“The Cowman of Copalis Beach!”
by S. D. Baker
When I was young, my dad wouldn’t tell me about it because I would often go out into the woods cutting blocks with him on the weekends, and he didn’t want me to be afraid of the woods. While I was speaking with him last weekend, I told him of a couple of strange events that happened to me later in the wilderness, and that reminded me of the hints at a story I heard when I was a boy. After some prodding he told me the following story.
In the mid 1960’s, my dad owned a large roofing product mill in Aberdeen, WA. He had teams of men that would cut the fallen old growth cedar salvage left after a logging operation. He had permits to salvage a large amount of wood in the coastal areas of Grays Harbor County, primarily in the area around Copalis Beach. Several of the men on his cutting crews lived in and around Copalis Beach. His foreman, a man I will call Jon for the story, was a bright, down to earth hard worker. My dad trusted him with thousands of dollars of vehicles and equipment, as well as the safety of his crews. He was not the kind of man to make up stories.
On a Monday morning sometime in July, Jon was several hours late for work. This was highly unusual as he was always there early, getting the saws and trucks ready for the day. My dad said he was visibly shaken up, and when he asked him what was wrong, he asked my dad to go in the office so the others wouldn’t hear them. They went in and sat down, and Jon simply said “Something destroyed our house this weekend.” My dad thought he said “someone” broke into the house, and asked Jon if it was someone he knew. Jon said, “You don’t understand, this wasn’t a person. It was a… I don’t know what it was, but it completely trashed the house. The family is going to stay with my brother in Elma for a while.”
My dad asked him to explain what had happened. Jon said that when he got home from work Friday evening, his youngest son Tim, who was around four at the time, told him he saw a big “Cowman” walking at the edge of their field that afternoon. He thought the boy meant “Cowboy”, because some of his neighbors wore cowboy hats when they were out in the sun. He asked him if the man was wearing a cowboy hat, and the boy said, “No daddy, he was a Cowman, furry and stinky like the cows.” He asked his wife if she knew what he was talking about, and she said Tim was playing on the porch that afternoon, when he came running in and said the cowman was stuck on the fence. He was very excited, so she went out to see what he was talking about. She said as she opened the door, she was hit by a horrible smell, like wet dogs and garbage. Tim was pointing across to the field opposite their house and said, “He got loose!” She looked where he was gesturing and could see the top strand of barb wire bouncing up and down, as if somebody had just pulled on it really hard and let it go. She didn’t see the “Cowman”, and noticed nothing out of the ordinary except for the smell.
She told Tim to come inside to play for rest of the day, she felt uneasy and a little scared. Their older son, Jon Jr. who was twelve at the time, was at a friend’s house and walked home a short while after Tim saw his “Cowman”. He told her somebody had followed him home, walking in the woods off the right side of the road. He never seen who it was, they never left the woods, but he said it had to be a really big man. He would hear large sticks cracking, and the footsteps were very heavy. Once he got to the driveway of their house where the woods stopped at the field where his brother had his sighting, the footsteps stopped and Jon Jr. never saw anything. He was pretty shaken up by the event, and wanted his Dad to go out to the woods and check it out with him.
Later that evening, Jon strapped on his .357 and took his older son out into the field to have a look. They first walked to the area where the “Cowman” was supposedly stuck on the fence, and walked down the fence line looking for anything. They came upon a large clump of long, reddish brown hair tangled in the top strand of barbed wire. He tried to pull it off but it was really tangled up, so he pulled out his buck knife and sawed it off. He said the hair was over a foot long, real coarse and stringy. There appeared to be a bit of flesh matted in the clump, and the top wire was pulled loose from one of the posts. Whatever was hung up on the fence was very big. He handed the hair to his son to hold, and they climbed through the fence and walked toward the woods. He said he was looking for any sign of tracks on the ground; the hair kind of looked like it was from a horse’s mane or tail. The ground was a solid grassy field, and there were no hoof prints or any other tracks he could see.
The edge of the woods began about ten feet from the fence line, and they entered on a small game trail that deer frequented. It was around eight at night, and in the woods it was getting to be fairly dark. They walked for a ways, and soon began to smell the rotting garbage/wet dog odor his wife reported earlier. Jon said he got the feeling they were being watched; the hair on the back of his neck was standing up. He told his son they should head back before it got dark, and the boy didn’t argue. As they began walking back out, they could hear heavy footsteps off to their left. They stopped, and the footsteps stopped. They walked on nearly to the clearing, and Jon whispered to his son to run like Hell to the house on the count of three. Jon Jr. nodded, and Jon whispered, “One, two…Three!” and gave his son a push in the back to get him started, then spun around and raced off the trail in the opposite direction, toward the footsteps with his gun drawn.
