One of my first memories is of being naked in a round aluminum wash tub. Dust motes float like fairies in streams of light from the tiny window over Grandma’s kitchen sink. A wood plank floor has gaps that reveal my playground under the house where doodle bugs create swirling patterns in dry, red dirt and lumpy hop toads bury all but their pointy noses in the cool depths.
“I told you to leave those piglets be.” Grandma says.
Or she says something like that. What I actually remember is her anger with me for riding that baby pig down the hill outside her house. The way the pig bristles tickled my leg pretty near exactly like the scrub-brush was doing as she wore the dirt from my back. The joy of flying through brush and poison oak. Animal and human squeals blending. My arms around the piglet’s neck, floppy-soft ears brushing my cheeks.
I also remember tumbling from my bareback ride. The grunting, thrashing of a sow rushing to rescue her baby. Grandma’s scream. Warm arms enfolding me. Flying through the air. Landing with a soft thump. Seeing grandma jump the fence, roll into her yard right behind the spot where she’d thrown me.
I might have forgotten this incident. God knows, there was never a dull day at the Peckwan cabin. I remember it because while I was still in the tub, Grandma wielding that scratchy brush in an attempt to wash away the embedded dirt and poison oak oil, Grandpa came home.
My memory insists it had been only one day before that Grandpa bested me, again, at the pancake eating contest he and I had on the rare mornings he was home. He and his logging partner, Bud Ryerson, were gone all week. Sometimes for weeks on end. He should not be here now. That much I knew.
Something was wrong. Bad wrong. Grandma stopped her scrubbing when she saw him. Grandpa was paler than he should have been. He didn’t so much sit in a kitchen chair as collapse into it. Grandma stopped her scolding, dried me with a rough white towel and dressed me in clean overall.
Grandpa told his story.
He and Bud had returned to their staging grounds to find road-building equipment scattered all hell and gone over the mountain above Bluff Creek. Cement pipes to carry runoff were tipped up on edge, thrown like toys. Giant bare footprints were everywhere at the site. Like some huge creature had, in a tantrum, tossed equipment weighing a half ton or more, with no more effort than throwing a piece of kindling.
What I remember most is how frightened Grandpa was. A man I never before or since saw show any emotion whatsoever. Stoic and calm to the point of coma. That was Grandpa’s usual mode.
I could not have been more than four years old when this memory was formed. I was not yet in school. I fit in a wash tub. Easily. So, here’s my dilemma: It was 1967 when Bud Ryerson and Grandpa, Fritz Brockmueller, reported an incident that sounds very much like the one I remember.
In 1967, I was seventeen. My memory of the tale came at least thirteen years earlier. I suspect there were other encounters with Bigfoot in the Peckwan area, many other encounters, happening for at least a dozen years prior to that first 1967 Times Standard report. Of course, memory is a funny thing. It’s possible I’ve overlapped experiences in my mind. Created a reality that never existed at all. Still, it’s curious, don’t you think?