"Constant Sasquatch watch held in Honobia"
By Ron Jackson for The OklahomanHONOBIA, OKLAHOMA --- The stories are as alluring as the Kiamichi Mountains from which they spring. Remote town celebrates Bigfoot
Gigantic footprints embedded in the soil. Unfamiliar moans and shrills emanating from the forest. Hairy, ape-like creatures darting across remote creeks and roads.
Such accounts are told by seasoned woodsmen, reared on a lifetime of stalking wild game in the mountain ranges that surround their homes. Such accounts also are told by second- and third-generation loggers who are as hardened and rugged as the terrain they work.
Most, but not all, are reluctant to share their experiences. No one wants to be ridiculed for relating the unexplained things they have seen or heard.
So, few admit they have encountered Bigfoot.
And yet stories of close encounters with this legendary creature keep tumbling into the mountain hideaway of Honobia like a never
"There is something out there," said Harold Yates, a Honobia resident who retired last week after 30 years with the state Forestry Services. "I don't know what it is, but something is definitely out there."
Yates hears the stories frequently from neighbors who trust he won't laugh at their accounts. Yates would never think of laughing. He is still puzzled by experiences he had five years ago while building a log cabin on Little River, a main waterway that snakes through the valley cradling Honobia.
One day Yates was cutting planks on his saw, listening to the piercing sound of wood colliding with a saw blade. He says that's when he heard a creature seemingly answer him in a deafening sound that mocked his sawing.
On another occasion, in the stillness of night, Yates heard large rocks being slammed into the river below his cabin. The crashing sound continued for 40 minutes and unnerved his family.
"I don't know what could have made those sounds," said the soft-spoken Yates, 51. "That's the trouble. I don't know anything that can make those noises. "I know a bear can't."
Logger Randall Wright, 43, tells of tracks he saw in the woods: "They were 15¼ inches long, 7 inches wide - with five toes."
"I know Bigfoot is out there," said Wright, born and raised in Honobia. Whispering, Wright adds with a devilish grin, "And if I see it, I'm going to shoot it, too."
Wright is serious. He carries a loaded rifle in his truck at all times.
Yates is left with speculation and wonder. He is far from alone in a valley where Bigfoot sightings and strange experiences also have been reported in the neighboring communities of Nashoba, Octavia, Ludlow and Watson.
The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, which maintains a national database of purported sightings, has collected 58 such testimonials in Oklahoma since 1971. Nineteen of those eyewitness accounts came from the Kiamichi Mountains, which encompasses vast stretches of timberland in parts of Le Flore, Pushmataha and McCurtain counties.
Honobia sits on the Le Flore-Pushmataha county line - literally.
"On one side of the street is Pushmataha County," explained Honobia's Post Master Karen Pierce, 41. "Cross the street and you're in Le Flore County. Funny, huh? ... But I love it here. It's so beautiful."
Honobia's beauty is matched only by its remoteness. Residents, some of whom received electricity for the first time in 1952, drive 16 miles to the nearest gas station and 20 miles to the nearest ATM.
A trip to a grocery store could be anywhere from 55 to 70 miles, depending on which direction one travels. If they drive east on State Highway 144, they are traveling on the last unpaved highway in the state.
"There's only one thing wrong with Honobia," said Garland Cogburn, a Honobia resident who lives on Little River. "We're just so far from anything. Other than that, this place is perfect."
Honobia is nestled in the heart of the Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area, which includes 130,000 acres of commercial timberland thick with cedar, oak, box elder, and pine trees. Wild hogs, bear, deer, and panthers are some of the animals that roam its rugged terrain. The land is owned by two private forest investment companies - the Hancock Natural Resources Group and Renewable
Resources, LLC. - and is managed by the State Wildlife Conservation Department in a unique partnership.
The vastness of the forest is mindboggling; remote enough for a man to wander into and disappear forever. Or, as some would claim, immense enough for an unknown species to live with virtually no detection.
A Bigfoot shooting? Honobia's stature as Bigfoot territory grew in January 2000 when a local woodsman named Tim Humphreys claimed he shot at a Bigfoot in the woods behind his home.
Humphreys' encounter was documented by the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, which sent investigators to interview Humphreys and set up a surveillance at his home. Investigators learned the shooting culminated two years of alleged terror by "at least one Bigfoot," which had been prowling his property at night.