Off the trail, the underbrush was dense with ferns and bushes; he had a hard time making headway. But as he got closer, he could hear it moving away from him, deeper into the woods. At this time, he told my Dad that he thought it was a vagrant camping out in the woods and possibly scoping houses out to rob at night. Jon was a big man and capable of taking care of himself in most any situation and he had a large caliber handgun so he wasn’t too worried about confronting a vagrant in the woods. He was a few yards off the trail in deep brush when he heard the movement stop just ahead of him. He stopped to look and listen, and thought he saw movement by a large tree, like someone was trying to hide there. He leveled his gun and said “Come out nice and slow, or I swear to God I’ll come back there and shoot you!”
It was silent for a moment, and then he caught movement out the corner of his eye and spun around to his right for a better look. He said it looked like a huge bear moving through the brush, he could only see bits of it through the dense ferns, but it was moving quietly away from the tree on four legs. It was about fifteen feet away from him. At first he thought it was a bear, and then suddenly he saw a huge hairy arm with a human like hand reach out of the brush and grab a small alder tree. The tree was about four inches in diameter, and it grabbed hold about five feet up. He said it happened so fast it was a blur, but the thing pulled itself upright out of the brush by holding the tree. It stood on two legs and turned its upper body to glare at Jon. It was enormous; he couldn’t believe how bulky it was. He said it was well over seven feet tall, and at least half that big through the chest. It was too dark to make out many features, but its eyes seemed to glow a deep red, and he thought he could see teeth, like it was curling its lips back.
It stood for just a brief moment, and then lunged ahead, pushing back on the tree with tremendous force. The tree snapped loudly and crashed into the trees around it, getting hung up in the branches and not falling to the ground. It then disappeared into the deep brush with frightening speed, sounding like a bulldozer with no engine sounds. Jon stood there in shock, his gun temporally forgotten, and then he realized it was heading toward the house, the way his son had went. He turned and ran to the trail, hoping to gain ground on it and cut it off before it reached the clearing. He hit the trail and ran as fast as he could toward the clearing, all the while hearing the creature thrash through the brush on his side.
He burst into the clearing and looked franticly about for his son. Jon Jr. was standing just inside of the fenced field, waiting for his Dad. Jon screamed at him to run to the house, then he saw the thing crash out of the woods about fifty feet to his left. It crossed the ten foot clearing and stepped over the fence in two strides, and was running through the field parallel to his son in a matter of seconds. Jon screamed at his son to run faster, and took aim at the creature. He didn’t fire because he was afraid to hit his son or his house, so he vaulted over the fence and ran in pursuit of them. He could see it angling toward his son, and knew there was no way his boy would make it to the gate before it cut him off. In desperation, he pointed the gun to the ground at his side and fired as he ran, hoping to scare it. It veered more sharply toward his son, and put on an enormous burst of speed. He heard his boy scream as they seemed to collide, he saw the creature dip its shoulder down a little bit and suddenly Jon Jr. was airborne, he flew about ten feet then hit the ground rolling.
The creature never paused; it continued to run at an amazing speed in a loop back towards the woods. Once the line of fire was clear, Jon stopped and squeezed off the remaining five rounds at the retreating creature. He was pretty sure all the shots went wild; the creature never made a sound or slowed down, and was soon over the fence and back in the woods. He reached his son, who was shaken up but not physically hurt. He asked his Dad
Jon pulled his son to his feet and they ran through the gate and into the house locking the door behind him. They were both out of breath and white as ghosts, his wife was screaming at him, demanding to know what the gunshots were for and if they were all right. When he could catch his breath, he told her to make sure the back door was locked, he was going to call the Sheriff. He went to the phone and began to dial the number; this was before 911, then stopped and wondered what exactly he was going to say. He hung up the phone, realizing what an idiot he would look like if he told the Sheriff the boogie man just chased them out of the woods.
He told his wife that it was a large animal, possibly a bear. He didn’t know how to begin to tell her their four year old was right, his Cowman was real and it was more frightening than anything he could imagine. He told them all to keep the doors locked, and stay away from the windows. Around ten o’clock that night, both boys were in bed and Jon and his wife sat down to watch the news. They soon heard a loud moaning cry, kind of like the siren on the volunteer fire department. It would stretch out for a long time, and then end with a “whoop whoop” sound. It was coming from the woods opposite the house.
