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1936 - Wes Sumerlin
Recently issued by Northwest Heritage Resources in Olympia, WA is a revised edition of a SE Washington tour of 153 miles along U.S. Highway 12 from Richland to Clarkston. One of the most unique parts of this new book-and-tape is the inclusion of people telling about various bits of folklore that go into the fullest telling of our region's story. Having been acquainted with one of the most intriguing of such stories, Bigfoot, for many years, I was pleased to see it included. Besides giving some space to Dixie and its beginnings, writer Jens Lund saw fit to tell about the Bigfoot that roam near Dixie in the Washington Blue Mountains foothills. The late Wes Sumerlin, who for many years was considered the Bigfoot "guru," of these parts, is quoted as he tells about one of his encounters with the elusive creature. His story in the guidebook follows:
"Between 1936 and 1939 I was going down a canyon, six mules behind me, and all at once, those mules tracked like they wanted to run over me. They were bucking up, trying to pass on the trail, and all I could see was a wreck coming up. "I looked back, I happened to notice, across the canyon, a bear come out of the brush and a I take a second look and it wasn't a bear. It was standing upright, walking on its hind feet. A bear walks (upright) six or seven steps, and then it goes back down and goes on four feet. "But this kept coming two foot. Then it went right across the ridge into the next brush. Then I didn't see him anymore for maybe a mile. The wind shifted and that's what it was, the mules smelled this critter! They weren't seeing it they smelled the thing.
"We were coming around the river, they started piling up again, I looked back, and I was looking for it that time First two, three times I looked back, I didn't see nothing. Then I did see it. About halfway across the ridge, I picked it up going down into the brush. I didn't see it no more. "I was telling one of the guys, they went up there to look at them tracks, and they couldn't believe it!" They said, "That can't be no bear, because there ain't no toenails, and it's bigger than any bear we got in this country.' They thought maybe it might be a grizzly or something, but it was still bigger than a grizzly and there wasn't no toenail marks."
Sumerlin is pictured in the book, seated in front of the life-sized cutout of a Bigfoot he'd nailed to the side of his house at 1333 Dell St. in Walla Walla, and he is holding two plaster casts he had made of Bigfoot tracks he'd come across. Two of the many thousands he had seen over many years in the Blue Mountains.
Credit source: Vance
Orchard. 28 September 1999.