McCurtain Sunday Gazette, Oklahoma, October 4, 1989

Lukfata Students Question Coach Who Saw "Bigfoot"

LUKFATA, Oklahoma ---- Once upon a time there was a teacher, a media specialist and a reading enrichment instructor who came up with this great idea about some high-interest subject for fifth and sixth graders. It was a long, long time ago. (About three weeks).

Looking through the library the children narrowed the subject down to two possibilities: The Bermuda Triangle or Sasquatch, commonly referred to as "Big Foot." (In Southeast Oklahoma, "Big Eddie.") Big Foot was decided to be the topic. And children began to read. And Debbie McGee, the teacher was happy. Jean Johnson, media specialist thought it marvelous all the books were being checked out. Jolly Sands knew reading was getting some more enrichment. And then Idabel High track coach Skippy Smith let Bob West tell the story of an encounter this spring in Little River bottom, and a large, red, hairy creature.

"Boy, this was too good to be true, a real expert on the matter," Ms. McGee said Thursday morning as the troops (fifth and sixth graders) gathered in the media center to hear a live account from Smith. So children listened. And Smith, whose track teams in Idabel have won more state championships than anyone in history, first told the youngsters he was 45-years-old, a career teacher, father, avid hunter, normal and "not crazy." They believed him. So he recounted the story which was released in The McCurtain Gazette by Bob West, and he told the same things again.

"Bet I've had to defend my sanity and tell this a hundred times," he smiled.

When the story about Smith and his companion, Mike Stauter, was over, hands went up and here are some of the questions:

Jennifer Jones: "What were you going to do if it came toward you?"
Smith: "I thought about that. I was going to say I won't shoot you if you won't hurt me. I was gonna make any deal I could."

Philip Smith: "What if it were suddenly beside you?"
Smith: "I'd run."

Brad Stewart: "Did he resemble the animals in the books?"
Smith: "Remarkably so."

Kendall Noah: "Has it killed anybody yet?"
Smith: "Not to my knowledge. Haven't heard of anybody missing. I really think it was as afraid of me as I was afraid of him."

Principal Mike Steele: "How far apart were you and your hunting partner, Mike Stauter?"
Smith: "About 300 yards, on each side of a creek. Mike said he felt something had been watching him all morning, too."

Melissa Ayres: "Could it have been just a person dressed up in a costume?"
Smith: "If so, that person would have been eight feet tall. Almost as tall as this ceiling," he smiled.

Jenna Westbrook: "How many do you think there were of them. Could there have been some little ones and that thing was just trying to scare you away?"
Smith: "I would not be surprised if there were more than one. These things have been sighted around here for years I've discovered since the story came to light."

Hank Costa: "Did you smell it?"
Smith: "No, I didn't smell anything but I could hear it breathing."

Jared Pole: "Reckon it could climb a tree?"
Smith: "I imagine so. Boy, that would be scary to see that thing drop out of a tree near you."

Principal Steele: "Coach Smith, could you see the possibility of taking your track pupils into that area and improving their speed by fright?"
Smith: "That would pick up their speed, no doubt," the coach grinned as he saw humor was being introduced into the program. "Bet that thing would throw a shot put 4,000 feet," somebody added.

The children gave coach Smith a rousing ovation following the short discussion and Ms. McGee discussed the books, which had been read. And a field trip was discussed.

And Smith said he had to get back to Idabel to give a test to some students. And then he said very seriously again, "I'm never going back to that place."

© McCurtain County Sunday Gazette.

Article contributed to this website with grateful appreciation to Mr. and Mrs. Luke Gross, Texas - 23 February 2001

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