He then described to her the full details of what had happened, and she immediately wanted to call the Sheriff. He persuaded her that they would sound crazy, and that he would handle it himself. She reluctantly agreed, and told him she didn’t want either of the kids to go outside until this thing was gone. The howling went on until around midnight, when it got quiet again. Jon wanted to stay up through the night and watch over the house, but he had a long day at work and the excitement earlier had worn him out. They went to bed around one in the morning, and had no further problems that night.
They slept in that morning, and the boys were already up and watching cartoons when they got out of bed. The first thing little Jon said was that he had heard the bear rubbing against the house last night. He said he was too scared to get up and tell his parents, and fell back asleep soon after.
“No Daddy, he’s too big for my room, he talked to my window.” Tim said, and turned back to the cartoons. “What did the Cowman say, Tim?” Jon asked.
Jon later learned Tim meant it had square teeth that looked the same size as the small blocks in a Lincoln log set. It apparently spent quite a while “talking” and making faces outside the boy’s window. Tim said it lay down and went to sleep outside, and he could hear it snoring. Jon walked to his younger son’s room, and cautiously peered out the window. No sleeping Cowman. Jon told the boys to get dressed; they were going to go visit their uncle in Elma for the day.
After his wife and kids left, he called one of the men from his crew, and asked him to come over. I’ll call him Patrick, he was an ex-State patrolman and my Dad said he was kicked off the force because of his drinking problem. He was a good worker and never got drunk before dark, so Jon figured they would have most of the day to look for this thing. When Patrick arrived, Jon greeted him at the door and said, “Are you up for some hunting?” Seeing how it was not hunting season, Patrick told him he doesn’t poach, and doesn’t even want to know about it if Jon did. Jon told him it wasn’t deer he was after, and went on to explain the previous night’s events. Patrick didn’t really believe him, but could see he was sincere and still shook up. Jon had his pistol and a bolt action 30.06, Patrick had a .38 in his car and Jon loaned him a 12 gauge. They first circled the house looking for any signs of a nocturnal visitor.
At the back of the house, there was a spigot for the garden hose, and it always leaked. There was a patch of ground worn bare of grass under it, and it had turned to mud. In the center of the mud, there was a huge, clear imprint of what looked like a bare human foot. Jon said it was at least 18 inches long, and very wide. It was so clear that he got the feeling it was left there on purpose. They found no other prints around the house, and in places in the field and woods where a track could be made, the creature seemed to avoid them. Off to the side
Above the top of the window, a good seven feet up, were four muddy streaks. And on the window itself were dozens of large, muddy fingerprints. The glass wasn’t cracked or broken, just smeared with mud. By this time Patrick was fast becoming convinced something strange had indeed happened the night before.
Before going out into the woods, Jon wanted to feed the families pigs. They had two of them apparently fairly young weighing around 40 pounds each. The pig pen was about a hundred yards away from the house, behind an old barn. As they got closer Jon became concerned because they couldn’t hear them making any noise. Usually they squealed like crazy when they knew food was near at hand, but this morning it was completely silent. They rounded the corner and the pen was empty. No sign of damage or struggle, the pigs were just gone. They searched the barn but found nothing out of place, so they decided to hit the woods and try to kill this thing.
They entered on the same trail Jon and Jon had used the day before, Jon showed Patrick the broken fence wire and told him again about the hair. It was a bright summer morning, and Jon was surprised at the difference from the previous evening. The night before had been still and silent, now the woods were alive with birds and small animals. He showed Patrick the broken tree, and they followed the creatures’ trail and found several more trees and large branches twisted and broken. They could see large, faint impressions of footprints where the ground was soft. They followed the deer trail further into the woods, and encountered nothing unusual. By noon they were both getting hungry, so they hiked back to the house for lunch. They spent the rest of the day poking around, but saw nothing more out of the ordinary.
Just before dark that night, his wife and kids drove up. He and Patrick were sitting on the porch with the guns, watching the woods. His wife asked if they had seen anything, Jon told her about the footprint and mud on the window.
