Giant Hairy Apes in the North Woods: A Bigfoot Study - Rolling Stone
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Giant Hairy Apes in the North Woods: A Bigfoot Study

Bigfoot: an historico-ecologico-anthropoidologico-archetypal study of the creature and its believers

Gorilla, The Living Animals Of The WorldGorilla, The Living Animals Of The World

Gorilla from The Living Animals Of The World, Published circa 1900.

Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty

Believers theorize that he came down from Mt. Hood, the 14,000-foot blizzard-shrouded peak just outside Portland, Oregon. Massive, standing nearly nine feet tall and weighing all of 900 pounds, he strode down the wooded ridges, north and east to the 7,000-foot level where the spring snow lay wet and heavy in forests 50 miles from the nearest road. At the 4,000-foot level, the thick coniferous forests thinned and the deep mountain gorges leveled out. It was late June, 1971, and the lower rivers raged with the waters of the melting snow pack.

At the 3,000-foot level the first growths of douglas fir and oak gave way to a few scrub oak, growing singly. From a high point on the ridge that runs down from Mt. Hood called Seven Mile Hill, he could see the lights of The Dalles, Oregon, where 11,000 people lived.

Fifteen miles upriver the Wy-am Indians, roped to their platforms perched over the boiling river, netted spring chinook salmon by the hundreds with their long poles. This they had done every spring since prehistory. The Great Food is what the Wy-am call salmon; and perhaps he had come down to the semi-arid insecurity of The Dalles to scramble on the banks of the river for the Great Food during one of the largest salmon runs on the North American Continent. Some who theorize about him think that he came down to this narrow point in the river where there is little current because an island breaks the swim to Washington and the Cascade Range—where the deer and huckleberries are plentiful in the summer.

East the land opens to treeless rolling hills. Great high-tension towers converge on the Chenowith Converter and scar the land as far as the eye can see. There was no cover for him there. But to swim the river from here, four miles west of The Dalles, he had only to cross two roads: the old highway to Portland, US 30, and the new Interstate, 80N.

Things had changed since he had last been down to the river. There was an aluminum plant nearby, a new shopping center, a Rocket gas station, a new and used car lot, and—strangest of all for him during the nights—The Dalles drive-in which specializes in films like Deathmaster and The Two-Headed Thing. In the early daylight hours of this first day of June, 1971, he stood in a small meadow above what had been a large foothill apple orchard. It was now filled with flat electrified platforms and called The Pinewood Mobile Manor.

* * *

Joe Mederios, maintenance man for the trailer court, was watering flowers near his trailer that morning. Directly across US 30 is a large fenced meadow. At about 150 yards a rocky ledge of perhaps 35 feet banks a higher meadow. Mederios caught a movement along the ledge from a corner of his eye. He assumed it was George Johnson, the owner of the land, and went back to watering his flowers. But his mind was engaged in a curious and unconscious arithmetic. He had seen Johnson on the land previously—it wasn’t unusual—but this figure was too big … the arms were too long … the shoulders too broad.

Mederios turned to the ridge for a longer look. What he saw was a shaggy, gray figure he took to be at least ten feet tall. It had an oval face and a crest or dorsal ridge along the top of its head. The face was flat, brown and hairless.

The man turned back to his flowers and considered his situation. He was responsible to some Portland businessmen who would be down to The Dalles the next day. If he were to report the sighting, there would be deputies and curiosity-seekers tromping all over his carefully watered flowers about the time his bosses arrived. Mederios later told Sheriff’s deputy Rich Carlson that he didn’t report the incident for fear he’d “be called a nut.”

The next day, around noon, the three businessmen met Mederios and were in the midst of discussions in a trailer office fronting the meadow when Mederios again saw an erect ape-like figure through a window. The four men ran outside and watched from across the road as it moved through a break in the ridge and came into the lower meadow where it walked among the sparse scrub oak near the rocks. It stopped near a small tree, and from where the men stood, it appeared to be somewhat taller than the tree. The four men and the other creature stared at one another for perhaps a minute, before it turned, went up through the break in the rocks and disappeared into the upper meadow.

This time the sighting was reported and deputy Carlson went out to investigate.

From Carlson’s report filed on June 2nd, ’71: “Mr. Mederios … described it as being about ten feet tall, greyish in color, real wide shoulders and arms that hung way down. He went on to say it looked like an overgrown ape. He stated it was not a bear. The creature was walking upright at the time of the sighting.”

The Portland men, solid citizens all, confirmed the sighting and description.

