin’ all the ice, water, coffee and Gatorade.  But then, there are your essentials, such as propane, batteries and back-up batteries for fans, flash-lights, etc., bug repellent, toiletries & hygiene products, specialty ammunition, clothes & gear.  If I added it all up here, I might as well start diggin’ a friggin’ hole, ‘cause my beautiful bride reads this blog as well, even though she won’t admit it …

     In retrospect, it’s been an expensive year for me so far … so I may wanna watch my spendin’.  That is, unless it’s spendin’ more quality time with my wife, our family or friends as opposed to spendin’ any more of our hard-earned money road-trippin’.  It is pretty-dang expensive doin’ all the things I do … and my beautiful bride has told me on numerous occasions that I am an expensive habit!  I really do love that woman, but the final nail in my coffin will most probably be the new Cabela’s that’s been built less than 5 miles from our place.  I just cain’t imagine what-all sorts of new stuff I might possibly find in there; however, I am sure of one thing … and that is that any future visits there will most definitely be supervised.  Come to think about it, I’d simply be better off usin’ all the friggin’ gear I’ve already got  … and concentratin’ on spendin’ more time on some local waters or somewhere out there in them closer woods.  Hmmm … both The Sam Houston National Forest as well as The Big Thicket are not that far of a drive, and both are rumored to possibly harbor wood apes.  Truth.  Right?  As a matter of fact, David "Big Sexy" Riojas and I are fixin' to head out shortly.  No tellin' what-all has been flushed outta them bottoms with all this dang rain.  Hopefully, I'll be able to report back shortly; but 'til then, y'all have a Happy New Year!  Be safe, take care … and y’all come back now, ya hear?