There was a full moon that night, and Jon could see across the field and into the inky dark of the woods. The night air was filled with the sound of thousands of crickets, and the pond behind the house was full of croaking frogs. As the moon rose higher, clumps of weeds in the field began casting sinister shadows, and before long Jon was seeing big hairy creatures sneaking up on him in each of them. He stood up and lit a cigarette, trying to shake the fear and concentrate on the task at hand. As he smoked, he wandered to the end of the porch, and stood looking at the darkened barn. Something was different, but he couldn’t quite place it. The front of the barn facing the house was open, and the moonlight was hitting it from the side, casting the interior in deep shadows. He stood watching the black opening as he finished his smoke, thinking about the missing pigs. He then realized what was wrong. All the crickets and frogs had gone silent. It was as quiet as the inside of a mausoleum at night; he could hear the minute shrill buzz of his own nervous system. As he turned to walk back to his chair, he thought he saw movement in the barn. He looked intently at the opening and could make out nothing, then turned his head a bit to the side and saw what looked like two red eyes hovering about eight feet off the ground. He couldn’t see them if he looked straight at them, but when he averted his eyes a little, they became clearer. They were a deep burning coal red, almost invisible in the dark. Every few seconds they would disappear when the creature blinked.
His heart began thudding in his chest, and he waited for it to leave the barn and approach the house. He slowly backed up to his chair, never looking away, and picked up his 30.06. He walked back to the end of the porch and watched and waited. He stood looking at the blinking red eyes for what seemed like hours, and then the eyes blinked out and never came back. He watched intently but could see no movement. He thought for a moment, then grabbed the flashlight and shined it at the barn. The flashlight was too small to penetrate the darkness of the barn from this distance, he had to get closer. He was none too keen about leaving the relative safety of the porch and confronting a glowing eyed monster in his barn, but he was damned if he was going to live in fear in his own house.
He left the porch and began slowly working his way toward the barn, taking his time, building his courage up. He got closer and could still see no movement; it had gone further into the dark. He got within 20 feet of the opening, and his flashlight would now penetrate the gloom in the barn. He moved the feeble beam of light over the contents of the barn, an old tractor, and old pickup, boxes and buckets. Too many places for something to hide, even something big. He cautiously walked closer, now shining the flashlight down the barrel of his rifle. He stopped at the entrance and shined the light all over, searching the corners and under the vehicles. He stepped into the barn, every sense straining for sound or movement. He walked around the pickup, tensing for a huge, hairy arm to reach out and grab him at any second. He made his way clear to the rear of the barn without seeing anything, and slowly turned around to leave. He felt both relieved not to have encountered it in the dark barn, and frightened and somewhat confused about where it could have gone.
As he was walking out he glanced at the wide stairs leading up into the hayloft and froze. He knew with complete certainty that it had climbed those stairs and was waiting for him to walk out under the hayloft and jump down upon him. He couldn’t move, he was literally frozen in fear. He swore he could here the floorboards softly creak above him as an enormous weight edged stealthily closer to the edge. He stood with his heart pounding in his ears, unable to move or act. Suddenly there was the booming explosion of a shotgun from the house, followed by his wife screaming. His paralysis broke and he bolted out of the barn toward the house, completely forgetting what may have been in the hayloft.
As he ran toward the house, he heard an inhuman roar coming from the woods behind the house. It sounded pissed off and in pain. It screamed again and he heard branches breaking as it plowed through the forest, thankfully away from the house. He got to the house and almost knocked down the front door in his hurry to get inside.
He ran down the hall to their room and found his family huddled together on the bed, sobbing. One of the windows was blown out, and his wife was still pointing the shotgun at it. When he burst into the room she swung the gun in his direction and screamed and he hit the floor. He waited for the blast but it didn’t come. He slowly stood up and she had put the gun down and he went to the bed. He asked her what had happened, but she was too shook up to answer just then. Tim started crying: “Why did you shoot the Cowman Mommy, why?” Jon Jr. Had his face buried against her shoulder crying. After they calmed down a bit, he told them to get up and follow him. He led them to the living room, then went out the open front door and looked carefully around. He could see no sign of it, all was quiet again. He told them to come out and get in the car. They ran out in their pajamas and piled in the car; he got in and drove them to his brother’s house in Elma.
On the way there, they had calmed down enough to tell him what happened. She said a couple hours after they went to bed, she finally dozed off. She was awakened by Tim talking to someone, and this bizarre clicking chirping sound. Tim wasn’t in the bed; he was standing in front of one of the windows. The moonlight was shining through both windows illuminating the room pretty good, but there was a large shadow, like a tree obscuring the window in front of Tim. She knew there were no trees close enough to cast a shadow, she told to get away from the window. “Mommy, listen! The Cowman can sound like a bird!” Tim said pointing excitedly at the dark figure in the window. “Timmy, get away from the window.” She said, trying to keep her voice quiet. Right after she spoke, the noises from outside changed, it went from a soft chirping, to a strange gibbering, almost like human speech with an occasional pig-like snort thrown in.