The avid Honobia hunter said the creature was stealing deer meat from an outbuilding freezer. As time passed, the creature became bolder by tapping on windows and even jiggling doorknobs.
"Tim and his family were genuinely terrified by this Bigfoot," said Wright, the logger. "And I have no reason not to believe him ... He saw it and he was armed to the teeth. He had loaded guns on the porch and in the house - everywhere. He had floodlights all around his house.
"He had just had enough."
Humphreys told investigators he shined a light into the face of a charging Bigfoot and fired his assault rifle at the massive creature from 70 yards away. The Bigfoot retreated into the woods and cut loose with eerie wails.
Soon, similar sounds were coming from other nearby creatures.
"Tim told me they were talking to each other in all kinds of grunts and gibberish," Wright said. "Tim said he was afraid to run in there after it. The next morning I went to the spot where the Bigfoot ran and I personally saw blood splattered on trees 9 feet high for about 200 yards. That's where it was carried away by two other Bigfoots.
"A logger told Tim later he was driving down the road with his truck when he saw two of these creatures carrying a third one across the road. He turned his truck around six times on that road because he couldn't believe what he was seeing."
The logger, like much of the physical evidence from that night, disappeared.
A heavy rain the next day washed away any traces of blood, and Bigfoot investigators found nothing more than a mutilated deer in the vicinity where the Bigfoot supposedly fell. Even the Humphreys vanished abruptly, leaving refrigerated food and furniture in their wake.
Neighbors tell conflicting stories about the family's whereabouts.
"Tim just grew tired of people laughing and he quit talking," said Charla Wright, Randall's wife. "I know this: Tim's wife was terrified and she wouldn't go back to that home after what she saw. And I believe her. I believe they saw a Bigfoot."
Television media crews and print journalists soon began appearing in Honobia, leaving a legacy of their own with campy or playful reports that made locals feel embarrassed.
"People will make fun of you," Yates explained. "I know I'll never go on camera again."
A legacy of encounters
The sensational ordeal told by the Humphreys actually was a new twist on an old story around Honobia, where Bigfoot sightings date back hundreds of years. Choctaw elders who lived in the region have been telling legends of mammoth, hairy creatures roaming the Kiamichi Mountains for generations.
Charlene Cusher, a Choctaw from nearby Watson, remembered hearing one such story from her grandparents. They spoke of a little boy who wandered into the forest and got lost.
"When they found the boy he was fine," said Cusher, 54. "He said 'that thing' took care of him, referring to the creature ... As for me, I'd have to see it to believe it were true."
Fellow Choctaw Billy Ludlow of Honobia became a staunch believer in Bigfoot 54 years ago at age 11 when he encountered a gigantic, bipedal creature on Little River. Ludlow and two playmates were goofing around one Sunday night after church when they heard metal beams snapping on the unfinished bridge above.
"I looked up and saw this large, hairy animal stand up on two legs like a man," said Ludlow, 65. "I'd guess it to be 9 or 10 feet tall with broad shoulders and hair all over. I was always the slowest runner among my friends. But on that night, I was the fastest. We ran to my grandmother's cabin and slammed the door shut. It was chasing us. Something came and pushed the door two or three times, and then went away. I know they are out there."
The proof? Proof of Bigfoot's existence in these mountains - or at least proof of an unknown animal - might be on the way or it might be exaggeration.
Ludlow hunter Odell Rose recently collected a fistful of fine, woolly brown hair on a tree he couldn't match to any known animals in the region. The foul-smelling hair intrigued Rose so much he has sent it out for DNA testing. Rose, 65, said he doesn't believe in Bigfoot.
(Dr. W. H. Fahrenbach determined it was bear hair in 2006.)
"Odell and I have lived up here for 25 years," said LaVelle Rose, 53. "We used to ride mules and horses all over these mountains, and we've never seen anything like a Bigfoot. My husband is one of those hard-core people who doesn't believe in much. He's from the old school.
"But he's never seen any hair like this before. He'd like to know what it is." Rose laughed, "Maybe it is Bigfoot hair."
For Bigfoot Encounters by Dave Yellowhair, Anadarko, OK
August 7, 2005
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