Bigfoot Encounters

The Pete Luther Story
by Vance Orchard (1917 - 2006)

By Vance Orchard, 'Outdoors in the Blues...'

People occasionally ask me such questions as: "You don't really believe in those things do you?" Or they might ask the same thing but in a more equitable fashion: "Do you believe in bigfoot?" To which I reply:
"In the face of all that I have read and see I find it extremely difficult NOT to believe in the bigfoot phenomena."

Which is by way of leading you into a highly interesting conversation with a man who gave me my introduction to the bigfoot story. (Walla Walla version)

Seventeen years rolled back the calendar the other day when I responded to a note on my desk after coming back from some surgery. It was to renew acquaintance with Everett Lee "Pete" Luther, the man who would put me onto my first bigfoot story.

Luther has put on some paunch and some gray hair (but who among us had not in the past 17 years?) but is the same eloquent guy I had met in 1966. A construction worker living in Walla Walla then, Luther had an affinity for riding his motorcycle over the roads of the Blue Mountains. It was on such a journey up the Mill Creek Road that summer and nearly to the mouth of the Tiger Creek that Luther spotted the huge footprints in the roadway.

With the help of another cycle rider who happened along -- but whose name he never got -- Luther hauled out a tape and measured the prints. They were 19 inches long and 8 inches wide and it was 5 feet between each of the footprints.

Bigfoot aficionados will be nodding their heads at this point as those stats are fairly typical of many bigfoot-sasquatch footprints...

The Luther sighting was a year before the movie was filmed by the late Roger Patterson of a big, hairy humanlike creature in northern California.

When I visited Luther the other day, he recalled Patterson came over here from his home in Yakima and inspected the prints with Luther. A rainfall the day before had damaged the tracks but Luther says, "Patterson felt they were authentic."

Luther has since then followed his trade and returned to Missouri, but is now again living in Walla Walla, Washington - coming back here this past summer. It was because of that 1966 association and his reading about Paul Freeman's reported sighting of a bigfoot creature only a few miles from his track-sighting that he was moved to contact me and recount another bigfoot experience.

It seemed a bonafide -- and hair-raising -- bigfoot affair as I heard what Luther and his son, Everett related of that experience two years ago in the "boot heel" of Missouri.

Luther and his son along with his nephew and brother in law were hunting in the St Francis River bottomland in southeastern Missouri in Dunklin County, an area known as Parker's Island, not too far from the town of Cardwell, Mo., when suddenly his hound started "running a trail."

"He took it across the river bottoms about a half mile; water was about waist deep to chest deep in some places, as the dog almost got out of hearing range," Luther related.

"We decided we would walk the level bank about a quarter mile to where he had reached the edge of an island about 800 acres in size. When we were about 300 feet from the dog, we smelled a peculiar odor that almost made us sick to our indescribable odor."

"The dog was still running in water off and on and ankle deep to waist deep and he would run in dry parts of the swamp off and on. He would sound at times as if he had it treed, or bayed. Knowing my dog, I could always tell when he treed, but that night I could not tell for sure."

"We stood on dry land and listened to him, at times it sounded as if the quarry was trying to get him, the way the dog's voice sounded; at other times he would be running it.

"My nephew and I left my son and brother in law in the dry field where we had been standing and went to see if we could find out what the dog was running."

"We entered about 400 feet deep into the woods, still on dry land, then we heard sounds we had never heard before, kind of like a whimpering sound at times a low sound, similar to a bird or a low muffling sound. It sounded at times like it was 50 or 60 feet from us."

"As the dog went deeper into the woods, we tried to follow, wading in water almost waist deep. The dog sounded as if he had it treed, and as we approached, we heard sounds like it was behind us. The dog picked up the scent again and headed the same direction the sounds came from."

"We decided then that it was time to leave by making a circle to where my son and brother in law were waiting. When we reached them, we decided we would let the dog run the quarry until he gave up or caught it. He ran it for 6 hours that night, baying it and it sounded as if he was treed at times."

"Finally, I called him off and we went home."

As the Luthers made their way back to the truck, another event occurred which possibly was linked to their earlier experience.

"I was putting the dog in the back of the truck. My son and Brother in law were standing in front of it. Suddenly, my son said, "somebody is crossing the road," - "I asked, "who was it?"

"They said it was somebody about seven feet tall or more and must have weighed 300 to 400 pounds. My son says he walked bent over like a gorilla, pausing for a couple of seconds, then went off again. It was a moonlit night and they had a good view of it."

Luther says big tracks were sighted two nights later on the riverbank while on another hunt.

"They looked to be about 12 or 14 inches long. The heel was narrow and the toes kind of pointed. I never knew of any bears or alligators being in there. The tracks were "imbedded" in the mud."

A few months after the weird chase in St. Francis River Bottoms, all actors in the drama suffered strange illnesses, including the dog Luther said.

"Three months later, I got something wrong with me; it was hard for me to breathe. My body felt like it didn't have much strength. My son, who is in good health, had the same symptoms. My brother in law, about 5 months later went to the hospital where they had to strap him down for a week and 5 or 6 months after the incident, my nephew started feeling bad and started doing things that didn't make sense.

"My dog had always been good natured, but five months after the chase that night, if anyone would get close to where he was tied up, he would try to get them, once even lunging for the throat of a friend of my son's.

After hearing the Luther account of their adventures in southeastern Missouri, I combed my files of clippings at home and ran across an interesting account of another bigfoot monster in Missouri. The clipping has a date of July 7, 1972 and tells of the sighting of a "six to twelve foot" black-haired beast that frightens young girls, picks up foreign cars and smells awful," according to the United Press International News account.

Although 25 men searched the hills near the town of Louisiana, Missouri, there was no trace of the "thing which walks erect and has the town's 7000 residents worried."

A 15 year old girl told police that she looked out the window of her home to see a "tall hairy creature peering back at her from behind a tree in their back yard and another girl said it watched her walk home from drill team practice.

Could these creatures reported some 200 air miles north of Luther's bigfoot be the same one?

Certainly the two incidents related to our own "Walla Walla bigfoot" reported in June 1982 at the top of the Tiger Canyon Road, only a few miles from where Luther saw the 19-inch footprints in 1966.

(C) Vance Orchard 2005

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