A different kind of Skunk Ape discovery
Valdosta Daily Times
May 5, 2010
Dean Poling, The Valdosta Daily Times
VALDOSTA — A few folks have griped that the recent Skunk Ape stories in The Valdosta Daily Times have made South Georgia look bad, or worse, depending on the commentator. People claiming to have seen a smelly, smaller version of Bigfoot is just what our region needs, they fume sarcastically.
Given all of the bad news and reports of the gigantic oil spill threatening our nearby coasts, one reader commented that the Skunk Ape is just what our area needs. A diversion to take one’s mind off the catastrophes of the day’s more serious news.
And several folks commented that the Skunk Ape story led to an even stranger phenomenon than the reported sightings: The disappearance of the newspaper from its regular place within their homes.
These last comments came from parents of young sons. Seems The Valdosta Daily Times’ Skunk Ape stories racked up more than a few new readers among elementary school-aged boys in the area. Some parents even noted that they finally located their copies of these editions of The Valdosta Daily Times in their young sons’ rooms.
Things like a Skunk Ape, real or mythical, inspire the imagination. The howling, blurry Internet photo that accompanied the first Skunk Ape story is the stuff of many a young fellow’s imagination.
These young minds imagine hunting a Skunk Ape or making friends with one of the beasts.
Young minds imagine the adventure of finding a Skunk Ape in the woods. They discuss the possibilities of such a thing. They debate the details. Some may share stories of their own, such as things about this creature or Bigfoot they have discovered in books or on TV.
These young folks struggle with doubts about its existence and contemplate the possibilities of 'what if?'
What if such a thing does exist? How would you approach a Skunk Ape? Would it be a friendly creature or a savage beast? If running across one, a young boy may wonder would he watch it bravely or flee screaming?
You see, creatures such as Skunk Apes aren’t only things of fantastic contemplation, they are also things that allow a young person to imagine the person they may be or might become.
While some decry the Skunk Ape as a story that makes South Georgia look ridiculous, these examples of how many young boys responded to the possibility of such a creature have given me a certain hope.
I don’t know whether such a thing as a Skunk Ape exists or not. There are far too many things that trick the eyes and far too many people willing to both trick others and be tricked. But there are also mysteries left in this world. Things that cannot be explained away easily. Things that are never seen clearly, but define us in ways that shape our lives.
In this age of video games and special effects, of 24-hour cartoon channels and the Internet, it is refreshing to know that boys are still boys. That children still marvel at stories that would have once been shared around campfires.
There is affirmation in the Skunk Ape stories that the imaginations of children still exist. And there’s nothing ridiculous about that discovery.
Dean Poling is The Valdosta Daily Times assistant managing editor.
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