The same night, about 9:30, when the last summer light was fading in the meadow, a man named Rich Brown, a high-school music teacher, and his wife were returning from a choir practice he had been conducting. At the entrance to the trailer court, Brown’s wife either shouted or screamed and pointed to a figure in the lower meadow. Brown swung his car around and put the headlights stark into the meadow. He was joined by a second car, and eventually Mederios, who stepped out of the office to see why the cars were blocking the entrance.

At a distance of about 65 yards the creature froze and stared into the lights. Brown sprinted for his trailer, grabbed a Winchester 30.06 with a four-power scope. He opened his car door and steadied the rifle. He considered a shot at the heart, then the head. With the scope cross-hairs squarely between the thing’s expressionless flat black eyes, he released the safety. Like any good marksman, Brown squeezes the trigger slowly. In the moment between the final squeeze and the shot, Rich Brown, who had just come from a church, made a complicated moral decision.

“I couldn’t shoot it,” he said later, “because it looked more human than animal.”

* * *

Aside from Indian legends, which are virtually timeless, the Bigfoot saga on the North American Continent begins in 1811 when the explorer David Thompson noted in his daily journal the track of “a large animal … the whole is about 14 inches by eight inches wide,” in the Canadian Rockies by the site of what is now Jasper, Alberta. Several months later Thompson found similar tracks which he followed for nearly 100 yards. “Reports from the old times,” he noted offhandedly, “had made the head branches of this river and the mountains in the vicinity the abode of apes or more very large animals.”

In July of 1884, a Victoria, British Columbia, newspaper, the Daily Colonist, published an account of the capture of a gorilla-type animal the miners called Jacko. About 4’7″ tall and weighing about 125 pounds, the animal may have been a young Bigfoot. No other mention can be found of Jacko in the Daily Colonist.

The Seattle Times reported a series of bizarre great ape sightings around Mt. St. Lawrence near Kelso, Washington, in July of 1918. In 1924, a group of miners camped near Mt. St. Helen in Washington claimed a horde of giant ape-like creatures attacked them in the middle of the night. One was shot and rolled into a deep canyon which is known today as Ape Canyon. Also in 1924, a prospector named Albert Ostman claimed that while camping near Vancouver he was picked up in his sleeping bag and carried 25 miles by a giant hairy ape. They arrived in a sheltered valley where he was curiously observed for several days by a family of four Bigfeet. He eventually fed them chewing tobacco and escaped while they were sick.

In 1940, the Chapmans, an Amerindian Indian family living near the Fraser River in British Columbia, claimed a giant hairy ape walked out of the woods and turned over a massive barrel of salt fish in the shed. Footprints were left and local residents reported, they were 16 inches long and eight inches wide. The stride length was about four feet. Mrs. Chapman said the creature was about eight feet tall.

American sightings made national headlines in the Bluff Creek area of Northern California in October of 1958. On the ninth of that month, the Humboldt Times reported that Jerry Crew, a road builder for the Granite Logging Company, made a cast of a huge footprint—16 inches long—he found on the damp bed of a newly built lumbering access road. The stride was 50 inches long, he said, and ran along the road for a distance of about three quarters of a mile.

Five days later two construction workers for the same company were driving along a remote mountain road late at night when they saw what they took to be the owner of the prints. Ray Kerr, then 43, said, “it ran upright like a man, swinging long hairy arms … it looked eight to ten feet tall to me.” Tracks found the next morning were identical to the first set.

Interviewed in the Humboldt Times, Ray Wallace, a partner in the logging firm, denied that he had perpetrated a hoax. “Who knows anyone foolish enough to ruin their own business,” he said. Fifteen men had quit their jobs since the sightings. Workers reported that they saw nothing during the day but that every morning they found huge and apparently curious prints around the equipment. Huge gasoline drums had been turned over. Some workers had the uncomfortable sensation that they were being watched during the day. “I’ve got three tractors up there without operators, man,” Wallace complained. “And all my brush-cutting crew has quit.”

Dr. Maurice Tripp, a geophysicist from Los Gatos, California, made casts of the prints which proved that the toes showed mechanical function. After studying the soil and the depth of the print, Tripp estimated the probable creature’s weight at 800 pounds. None of his casts showed impact ridges which would have indicated that they were made by some kind of mechanical stomping machine.

