Heritage: Madames and Bigfoot


My great-great-grandfather Merritt Curtis Foster founded the town of Freshwater (Northern California) and my great-aunt Mandy Foster was a well-known madame at the Old Vance Hotel (Eureka, CA) during the days of prohibition. My grandson is a seventh generation Humboldt County native.  I’ve been out from behind the Redwood Curtain for almost twenty years ago now, but  go back each year to visit family, and my love for the area manifests in my novels.

       My newest book, Bigfoot Blues is set in Humboldt County.  The novel follows the adventures of a bigfoot hunter’s daughter as she finds her own path through the culture into which she was born. The story is humorous in parts, but it’s layered with issues of faith and love of family and the difficulties of becoming your own person without rejecting the people who raised you.

When I was a child, I spent a couple of months each summer with my grandmother and grandfather who lived on the edge of the Indian Reservation out beyond the little town of Peckwan.  Bigfoot was a part of that world in much the same way that Jesus is a part of the world of a fundamentalist Christian.  He was an entity whose existence was taken for granted.  Some people felt closer to him than others, some individuals encountered him on a fairly regular basis, some heard the sound of his movements through the woods on dark nights, some knew him only through the stories of others.

My grandpa, Fritz Brockmueller, was logging partners with Bud Ryerson.  Anybody who knows the history of Bigfoot in the Humboldt County area knows the name Ryerson.  Bud’s sighting was the first report of bigfoot in the local Times Standard.  Th newspaper article appeared in 1967, but the encounters had been going on for at least fifteen years prior to that first public report.

I know this for a fact because it was 1954 and I was four years old when my grandpa returned early from a logging trip with the story of how he and Bud’s road building equipment had been destroyed, cement pipes that weighed well over five hundred pounds tossed around like Lincoln Logs, a road grader pushed sideways and the seat torn off.  White faced and shaking, grandpa told about how there were footprints everywhere.  Giant, bare feet that left deep impressions in the mud.

A fictionalized account of this encounter is in Bigfoot Blues.

Living for a few weeks a year in a culture that accepted Bigfoot as a neighbor and being present when my logical, straightforward grandfather stumbled home with this tale definitely left a lasting impression on me.  And, of course, being the grand-niece of the town’s madame left its own imprint on my psyche.  The fun, as a writer, is watching how these two heritages play out in my novels, how my brain twists and turns history into a fictional account that tells the truth.

Do you have peculiar bits and pieces in your family history?  If so, how do you rearrange that past into your own truth?

About Author and Speaker Pamela Foster

Pamela Foster is a speaker and author. Her first book, Redneck Goddess, is available at local bookstores and on Amazon. Her second book, Bigfoot Blues, will be available in August 2012.
This entry was posted in About Writing, Bigfoot, Bigfoot Blues, humor and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Heritage: Madames and Bigfoot

  1. A woman of the night in your family tree? Congratulations on the enterprise of your ancestors!

    • Ah, Ned. I must confess that Mandy was held up as role model for all the girls in the family for three generations. The only successful business woman in the bunch. I evidently resemble her as, for years, old men in Humboldt County would approach me, a twinkle in their eyes, with the phrase, “You remind me someone I knew a long time ago.” It was fun to ask,”You mean Mandy Foster?” just to watch the old guys startle.

      • Rachel Patton says:

        Lol. Your killing me. And I only wish all those rendezvous paid off like it did for good old Aunt Mandy!

  2. Great post, Pam! My family history is filled with fundamentalist Baptist preachers and plumbers. I can assure you the ministers give me way more material than the plumbers do.

  3. Preachers are always good fodder. No doubt of that.

  4. Duke Pennell says:

    Rumor has it that you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family. Judging by my own family, that’s both blessing and curse. But I wouldn’t be who I am without the influence of those ridgerunners I’m kin to. Why should you be any different? LOL.

    I’m looking forward to hearing more about Samantha and her family. I LOVE your voice!

  5. Pam, what a terrific post. I love reading of the history of the Ryerson Bigfoot sighting and your grandfather there! My father’s stories of his early days when he barely escaped arrest so many times with his pranks provide plenty of fodder when woven into earlier history which I write about. He and his brothers did such things as strip naked except for their hats and shoes and streak down the creek during a church picnic or baptism service. And that was tame. Thanks for reminding me.

  6. I should have guessed that you come from the folks who invented streaking. Sinners really are so much more interesting than saints, aren’t they?

  7. I don’t think I have much interesting fodder in my family tree, or maybe it’s just that I’ve never paid attention to what might be there… could be worth looking into. Interesting post, Pam!

  8. Nita says:

    All my life I’d been told about the great grandmother that ran away from home with her baby. Really, that was it, she ran away with her baby. No details, not one. So, I made up my own. When I finally learned the truth, it wasn’t nearly as interesting to me as my version. Which meant of course, I had to write my version. There are other interesting tidbits I’ve collected either from family, or research. Only tidbits, because my family didn’t want to share the sinning stories, yet those are the most interesting.

  9. Jan Morrill says:

    Your history is fascinating, and I especially like seeing how it ties in with your book. Isn’t it great, the stories we’ve “shared” of our histories? How different they are, but all so interesting, especially when we can tie it to who we are today.

  10. Rachel Patton says:

    I cannot wait to have this story in my hands. My mind will be boggling trying to discover what you were thinking and how close you characters are to the people you know and the family you have. Lol. Ok ok. I have alterior motives since you are my Aunt. And knowing we are related to a Madame explains a lot. Joking aside though, being a Humboldt girl, I’m anticipating the read. We camp about 8 miles from Pecwan many times a year. No prints yet. This just motivated me to want to tell tales. Thanks Aunt Pam!

    • Rachel Patton says:

      Ooopsy not easy to correct my spelling when trying use an iPod with keys only a tiny monkey from Panama could possible be successful with. Edit please.

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