At this time, little Jon woke up and said “What is that?” rather loudly. This seemed to incite the creature and it hit the side of the house with its fists hard enough for the walls to tremble. At this, Little Jon screamed and Tim yelled “Quiet, you’re going to scare him away!” She yelled at Tim to get away from the window again, and reached up on the headboard and grabbed the shotgun. She got out of the bed and started toward Tim; the creature leaned down and looked straight in the window at her. She screamed and raised the shotgun, afraid to shoot because her son was so close to it. She started forword to grab Tim, and there was an explosion of breaking glass; a gigantic hairy arm reached through the window toward her son. She screamed again and fired over Tim’s head, blowing out the rest of the window and hitting the creature with .00 buckshot. It jerked backwards out of the window and disappeared into the dark. A few seconds later she heard it screaming in the woods. “It was trying to get Tim, it was trying to grab my baby!” she started crying again and he comforted her as best he could while driving.
They stayed the rest of that night and the following night with his brother’s family. He told his brother about it, but could see he didn’t really believe him. He agreed to ride back to Jon’s house with him early Monday morning before work. They had left the front door open in their haste to leave, and he was afraid animals or vandals would have got into the house. When they arrived, the house looked like a tornado had gone through it. The couch was upside down. They had a large, heavy console TV and it was apparently thrown across the room, lying in a spray of broken glass. The kitchen was trashed, the refrigerator knocked over and food everywhere. The doors to both of the boy’s rooms were left closed, and the rooms were untouched, same as the bathroom. The master bedroom was torn apart, the pillows ripped up and feathers everywhere. The chest of drawers was knocked over and the large mirror smashed. Jon’s brother looked around in awe, and said “You better call the police!” Jon looked at him and said “And tell them what? Bigfoot destroyed my house?”
They left and closed the front door this time, and drove to my Dad’s mill in Aberdeen. Jon’s brother waited in the car while Jon went in and told this to my Dad. After he was done, my Dad said, “Well, let’s go have a look at it then.” They drove back out to the house, and Jon showed my Dad the damage. He pulled the clump of hair from his shirt pocket and let my Dad look at it. As they were walking through the house surveying the damage, my Dad pointed out cracks in the ceiling where it had apparently stood up and hit its head. Jon told my Dad that they couldn’t live there anymore, even if the creature was gone, they would always be afraid. Their homeowners insurance wouldn’t cover the damage; the adjuster claimed Jon must have done it in a drunken rage. My Dad helped them find a place in Aberdeen, and gave him a loan for new furniture and stuff. The house was eventually fixed up and sold, and my Dad never heard about another problem there.
A few observations about this story; My Dad lost contact with “Jon” and his family in the mid eighties. They moved out of state and my Dad hasn’t heard from them since. His brother died around the same time. Why didn’t they call the cops? Jon had a lot of pride as well as a lot of common sense. He knew he couldn’t logically explain what had happened to the authorities, and he didn’t want the story to get out and have him branded a nutcase. I asked my Dad if they saved the hair, he said Jon never mentioned it again and my Dad never asked him about it. I asked my Dad if he saw the footprint and muddy fingerprints, he said he did. He said it looked like a giant barefoot man had stepped very carefully in the center of the mud. He’s not a tracker, but he said it was the clearest print of any kind he had ever seen. I asked my Dad if the neighbors had heard any of this. He said if they did, none of them ever mentioned it again. I also asked him if he thought it was possible Jon had made it all up. That he HAD trashed his house in a drunken rage, and made up this elaborate cover story. My Dad said Jon and his family were terrified of that place; they didn’t even want to go back and get their clothes.
I asked him if thought there might have been two creatures involved, considering the incident in the barn. He said he asked Jon that same question, and was told that Jon felt there was only one, that it lured him into the barn then snuck out the side door to the house. The thing he thought he heard in the hayloft was either his imagination, or some common animal like a raccoon.
For whatever reason, this critter seemed focused on their four-year-old son. Their son was the only one who never showed any fear of it. He seemed to think of it as his friend. And although the sex of the animal was never determined, it was referred to as a male because of the predatory stalking type behavior. That and the conspicuous lack of breasts, or perhaps it was just not as well endowed as the Patterson Film Subject?
So in the end I was left with no leads to follow, no new evidence of anything, but I did come away with a pretty damned good story. And I guess that’s better than a poke in the eye with a filthy encrusted hypodermic needle. Those of you who actually read this far; I give you a big thumbs up, you are truly an ardent and stoic follower of all things Bigfoot, or like me, recently underemployed and in desperate need to fill the endless empty hours of your life.
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