Another series of prints, 1,089 in all, were discovered near Bossberg, Washington, in October of 1969. The tracks measured 17½” x 7″. The right foot seemed to be twisted inwards and calluses on the outside of the foot and the extrapolated bone structure indicated the creature who made the prints had a clubfoot. Dr. Grover Krantz, a physical anthropologist at Washington State University, studied casts of the Bossberg prints and concluded that if the tracks were hoaxed, the fakers were “absolute experts in human anatomy.”

Since the ’58 Bluff Creek sightings, hundreds more have been recorded, some less credible than others. While Albert Ostman only claimed to have been kidnapped by Bigfeet, one Helen Westring confessed, right on the front page of the National Bulletin (July, 1969), I WAS RAPED BY AN ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN. Seems that while Helen was out hunting one day in the Minnesota woods she was attacked by a giant horny ape who stripped her of her flimsy clothes in a thrice and had his hairy way with her right there on the mute forest loam.

* * *

There are many men hunting Bigfoot on a more or less regular basis, and one of the most impressive is a 46-year-old, Dublin-born former big-game hunter named Peter Byrne. Financed by Ohio businessman Tom Page and several others who wish to remain anonymous, Byrne has one paid assistant, two young volunteers, two International Scout jeeps, a pickup truck, a helicopter on 24-hour notice, and a plethora of equipment including infrared night-scopes and sophisticated tranquilizer guns.

Byrne, who does not take a salary from expedition funds but lives off his own income, has a Hemingwayesque history. In World War II he flew for the RAF, and subsequently ended up as assistant manager of a tea plantation in Nepal. He once effected the rescue of an Everest expedition stranded by an avalanche at the 20,000-foot level. For 15 years he led big-game hunts in Africa.

In 1968, with the game thinning out (more from poachers than hunters), Byrne wearied of leading bumbling clients through the brush and pointing them at the animals he had come to respect. He organized the nonprofit International Wildlife Conservation Society. As executive director, Byrne spent two years creating two large tiger sanctuaries in Nepal. The project was completed in November of 1970.

While in Nepal, Byrne had become fascinated with the legend of the Yeti (the perhaps mythical Abominable Snowman, cousin to the perhaps mythical Bigfoot). He disputed the findings of Sir Edmund Hillary’s 1960 Yeti hunting expedition, insisting that a month search didn’t constitute a real effort to find the beast. The Yeti scalp Hillary took from a Tibetan monastery had been analyzed as a goat-and antelope-hair fabrication, proving, to Hillary’s satisfaction, that none of the sacred Yeti relics in any of the monasteries were authentic. Byrne felt that the scalp Hillary found was a copy of an original he never saw. Byrne himself had visited half a dozen of the monasteries and in one secretly cut the thumb from a mummified hand. He wired a mummified human thumb to the palm and sent the relic to scientists in Paris, then London, then the United States. In all cases the scientists came up with the inconclusive conclusion that the thumb was not human, that it was animal, and that further, it was unclassifiable.

In the Himalayas, only two Europeans have claimed Yeti sightings. Byrne, fascinated with the hypothetical creatures to a point just short of obsession, knew that there were hundreds of sightings in the Pacific Northwest. In 1971 he organized the present three-year search. He has, to date, logged hundreds of thousands of miles on the jeeps, interviewed hundreds of claimants, talked at length to the Indians about their legends and knowledge of the apes, and camped in the woods in various sighting areas nearly a year’s worth of elapsed time. Byrne regards as his strongest piece of evidence an 18-second piece of film taken by one Roger Patterson near Bluff Creek in the early afternoon hours of October 7th, 1967.

Patterson, a small rancher and weekend Bigfoot hunter from Yakima, Washington, had spent four years and thousands of dollars on his search. He claims to have been on horseback in the Bluff Creek area with Bob Gimlin, his tracker, when they caught sight of a female Bigfoot crouched by a stream. Patterson’s horse spooked and nearly threw him. He pulled his camera from his saddlebag and ran toward the creature, trying to focus simultaneously.

The 16mm color film begins with a wild, jerking view of the manzanita underbrush. The camera steadies, pans right, and focuses in on an erect, apelike figure which appears to be about 30 feet away. It walks, at a slight angle to camera, into a thickly wooded area and disappears. It turns once toward the camera and its face shows large black eyes, a small nose, a massive jaw, and a crest or ridge on the head. Muscle movement can be seen in the upper right thigh. When the right arm swings back, large, hair-covered breasts become visible.

Patterson, apparently anxious to validate his film, took a lie detector test which he passed. He submitted the film to the Smithsonian’s director of primate biology, John Napier (now visiting professor of primate biology at the University of London), who has expressed his doubts in the recently published book Bigfoot.

