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McCall, Idaho, 1977

It was the summer of 1977. I was spending the summer with my Aunt and Uncle in McCall, Idaho. My uncle (quite the outdoors man: Hunter, tracker, fisherman, horse rider, etc.) took my cousin and I on an excursion into the mountains. We drove quite a long way on paved roads, then further on dirt roads. We eventually parked where he took the two horses in tow out of the trailer; we then went many miles up into the woods to a lake at the base of a large rocky mountain that had clearly once been an area of glacial activity. Many rocks and boulders were at the base of this mountain from glacial events in the past, probably etching out this lake in the process. The mountain was the tallest in the area and I judged that it would've taken an experienced hiker another day or so to reach it's summit.

We set up camp by the lake in the early part of the afternoon. After a time I heard a knocking sound coming from the far side of the lake.... a sound like someone banging on a tree or rock with a hollow stick. The knocking would come as three or four raps at a time then after 10 seconds or so (it seemed to vary) a "response" would come back from another location on the far banks. At first, I thought this to be an echo but after careful listening the number of raps would became different with a different count, sometimes more, sometimes less and at an entirely different tone. These knocking sounds would happen maybe once every 5 to 10 minutes, maybe nothing for a half an hour, maybe several in a few minute time span. I asked my uncle what he thought they were and as I recall, he was quite vague but didn't seem overly concerned. I eventually began to notice that the "response" sounds had moved around this small lake and were now coming from the base of the mountain — maybe a half-mile to our left. My uncle had gone off on one horse to hunt some dinner and my cousin and I went off to explore the sounds towards the base of the mountain leaving one of the two horses tied up back at camp. We ventured in that direction and during that time the noises stopped completely so we went back to camp.

As night fell the noises stopped entirely. We ate and climbed into our sleeping bags on the ground. The horses were tied up not far away and the three of us were lying there falling asleep around the dying embers of the fire. I remember looking up at the stars through the canopy of trees trying to fall asleep when the horses began to stir. Then they grew even more restless and from across the lake came the "toonk, toonk, toonk" and immediately from directly behind us on the slope came back, "TOONK! TOONK! TOONK!" I whirled in my sleeping bag to see, the horses were rearing up wildly, pulling at their ropes. From my position on the ground and the dim light of the fire embers I remember thinking as I turned over to face the sound that the horses were going to stomp on me (though they were maybe 15 feet away). As I turned my uncle also rolled over and had his flashlight fixed on the slope — there behind the large boulder just behind us, perhaps 30 feet away was a head peering over, two eyes set quite far apart from each other reflecting back in a yellowish, greenish, orange sort of way (like a cat's eyes in headlights but these were NOT cat eyes). Other than the horses rearing and snorting...time seemed to stop for a moment. The eyes continued to look at us, then looked to one side towards the horses, looked back at us, blinked and then my Uncle shouted a "GET-OUTTA-HERE!" sort of yell. Somewhere during this time one of the horses pulled loose and ran off down the shoreline to our right. The head then turned and I heard very distinctly the sound of two very heavy legs trotting up the hill and fading away in the distance. Not a four-legged run, it was definitely two legs AND because the slope was fairly steep behind us, in hindsight it seems remarkable that they did not sound like something struggling up the slope, the footfalls faded away quite quickly.

I turned to ask my uncle what he thought it was and noticed that he was half out of his sleeping bag, flashlight in one hand, pistol in the other. He said, "It was probably a mountain lion or bear" and that I should go back to sleep. I remember wondering how the hell was I going to sleep now? But, I did fall asleep. The next morning, my uncle set off early to track the other horse. I made my way up the hill behind us to see what I could find. I remember finding deep large impressions in the leaves, but being 17 and a "City-boy" I could not positively identify the tracks. But it was not difficult to follow them up the slope until they reached the hard ground at the top of the rise. My uncle returned without the other horse, he said he tracked it and it had gone on into the next valley, we would stay the night and set off to find it the next day. There were no more knocking sounds that day or that night. We awoke the following day and walked many miles while my uncle tracked the horse through the mountains and trees. We went over some pretty rough terrain but much to my surprise my uncle tracked us right to the horse many miles away. My uncle never spoke of the event to me again and my cousin never did either until two years ago when I asked him if he remembered our trip. He said, "Oh, the night the mountain lion came into camp and we lost the horse?" "Yeah," I thought, "that's the one."

I looked at a map of Idaho recently to see if I could figure out where we might have been exactly (I'd like to return there someday to get some closure) and I notice not far from McCall in the mountains there's a place called Mountain called "He-Devil Mountain." Purely speculation, but I can only wonder.

Monday, April 17, 2000 10:43 PM, from the files of Bobbie Short