I was walking through my city neighborhood when a red fox raced past me. Naturally, that reminded me of Bigfoot.
That was only the second time in my life I have ever seen a fox outside a zoo. And I’m sure I wasn’t seeing things. I haven’t had anything stronger than a nonfat latte in years.
Oddly enough, wild animals are far from rare in the congested center of cities. As we take over the world, animals don’t crowd more closely together in the shrinking wild. They just move in with us in the cities. It is not uncommon that raccoons, porcupines, skunks, coyotes, wild turkeys, bears, deer, foxes and even cougars are seen in the middle of fairly large cities.
Originally, this was their turf. Now, like our children in a weak job market, the animals come live with us.
That fox the other day was probably spooked by a dog or maybe by an Avon lady. It was evicted from its daytime hiding space and was running with its big fluffy red tail trailing out behind at a speed faster than any dog I have ever seen.
That shy little animal reminded me of the Bigfoot myth in the Northwest. The vast majority of people believe there is about as much chance of seeing a Bigfoot as there is of being abducted by aliens in spaceships and rudely examined – or worse, being abducted by a Bigfoot who rudely has us for lunch.
If there is such an animal as a fox, sooner or later, most of us will see one. If red foxes exist at all, they will be seen by latte drinkers and beer drinkers alike. And in fact, they have been witnessed by tens of thousands of fox watchers over the years.
Bear in mind, a fox is far smaller than the legendary Bigfoot – an apish human-like creature standing something like eight feet tall and covered with weird hair. (Granted, that also describes some of my relatives.) A creature like that would be about as hard to hide in today’s North American forests as an elephant – or, for that matter, a hairy mammoth.
My father’s favorite pastime was climbing over hill and dale in pursuit of hairy deer and fuzzy elk. He observed that, even in remote and heavily wooded parts of the continent, there is no place you can go that hasn’t already been visited repeatedly by other humans. He sometimes had the feeling while in the wild that he was the first person ever to see that corner of the woods – until he spotted another empty beer can.
So what are those huge footprints in the forest?
Some are hoaxes by smart alecks taking cruel advantage of gullible Bigfoot believers. And it isn’t hard to fool people who want to believe the ridiculous (including those who believe Bigfoot was born in Kenya).
But there is another possibility – senior citizens. There comes a day as we age when gravity takes a toll and a shoe salesman tells us it is time to move up to a larger pair of sneakers. After all, our feet have had us piled on top of them for all these years. That causes them to flatten, widen and lengthen.
Meanwhile, our physical height shortens. We settle a couple of inches. We get shorter with bigger feet.
We senior citizens with reduced stature and enlarged footsies become like red foxes. You can’t even see much of us as we skitter around the forest. But we leave humongous tracks like gorillas twice our height.
That’s how we inadvertently mystify and entertain superstitious people who feed on forest fantasies.
(I know that is true because a leprechaun told me so.)Bill Hall can be contacted at email@example.com or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501