The walk seems to Napier “self-consciously” fluid. The stride is essentially that of a human male while the filmed creature is female. The crest is a male feature on orangutans and gorillas, seldom seen in females. The heavy buttocks seen in the Patterson film are a human feature, out of place on the apelike superstructure. Furthermore, the 14″ x 7″ prints—on a human scale—would indicate a creature nearly eight feet tall while both Byrne and Napier have estimated the height of the Patterson creature at about 6’6″. Napier concludes his discussion of the film by saying that he won’t proclaim it a hoax almost solely because, “I cannot see the zipper.”

Byrne respectfully disagrees. “Napier is using human formulas to deal with an unknown quantity,” he says.

(Patterson died of cancer in 1972. Byrne visited him in December when he was a gravely ill man. Patterson continued to insist on the validity of his film. For what it’s worth, to my untrained eye, the film is very convincing.)

Byrne published the results of a year’s investigation in the prestigious Explorers Journal. His case for the existence of the Giant Apes (which he calls Omah, after the local Indians), briefly and inadequately summarized, is as follows:

1). There are hundreds of thousands of virtually unexplored and roadless wilderness areas in the Pacific Northwest. The habitat of the Omah might be in the steep, thickly wooded gorges of this region.

2). These same areas support black and brown bear. If the Omah were an omnivore, with a diet roughly similar to that of a bear, the forests could easily support a small Omah population.

3). There have been few sightings, because like most primates, the Omah is wary of man. (First reports of African gorillas in the early 17th century were treated as folklore. Not until the middle of the 19th century did Europeans succeed in tracking down the shy beasts.)

Byrne does not speculate on the origin of Omah, though when pressed he will mention the fossil remains of a Chinese primate anthropologists call Gigantopithecus. “Its estimated height was between ten and 12 feet and the fossils were discovered in an area of China scientists think provided the native American population, the Eskimos and the Indians.” The theory, of course, is that nomadic tribes migrated across the frozen Bering Strait. “A case, I think, can be made for Gigantopithecus as an ancestor to Omah,” Byrne says.

Currently living in a trailer in The Dalles, Byrne is still deeply involved in the hunt. If he should come on one of the animals, he plans to dart it and keep it subdued for several days. A team of scientists have agreed to fly in at any time at his expense. They would land in Portland and helicopter to the site. There they would take photos, measurements, urine, stool and blood samples. The Omah would then be set free.

I asked if a tranquilizer capable of bringing down a beast that could conceivably weigh up to 1,000 pounds wouldn’t kill a man hoaxed up in a gorilla suit.

“No,” Byrne says, and adds wryly: “Unfortunately, the safety margin is quite high. The drug has been tested on volunteer prisoners. It simply puts a man under for quite a long period without harming him. You can, however, quote me as saying I would be delighted to put a dart in the ass of any jerk wearing a fur suit for my benefit.”

* * *

I am indebted to Sgt. Jack Robertson of The Dalles Sheriff’s department for a bit of woodsy Omah lore.

“If you should be out in the woods without a weapon,” he said, “and you see Bigfoot, just throw some crap in his face and he’ll run away. They hate that.”

“What am I going to do if there isn’t any crap around?”

“Listen,” Robertson said, “if you’re out in the woods alone and you see him, there’ll be plenty of crap around.”

* * *

Flora Thompson is 74 years old, a Wy-am Indian who lives at Celilo Falls, the prime salmon netting spot on the Columbia River, which her tribe calls “Wauna.” Flora studied and learned the legends of the Wy-am from her late husband, the great chief Tommy Thompson, who died at 108 in 1951. She can tell about the time before men when all the animals were people and were giants. Coyote was the Changer. He dug a trench from the great eastern lake to the ocean so the salmon could swim upstream. In this way Coyote made the earth fit for man.

In the Changing Time, just after there were men, there was another beast. As Flora Thompson describes it, it is very much like the Omah in the Patterson film. It was a female and its name was Tlat-ta-chee-ah.

“We use Tlat-ta-chee-ah as a scarecrow,” Flora says. “We tell the bad children that she will come to eat them if they don’t behave.”

The Wy-am are not the only tribe that have legends about giant, ape-like creatures. Many tribes call him Sasquatch.

In British Columbia, the Salish call him Stwanitie. The Quamault of the Olympic Peninsula call him Seeakwa. In Alberta he is called Tsonqua and Ghaga, and in Northern California, the Hoopa call him Kadonkwa. In the Central Pacific Northwest many tribes call him Omah.

