When I was growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, in a far-off little town that isn't even big enough to make it on map, we had a legend about some kind of a mountain prowler called the scalawag – a "man" not unlike the Yeti or Bigfoot that would skulk around people's orchards at night or tear things up. I am one of the very few to have such an experience with this creature.
I was about twelve at the time and I was staying at my uncle's place with my cousins Leanne and Jordan. My Uncle Bill is what you might refer to as a distiller, not exactly legal, but safe enough in what he was doing to be not so illegal. Alongside his whiskey and moonshine he used to make an apple mash cider, hard stuff called applejack that would knock your boots clean off.
Behind the old country house – and it was country – he had a wooded field that led off through a clearing to his apple groves down a hill where he had twenty or so nice big apple trees.
The morning in question while I was staying over, he came in the house and told everyone at the breakfast table that he found huge scalawag (Bigfoot or something) footprints out by the trees. Jordy and I had to go see this. We went out back after breakfast and looked around as Uncle Bill came out, and sure enough in the mud were big man-like footprints.
My Uncle Bill had brought out his Polaroid camera (no digital in those days) and started snapping shots of them. He wanted to get plaster and fill them in making casts, which I think he still has somewhere. He had always heard these legends, but assumed they were bunk.
Jordy and I wondered if we could prove him wrong. We hatched a weird plan to pitch tent out there and see if we could catch the creature.
THE CAMP OUT
Around eight o'clock that night, we had our pup tents set up and had brought along our flashlights, lanterns and whatever else we were going to use.
We were having fun, thoughts of Bigfoot or not, from what I recall. At around eleven or so, as our small campfire began to retire, we finally started to dose off within our tent to the sound of crickets chirping in the summer night.
After about thirty minutes, I heard a weird, teethy whistling. As I took notice, I jabbed Jordan awake. He sat up, and together we heard the cracking of sticks out there in the dark. Someone was walking out there. Could be a deer, maybe, but I doubted it as it came in closer.
I had the flashlight ready as I opened the flap of the tent and looked out. I turned the flashlight with a fumble of my hands as I began to search the surrounding groves, shining the light up on the trees as far as the beam would go out there. I looked back at Jordy, now getting a bit frightened. He was eager to know what I was seeing out there as he could hardly bear himself to look.
Suddenly, there was a powerful smell of sewage or something like pungent animal crap as then another set of twigs snapped. My flashlight beamed over to under a tree and there was – and this is no lie – a huge, ape-like mammal crouched down on its big, nasty, hairy legs eating the windfall apples off the ground. It didn't even seem to take notice of us. "Let's get out of here, nice and slow," I said to Jordy.
This thing had red-orangey, sparse, dirty-looking hair all down its thick, oversized back. I told Jordy, "Stay quiet and don't say a word... or we are dead."
The creature was munching at the apples grotesquely in his big scooping hands. Then his beady black eyes shot to me fast. Its face was so ugly I can barely put words to it. It had a mashed-in, flat nose, a mouth that was nothing more than a grimacing, thin, crooked crag, human-like ears under its orangey hair and a pointed, hairy head with blank ape-like eyes with sort of a heavy brow ridge above them. It had no hair on its face at all; it was just like thick, orangey, dirty skin with a hint of brown.
Its big, orangey, furry, weird arm quickly came up to block the light from its eyes as then he let out this loud, fowl cry – a wailing, gritting howl. It waved its big arms and mitt-like hands at the light as if to snap it away from his eyes. Jordy and I both shuddered and quaked to the point of near crying as even my flashlight trembled around. The animal quickly lunged around the bottom of the tree and stood up all the way on its two legs and ran – not walked – ran as the mere inhuman size of his weighty body was enough to make any man die in fear at the sight of him. I'm talking probably over 900 pounds of hulking ape-man-thing-who-knows-what.
The monster ran off into the woods in a way that you could only see in a nature film or a primate exhibit at a zoo, but it ran upright like a man and was fast at whatever it was doing.
Next page: The escape, the howl and the evidence