There is an old adage that we hear what we want to hear. I think it is a good adage. It speaks to the deep human propensity to make disturbed and muddy the clear, still waters of reality. But like much of the world, belief is a complicated force. Perhaps it is all in how we use it. Where would we be without the believers and the dreamers? I know my life would have much less meaning and fun without belief in the yet proven–in other words, faith.
When I was a child, I came across a film one day flipping through our limited selection of channels on TV: The Legend of Boggy Creek, a docuhorror about a bigfoot-like creature supposedly sited in Fouke, Arkansas throughout the 1940s and 1950s. It was both terrifying and fascinating. Perhaps it was the first horror movie I ever watched. It has long been one of my favorite genres. I was convinced that the movie was absolutely true–perhaps it was.
But unlike many childhood beliefs, my belief in at least the possibility in such a creature has persisted. Is there evidence to support it? Well, certainly not hard evidence–pictures and short video clips which have been brought into serious question, hundreds or thousands of stories, hair samples, footprints. But where’s the body? Where are the bones? Where is the captive?
Perhaps this is all silly nonsense. Perhaps a belief in Bigfoot is for crackpots. But I don’t care. Why? Because it’s fun! It’s fun to believe in something so fantastic, and because you can’t prove a negative, I will likely continue to hold on to this belief!
In the fall of 2014, the Burns family decided to take a trip–a reunion trip. My parents, my brothers, and our families congregated at a large, three-story cabin with a scenic view of Mount Magazine; a state park situated between the Ozark National Forest and the Ouachita National Forest in northern Arkansas.
The cabin stood alone on several acres of land populated with groves of trees, a country road, and a clearing with a very small pond. After we had settled in and enjoyed a communal meal, my two brothers and I adjourned to the upper deck to sip a fine single malt scotch and look at the early night sky. The stars and moon were giving enough light for us to see the countryside in front of us–a grove of trees to the left, the pond and clearing in front of us, and beyond the tree-grove, perhaps half of a mile away, we could make out the parting of the forest where we knew the gravel road which had brought us to the cabin rested quietly. To the right were more trees. The cicadas of summer had taken their leave weeks before and only a few autumn crickets remained to punctuate the silence of our secluded spot.
We spoke to each in tones that fathers speak as their children are being prepared for bed, quietly and reflectively. It had been months or more since the three of us had stood in the same house together and we were beginning the process of catching up and finding our old brotherly rhythms when a loud sound in the distance gave me pause. It came from the direction of the road–a whoop whoop sound like you might hear from a patrol car pulling someone over; not the full siren, just a friendly whoop whoop. I thought it odd that a patrolman might be lingering on our country road. I searched for blue and red flashing lights in that direction, but I did not see any. I returned to our conversation without comment, but only for a few seconds when I heard the same sound only 50-75 yards from our cabin in the tree grove between the road and our cabin.
“Did you guys hear that? What the hell was that?”
My brothers had not been paying close attention and if they heard the sound, it was on the periphery of their senses.
“Seriously, did you hear that whooping sound?” I repeated. “I heard it first near the road and I just thought it was a cop car, but then I heard the same sound just over there.” I pointed to the trees. My brothers exchanged glances and chuckled.
“I dunno. Seems awfully strange,” I said. “What could make that kind of sound? Too loud for a bird. More of a primate sound. Y’all be quiet for a sec,” I said, moving to the far left end of the deck. I listened for thirty seconds or so, but heard nothing but the crickets.
I’d been watching a show called “Finding Bigfoot” throughout the summer. I knew the lore about what kind of sounds Sasquatch were reported to make–long howls and sticks knocking trees. But hadn’t there been another sound? The call of the female? And wasn’t it sort of a whooping sound?
As if I were just joking I said, “I dunno, guys. Could be Bigfoot!”
We laughed a little, but they weren’t interested in entertaining the idea further. I didn’t mention it much or at all for the rest of the trip. I’d always been the silly one. Silly David! No one else was really into it. I listened and watched for the rest of the trip just in case, but I never heard the sound again nor have I heard it since.
I have a few friends who believe and one in particular who swears she saw a Bigfoot on her grandfather’s farm as a kid, but most just nod and smile when I say I think it’s possible. Like I said, it’s basically just for fun. I have a couple of Bigfoot t-shirts, a sweatshirt, and a little action figure–all gifts from people who know of my enthusiasm for the creature.
I hope we find one of the legendary creatures one day, but what will happen to the believers? Will the clubs and societies disband? Will the festivals and hunts cease when the mystery is finally solved? Just another known animal in a zoo? Will the television shows get canceled? Perhaps the worst thing that could happen to the Bigfoot believers is that we actually find it, and perhaps that is true of belief in the grander scheme; it ceases to have meaning, and isn’t meaning what we all wanted to begin with?
The reality is, I do not know what I heard in the woods that night. It chills me to think a human was hiding in the trees making that sound so close to our cabin. I understand raccoons can make that kind of sound. But could it be loud enough to hear from half a mile? Could a raccoon have heard a cop car and thought it was another raccoon and called back? Maybe someone reading this will be able to tell me. I think there are many possibilities, but Bigfoot is by far my favorite! And do you really want to take that away from me?