Peter Byrne in his investigation has talked to many of the tribes in the general sighting areas. Two elderly Indians on the Colville reservation located in Northeastern Washington told him that their grandfathers spoke of seeing up to 20 Omah catching salmon during run on the Columbia River. In the 1850s, they said, the Omah caught the white man’s disease and died.

Another legend prevalent in the Northwest is that there were once many Omah and they lived not only in the forests, but also far to the south and in the plains of the east. The Indians warred with them, and by the time the white man came, they were all gone.

* * *

Item: At twilight in a small mountain town in Northern California, a clerk in the general store thought she saw a large, hair-covered animal she took to be Bigfoot. Within an hour a large armed crowd had gathered in front of the store, ready to hunt the beast. Investigation showed that the beast was actually a prankster, a high-school boy who had thrown a fur over his head.

From a letter to Deputy Carlson, dated November 25th, 1972: “I believe from reading the article about the Bigfoot search that it is a man dressed in a gorilla suit so people do not kill him, he is probably getting a big kick out of doing his thing, scaring people. The article said it looked like a man. That’s what it was—a man—in costume. If you attend a Halloween dance in costume in Los Angeles you would see plenty of Yeti, dancing with the girls. I’ve seen plenty of these outfits, so do not shoot him, he’s having fun.”

The letter was signed “Miss Los Angeles.”

Excerpt from a conversation with a deputy sheriff in The Dalles, Oregon: “Now I’m not saying that a critter like that actually exists. I’ve been hunting this part of the country for almost 20 years, and I’ve never seen hide nor hair of one. But if I did see one, you damn betcha it’s a dead one. It’d be worth more to you alive, but even a dead one would bring you a million for a squeeze of the trigger. And how would you capture one? You couldn’t, is all. Shoot it, is the best way. You’d have a million. I wouldn’t even come to work tomorrow if I shot one tonight. I’d just sit back and start counting my money.”

Sections of County Ordinance 69-01 Skamania County, Washington (located just across the river from The Dalles): “Prohibiting wanton slaying of apecreatures and imposing penalties.

“WHEREAS, there is evidence to indicate the possible existence in Skamania County of a nocturnal primate mammal variously described as an apelike creature or a sub-species of homo sapiens, and

“WHEREAS, both legend and purported recent sightings and spoor support the possibility, and

“WHEREAS, this creature is generally and commonly known as ‘Sasquatch,’ or ‘Yeti’ or ‘Giant Hairy Ape,’ and

“WHEREAS, publicity attendant on such real or imagined sightings has resulted in an influx of scientific investigators as well as casual hunters, many armed with lethal weapons,

“THEREFORE, let it be resolved that any premeditated, willful and wanton slaying of any such creature shall be deemed a felony punishable by a fine not to exceed ten thousand dollars and/or imprisonment in the county jail for a period not to exceed five years.”

This ordinance was adopted in the spring of 1969. On the first day of April to be exact.

Excerpt from a conversation with The Dalles deputy Rich Carlson: “There are always fellows who go out to shoot it. There are people who said they would shoot it if they saw it. In the beginning, one sighting we had, the townspeople found out about it, and by jiminy, they went up there with rifles, ready to hunt it down ….”

* * *

Undoubtedly there have been many hoaxes in the Bigfoot saga. In 1968 a Mr. Ray Pickens of Colville, Washington, strapped a pair of 16″, foot-like plywood boards to his feet and tromped over the nearby woods. A small crowd gathered and a photo was sent to Peter Byrne, who dismissed the tracks as obvious fakes. Pickens later admitted the hoax. John Napier states in his book: “I have in my files photographs of a further set of tracks which were clearly made by a hinged wooden contraption which wouldn’t fool the village idiot.”

Another citizen of Colville, the Bigfoot hunter Ivan Marx, made a series of phone calls one night in October of 1970. He was in a state of high excitement. A wounded Bigfoot had been sighted near Colville, and in the morning he was going to go out after it with his camera. As might be expected, a crowd gathered and Marx stayed in radio contact with them. At one point he claimed to have sighted the beast and some minutes later said he was actually filming it.

Peter Byrne said Marx offered to sell the film to Byrne’s organization for $25,000. He agreed to buy on the condition that the film could be studied first for signs of a hoax. Byrne says his study showed that the film had been shot about a month previous to the date Marx claimed and that it had been shot in an entirely different area than that claimed by Marx. Armed with this information, Byrne, the sheriff, and some concerned citizens made a visit to Marx’ Colville home. Marx was gone and there was no forwarding address.

