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Monday, March 18, 2013

The Night I Shot Bigfoot

The Night I Shot Bigfoot

            After a long, hard day’s work, I was really looking forward to a good, quiet night’s sleep.  It was the perfect night for just such a sleep.  The calm summer evening was neither too warm nor too cool, it was just right.  Several windows were open, allowing the clean, fresh evening air in through the screens.  It was moments like this that I really enjoyed having moved back to my home roots in Idaho, after several hectic years in the choking pollution, noise and crowds of Utah.

            When we’d moved back to Idaho, now a little over four years ago, my wife and I had made it a point to try and find a house outside of the city if possible. My new job was in Rexburg, which is a nice and relatively small city compared to many, but with construction and new college apartments going up in every direction.  Such signs of rapid growth, made even little old Rexburg unappealing.  Looking around the area, we could quickly see that anything between Rexburg and Idaho Falls would eventually grow and fill in with housing and development.  So we turned our gaze northward.

            When we discovered the quiet little town of Newdale, we thought our prayers had been answered.  Located about 15 minutes outside of Rexburg, the little community has a population of only about 350 salt of the earth, country folk.  In fact, the only reason I think it’s actually considered a city at all is because it has its own post office and a single building with a plow, used to clear snow from the five or so city blocks in the wintertime.  Life here is quiet and easy going.  There are no traffic signals or even stop signs that I’m aware of.  It’s just one of those great small towns located on only the most detailed of maps; a literal cozy blip in the road wherein everybody knows everyone else and is comfortable with it.

            As I lay in my bed, drifting off to sleep, I couldn’t help but smile.  The soundless night was just the kind I knew I could get the deepest sleep and most pleasant of dreams in.  As my thoughts melted into wistful oblivion, my aged dog suddenly awoke me with his yodeling, hound-dog bark of alarm.

            I’m pretty used to getting up, at least a few nights a week, to let the groaning arthritic little beagle out to relieve himself.  After all, he’s nearly seventy in dog years and his weakened bladder just can’t hold it through an entire night much anymore.  But then, neither can mine, so generally the timing works out to the benefit for both of us.  But on the night in mention, his waking call was not the usual whine for relief, but that of a hound dog, hot in alarm and eager to get on the trail of some unseen prey out in the night.

            I looked at the clock and begrudgingly drug myself out of bed.  I’d only been asleep about forty minutes and my bladder wasn’t even in need yet.  I tried to calm him down so that he wouldn’t wake up everyone else in the house, but he was not to be contained.  Standing eagerly by the front door, he twitched in anticipation to get after whatever foul creature was out in the yard, having dared to cross into his urine marked territory.

            I opened the door, gave him a gentle nudge in the rear, and sent him scuttling outside.  Peering intently into the darkness, I could neither see nor hear a thing.  I watched sleepily as the brave little watch dog tracked back and forth across the yard, desperately searching for a trail of what he’d either heard or smelled from within the house. 

            Frustrated, I plopped tiredly down in a nearby recliner and watched him through the front blinds as he zigzagged back and forth across his precious turf.

At first I was irate about the disturbance, but then I started to feel a little sorry for him.  He’d become a part of our family while we still lived down in Utah, and had been forcibly raised into the mold of a city dog.  Already past his prime when we’d moved back to Idaho, he’d never really got a chance to use his inherent beagle instincts to their full intent.  Now, as I watched him hobbling, nose to the ground, I realized sadly that his eyesight and olfactory senses were probably incapable of even noticing any natural quarry, even if he walked right over it.  In fact, he’d probably been awakened by some imaginary specter from a senile dog dream and was unable to distinguish it from reality.

I tiredly let him back in a few minutes later and stumbled back to bed.  My wife awoke and asked what he’d been barking at, and I told her it was nothing.  Finally drifting off to sleep again, I was awakened, not twenty minutes later by the same urgent barking.

This time, it was my wife who got up to let him out.  But as she put on her robe and headed for the doorway, she froze at the foot of our bed, next to the open screen window. “What is that?”

