One of the perks of being a small-town journalist in western North Carolina is the opportunity to work the Bigfoot beat.
No single reporter or editor gets to do it all the time. That would not be fair. Instead, we take turns reporting important Bigfoot news because it’s more fun than answering the phone and being screamed at for continuing to report on “that %$# corona hoax.”
The biggest Bigfoot news of 2020 so far, unfortunately, was the cancellation of this year’s WNC Bigfoot Festival here in Marion, N.C. which over the last couple of years drew from 25,000 to 50,000 people, depending on which civic booster’s estimate one chooses to believe.
Packing that many people, even on the low end of that estimate, onto Main Street in the middle of a pandemic was something the city fathers and mothers wisely chose not to do.
Instead, the city erected “Welcome to Marion” Bigfoot silhouette banners on street corners and held a socially distant weeks-long scavenger hunt involving businesses across the county.
And, once again, I was told to — I mean enthusiastically volunteered to — climb into a borrowed Bigfoot costume for some sasqwa-shenanigans.
Each year the city Tree Board — yes, there is a Tree Board — holds a program for the community’s fifth-graders emphasizing the importance of planting trees, caring for trees and not carving “Dakota Wuz Here” into trees with a pocketknife.
And just as packing thousands of people onto the street during a pandemic is a bad idea, so is exposing members of the Tree Board — some of whom fall into the higher-risk categories — to every fifth-grader in the school system.
Someone came up with an alternative: Shoot a video of a tree-planting instead and eventually force all fifth-graders to watch it. And Bigfoot would guest star. And I would be in the costume.
Down at the greenway by the river, I pulled on the costume and began taking direction from my old friend John Reese, a retired forest ranger who was heading up the local office and fighting wildfires when I began the Bigfoot beat 30-odd years ago.
“OK, peek around that tree and look like you’re curious,” John said as the camera rolled. “Now, scratch your head like you’re thinking it over.”
Maybe John should have been in Hollywood rather than tromping around in the woods all those years.
It wasn’t long after initial filming wrapped that another Bigfoot story broke. William and Debra Cantor had some pictures to show me.
They have a place at a mountain campground in the northern part of the community. At a nearby Dollar General to gather some provisions, Debra went inside and William stayed out in the parking lot to have a smoke.
That’s when William spied someone — or something — across the highway among the trees.
“That was one big fellow,” William said.
He pulled out his phone and snapped some photos. That was back in April and they didn’t know exactly who to show them to until months later when they realized it could have been Bigfoot watching the comings and goings at the Dollar General from a social distance.
Before that, William said, he wasn’t much of a believer in the big guy.
“I always thought it was a hoax until I saw that,” he said.
As with most Bigfoot photos, these were open to interpretation.
Could have been Bigfoot.
Could have been a big, hairy hobo hoping someone would accidentally drop a stick of beef jerky in the parking lot.
Could have been a guy in a Bigfoot costume shooting John Reese’s next feature film, “Attack at the Dollar General.”
And that is all the Bigfoot news I have right now. Stay tuned and stay safe. Keep your mask on and your eyes open, especially at the Dollar General near the campground. You never know when the big guy might show up.
Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, NC and a humor columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.