He resurfaced a few weeks ago on the television show You Asked for It. He had shot a film, he said, of a large Bigfoot in a snowstorm and had come to You Asked for It, because he was impressed by the show’s reputation. To my layman’s eyes, the film seems an incredibly clumsy fake. Peter Byrne said it was “ridiculous.” In it, the creature is seen white in a heavy snowfall. It walks manlike, toward the camera, jumps around aimlessly, and gives us a view of his front and back sides. The white gorilla suit bags and wrinkles in the ass.

* * *

Most of the known hoaxers seem to be motivated by money, by a desire for notoriety, and by the desire to put one over on everybody, especially the bright boys, the scientists. Journalists, as everyone knows, are beyond these considerations. Through perseverance and knowledge of human nature, I personally obtained an exclusive interview with Bigfoot.

I had put notes up in the local supermarkets and laundromats asking anyone with Bigfoot information to call me at the Oregon Motel in The Dalles. About one AM on a dark and stormy night, I received a call. A hoarse voice with a heavy accent I couldn’t identify asked me if I was the writer who wanted to talk to Bigfoot. I said I was. The voice said, “I am Omah.” He stretched it out, “Ohhhh-mahhhh.” He said he would meet me in 20 minutes at the local Denny’s 24-hour coffee shop. He said I would recognize him because he would wear an ankle-length trench coat and a slouch hat, and because he would be nine feet tall. I suggested he carry a basketball so as not to attract attention.

I dressed quickly and doused my face with cold water. The restaurant was one of those bits of roadside formica with zippy muzak and menopausal waitresses on mother goose shoes. Two truckdrivers discussed Peterbilt rigs near the door. Omah sat in the rear, hunched over a cup of coffee, the hat pulled low over his forehead.

He looked up quickly, almost angrily as I approached the table.


“Yeah,” I said. “You Omah?”

“That’s me.”

“So why did you call me?” I asked.

He smiled strangely. “I need ink.”

He wanted to know if I had done any interviews and what my approach to the story was going to be. I said that I saw him as a survivor, a self-reliant primitive in the midst of vast technocracy; a pleasant reminder that we haven’t yet swallowed up all our wilderness. I said that I saw him as man’s closest brother on the earth and that by knowing him, we could certainly learn to know ourselves the better.

Omah nodded absent-mindedly while I spoke. He called the waitress over and ordered five Lumberjack Breakfasts: “A stack of delicious buckwheat cakes with rich creamery butter and Vermont maple syrup, mounds of hash browns, a giant slab of Canadian bacon, golden brown toast and an assortment of the finest jams; a breakfast fit for a lumberjack.”

While he ate, I pumped him with questions. He had been coming down to The Dalles from Fort Hood every spring for years to raid the apple orchard that is now The Pinewood Mobile Manor. One fateful June, five years ago, he found the orchard gone. In his confusion, he had come on The Dalles Drive-in, which at the time was playing Planet of the Apes. He watched the film three times every night for two weeks. He learned to speak English. And an unshakable idea grew in his mind. Through the long, snowy winters on Mt. Hood he considered. Every spring when he came down to The Dalles, there was a new ape sequel film. This year he was ready to act.

Suddenly he pulled the hat back from his forehead and turned his profile to me. The features were humanoid, but the nose was flattened and the eyes were flat black coals.

“What do you think?” he blurted.

“About what?”

“About me, Omah … Do you think I could get a part in the next ape film?”

He must have seen the look on my face because he stopped talking and stared moodily at his Lumberjack Specials. Mentally I scrapped my survivor story. A great, inexplicable wave of sadness washed over me. We sat in silence for several minutes.

“Been swell talking to you,” I said, and faked an expansive yawn. “Well, I better get back to the motel.”

He looked up and for the first time his humanoid face showed emotion. It seemed twisted into an expression of hopeless pleading.

“I need the ink,” he began, then changed his tack. “Hollywood must know …” I stood up, ready to leave.

His lower lip quivered and for a terrible moment I thought he might begin to cry. We paid the bill and he followed me out the door where we stood for several minutes in the black and windswept Oregon night. He continued to jabber about ape films in his strange accent.

“Look,” I said finally, “I gotta go.”

“OK, sure,” he said. There was a distant bitterness in his voice. “Ciao.”

In This Article: 1970s, Coverwall


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