“Bigfoot was a big story in Cashton”
By Terry Burt, special to the Tribune
La Crosse Tribune - Wednesday, July 28, 2004 -- The death this past spring of Bud Cavadini of Cashton, Wis., a longtime Tribune correspondent, brought to mind one of the most unusual stories he or anyone else ever wrote for the newspaper.
Call it a monster, a Bigfoot or a figment of someone's imagination, the stories that Bud and I wrote that fall became a change of pace for our readers, who at the time were deluged by stories of upcoming elections (does this sound familiar?)
Bud came into the Tribune office one day in September or October 1976 and told me an amazing story that I was able to confirm to my satisfaction before we printed anything.
I always like finding news of the offbeat, weird variety but this was the strangest case I had ever encountered. Keep in mind, too, this was before television and Hollywood made commonplace the mysterious myths and unknown, sometimes otherworldly, subjects we can see almost weekly on cable television.
I'm not sure where Bud picked up his initial information but after asking lots of questions to a Cashton-area farm family, I decided there was enough credible information to write a story.
Editor Ken Teachout agreed, and the Cashton Bigfoot became familiar to thousands of Coulee Region Tribune readers. The original story and a follow-up both ran on Page One that week.
The farmer, who asked to remain anonymous, was in the company of his dog early one morning a quarter-century ago when he saw, standing among his cows, a creature that does not belong in the farmland of Wisconsin, or perhaps anywhere else.
It was described as being about 8 feet tall, very broad shouldered, with long dark hair all over its body and having an almost human face.
It stood erect and walked on two feet. Even at a distance of 25 or 30 yards, the creature had a distinct foul odor.
The farmer and the creature stared at each other for several seconds, neither one moving until the farmer's dog — a large collie-shepherd mix — ran at the intruder.
The big creature swiped at the dog with one of its hands, and the frightened dog headed for the house and was scared to leave the porch for several days, the farmer told me.
"I've never seen (the dog) afraid of anything before," I recall him saying.
As the dog ran off, the creature turned away, took one step over a barbed wire fence that bordered the pasture, and with one or two long strides was in the woods and out of sight.
Fearing he would not be believed, the farmer told no one but his wife and a family member about his sighting.
For at least two nights, the farmer and a male relative went into the woods just before dark with their high-powered deer rifles. They weren't sure whether they were going to shoot the beast if they got the chance, or just wanted to have the weapons for protection in case the bigfoot, or whatever it was, became aggressive.
They heard the Bigfoot several times, the farmer said, and their hunting stand in the woods was circled loudly, numerous times. The creature made no attempt to walk quietly and made lots of grunting noises, and they could smell the nauseating stench so often reported with Bigfoot sightings.
The farmer's wife told me that after her husband's sighting, some earlier strange occurrences around their property became more understandable.
— They sometimes detected a strange, musty odor that seemed to cling to the cows when they came in from spending the night in the pasture.
— Sounds they had heard in their hay mow (the area above the milking parlor portion of the barn). "It sounded like someone was moving hay bales around," the woman said. "We thought our son probably got up early and was playing up there, so we didn't think much more about it."
Later, however, they found the boy still asleep in his bed, and indeed, some hay bales had been moved about, and that same musty smell was in the barn.
They also found a large stained spot about 10 feet up on one of the hay barn timbers that looked like it had been used by an animal to mark its territory — much as a male dog will announce its presence in a neighborhood by urinating on a tree or fire hydrant.
The beam still smelled strange weeks later when I climbed up there to take a whiff. Of course, I had no way of knowing what I was smelling.
So why did I bother smelling it? Beats me, but it had an almost skunk-like smell.
Anyway, the Cashton Bigfoot was never seen again, as far as I know, and story died after a few days when there was nothing more to report.
I don't know whether the mystery creature was the cause, but the family who lived on the farm and had those unsettling experiences moved away.
The descriptions and details of the Cashton mystery sound very much like the ones related on the Outdoor Life Network's television program "Mysterious Encounters," which was shown weekly until the outdoor channel became the Lance Armstrong bicycle racing channel.
Now that the Tour de France is over, perhaps Autumn Williams and her team of Bigfoot hunters and biologists will return to their pursuit to find the truth about alleged creatures such as this.
They have been reported for hundreds of years in nearly every part of North America, with the most active areas being the Pacific Northwest and the swamps and bayous of the South.
But now and again they are spotted by seemingly honest, serious-minded citizens in any number of places — including the Coulee Region.
Oh, I almost forgot. Very few mainstream scientists or zoologists believe there is proof of the existence of a Bigfoot animal.
Me? I've never seen one, and I really don't want to see one in the forest — but I would like to know for sure.
Terry Burt, a retired La Crosse Tribune reporter, contributes regularly to the Region section. http://www.lacrossetribune.com/articles/2004/07/28/region/01column.txt
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