Saturday, May 17, 2014

Bob Gimlin: A Squatcher and a Gentleman

Bob Gimlin is wise, as well as kind. Every time I hang out with the dude, I appreciate him even more. Here I am (above) at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center with Bob in early 2014, where he gave a brilliant account of his experience with Roger Patterson at the time the famous bigfoot footage of "Patty" was taken. 
I've had the chance to chat one-on-one at length with Bob at parties and backyard BBQ's several times. He is quite the conversationalist, and his refreshingly down-to-earth "cowboy perspective" is much appreciated. I, myself, worked on a cattle ranch in Wyoming as a teenager. I also grew up with horses out in the country near Independence, Oregon.
Horses were a joy to ride (and a chore to clean up after) when I was a kid. My weekly duties from 4-12 years of age included caring for my own pony--a Shetland named "Misty," that had enough of a temper to make her a challenge to ride. Still, despite her difficult temperment, which included biting and kicking (she nearly broke my leg once), I loved her all the same. Eventually, my parents, exasperated with Misty's foul temperament, sold her to a breeder.
Up until my teens, I'd kept Misty's saddle in apple pie condition, combing her diligently, feeding her, and making sure she was comfortable. After Misty was gone, I found that I had a lot more free time. I soon took up percussion as a hobby, as well as reading voluminously. A few years later, I began working in a nearby wine vineyard to save up enough money to buy my first drum set.
Bob laughed pretty hard when I told him about Misty, and he had some good advice to offer if I ever got it in my head to buy another Shetland. He absolutely loves horses (and ponies). They're in his blood and he brings them up every time I see him. Bob is quite naturally in touch with the land.
There's nothing more natural than riding a horse through the remote wilderness. For me, it's even better than backpacking because the heavy pack always seems to provide a distraction. Up atop a horse, free of the burden of a heavy pack, you can really get a feel for the land for days on end of travel, without the exhaustion of backpacking. Bob has quite a repertoire of stories about horses and camping.
He, of course, was covering Roger Patterson (from horseback) with his rifle in October of 1967 when the famous Patterson-Gimlin film footage was taken. This footage is still the best ever taken of a sasquatch, and most people have only seen third and fourth generation (somewhat blurry) copies of the original (surprisingly clear and focused) film.
One thing's for sure: Patty is no "blob-squatch." Her image has become a cultural icon. Frame 352 (above) is instantly recognizable to young and old alike, from New York to Tokyo to Bejing. It's interesting to note that this frame records the image of a nervous Patty who had turned to regard Bob Gimlin on his horse.
At the time, the sights on Bob's rifle was pointed at Patty's head, and his finger was on the trigger. Very few actually know this fact, but people seem to instinctively recognize Patty's innate humanity. She is nervous, unhappy, frustrated: these emotions come through loud and clear. The picture shows a sasquatch literally confronting the threat of the human species; her concerned expression symbolically registers the danger our kind poses to the well-being of the planet as a whole. In this way, the Patterson-Gimlin footage is more than simply iconic: it's downright profound. At the time the footage was taken, a 750-pound Patty ambles off into the woods with her famous long-armed gait, and the telling "no-neck" turn of the head. 
Believe it or not, I'm no stranger to spending time around sasquatches. I know the smell of them, the calls and sounds they utter, the way they break branches to mean different things. I know the difference between a squatch footprint (or a knuckle print) and that of a bear or an elk. In short, I've dedicated a tremendous amount of time and energy to familiarize myself with their calling cards, as well as their behavior.
Be this as it may, I've only had one distinctive sighing after one hundred-odd trips to hot spots (remote locales where sasquatch activity is high, often with a history of contact that predates European settlers) over the past twenty years. When the sighting took place, a friend stood at my side as we looked up at the sight of our lives.
The moment is etched indelibly in my mind. Here we were, in a rock quarry, out in the middle of nowhere, on Indian tribal land, at dusk. A sasquatch was looking down at us with a kind of metaphysical disdain. Although we couldn't see its eyes due to the lighting conditions, we could interpret the posture of its massive head and neck in human terms. It wasn't merely regarding us; it was staring (glaring) at us. And yet, we were not afraid. Why? My friend's loaded rifle was resting on the front seat of my Jeep, within arm's reach through the open door.
After the tension of living through this dramatic sighting, I certainly recognize the importance of Bob covering Roger, who was risking a great deal running across the rocky stream with a Kodak K-100 camera pressed up tight against his face. Both men were quite brave that day, as well as being intrepid enough to ride up into some very remote and rugged forestland at a time when very few people knew that sasquatches even existed, much less had the foresight to go looking for them.
Precise location of my bigfoot sighting, near Spirit Mountain, Oregon
Having a big bore Marlin nearby, during a "Class A" bigfoot sighting in the early autumn of 2008, certainly helped me to enjoy the experience, which lasted about twenty minutes in a stare-down match. The huge sasquatch was perched atop a rock quarry near Spirit Mountain, which is located on an Indian reservation.
Needless to say, the fella was none too pleased about a recent clear cut that could not have been more than a week old. The freshly cut Douglas fir and hemlock trees were still fragrant enough to smell. He announced his presence with a deep moan. In fact, if he hadn't done that, my friend and I would never have seen him.
The sun had just set behind the hill, so we could only see the silhouette of the big sasquatch, which moved several times during our encounter. I was surprised that he had a head of long, flowing hair down over his broad shoulders that blew in the wind, rather than relatively short hair like Patty's. I would estimate the creature's height at about ten feet, and its weight at around nine hundred pounds (about the body mass of four grown men).
Unfortunately, I did not have a video camera at the time, and even if I had, the lighting conditions were not conducive to a nice clear image. The picture (above) was taken in similar lighting conditions, aside from the fact that my sighting took place around dusk, and this pic shows the quarry at dawn. Since the remaining light was shining onto the hill, instead of behind it, we actually could make out more details on the sasquatch than the photograph at dusk illustrates. I need to go back to that quarry and snap a shot at dusk one of these days. The distance between where I am standing (to take the picture) and where the sasquatch was standing on the edge of the quarry/tree-line during the encounter, is close to being identical. Also, there was more sunlight in the sky during my sighting than the photo indicates.

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