“What’s what?” I mumbled in fatigue.

“That breathing sound.”

I drug myself out of bed and moved to her side.  Together, we cracked open the blind and peered into the night.  We couldn’t see anything, but could definitely hear the deep, heavy, ragged breathing of something, just out of sight, along the front of our house.

“What is that?” she whispered nervously.  “I’ve never heard anything breathe like that before.”

“It’s probably Bigfoot!” I teased boyishly.  “I’ll get my gun!  You just go back to sleep.”

I grabbed in the closet, bypassing my rifle, and pulled out my air pump BB gun, the perfect weapon for chasing off a stray dog trying to take a dump in my yard in the middle of the night and ruining my sleep.  I put my dog into a back room and closed the door, not wanting to accidentally shoot him if he ran in front of the invader.

I came back to the front room and peaked through the blinds, looking for the annoyance.  It was too dark to see anything, but I could still hear the persistent, deep panting breaths of something in the front yard… something much bigger than the usual local invader.  Now awake, I had to admit that it didn’t sound like any type of dog I’d ever heard before.  It was far too large and beastly for any of the strays I’d normally seen around town.

I tiptoed over to the front door, flung it open and flipped on the outside light, instantly illuminating the front yard.  Standing in the doorway, I swung the barrel of the small gun back and forth as my eyes tried to adjust to the sudden brightness of the flood lights.

I couldn’t see a thing.  But then I heard it… the same low, rumbling exchange of air, from larger than average lungs, through an open salivating mouth.  Whatever it was, it was hidden behind the row of huge lilac bushes on the front corner of my yard.

“Go on, get out of here!” I hollered out into the darkness.  But the beast gave no sign of movement and the breathing continued.

Not daring to run outside in my underwear, I stood in the doorway for nearly a minute, listening to the breathing, my nerves getting the best of me as to what might actually be out there in the dark or night.  Finally the panting breathes faded away and I could hear them no more.

“It’s just a stupid dog!” I thought, trying to reassure and calm myself, as I came back inside and plopped down into the chair beside the window overlooking the front lawn.  “I’ll just wait here a minute.  If he comes back I’ll plink him and end this crazy business, so I can get some sleep.”

Sitting in the recliner, with the BB gun along my side, I accidentally drifted off.  I’m not exactly sure how long it’d been, but the next thing I knew, I was again awakened by my bawling beagle, which was still locked in the back room.  Coming partially into consciousness, I again heard the deep breathing, just on the other side of the screen window, not more than two feet from my face!

I jumped in startled alarm, my half-asleep senses still mingling with my jumbled dream as the words, “BIGFOOT” jumped into my brain.  With the BB gun still in my hand, I accidentally squeezed the trigger.  Having forgotten to put the safety on before drifting off to sleep, the gun discharged.  The small round projectile ricocheted off of the top of my foot with a searing sting.

Jumping around in agony, I let out a guttural yell and dropped the small gun to the floor.  Soon, everyone in the house was awake, wondering what the ruckus was about.

“He’s just old, probably having some crazy, senile dream!” my teen-aged son muttered before he and his brothers headed back to bed.

After I explained, my wife shook her head, chuckled at me and said, “Just come to bed and leave Bigfoot alone.”

I took one last angry peek out into the night, but whatever had been hanging around, was now long gone; no doubt scared off by my own monstrous cry.  Hobbling in shame, I followed my wife back to bed.

The next morning, as I was preparing to leave for work, I saw one of the neighbor’s dogs from down the road, walking by, dragging a long broken chain behind him.  He was a huge, hairy Husky with only three legs (having lost one to a shooting accident several years before.  Overweight and struggling on his limited limbs, he struggled for home with familiar, raspy, heavy, panting breaths.

Limping to my car, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself.  Here in the quiet little Southeast Idaho country town of Newdale, I’d actually shot Bigfoot.  Never you mind that it was actually my own big foot.

“You gotta love Idaho!” I thought to myself.  “You can’t get excitement like that in the big city!"