(Editor’s note: This marks Leon Youngblood’s one-year anniversary of writing his Briar Circle column. To honor this, we go back to where it first started, his first column published last year in the leflorecountyjournal.com)
By LEON YOUNGBLOOD
Youth today know no more about 35mm film and cameras than they do about vinyl records and record players. My young friend, Carl “Clem” Clemmens, is old enough to remember film cameras, and has perhaps even used a few.
Yet he is young enough to have comfortably made the transition to today’s digital technology. Still, I could not help but be a little irritated when he asked, “What are these?“, while snooping through the contents of my Bigfoot Expedition knapsack.
“Film. Those are rolls of film,” I said.
“I know,” Clem said. “Are you bringing those old cameras of yours?”
“Of course. I’m bringing my 12-dollar Olympus and my wife’s Pentax with the zoom lens.”
“When are you going to go digital?”
“When these cameras wear out. But you have a digital camera, don’t you?”
“I do, in fact. It’s at the bottom of Cedar Lake. Some old goat bumped into me the other day, and I lost it when I fell in. Let’s see, now – who did that, again?”
“Look, I said I was sorry.You shouldn’t stand up in boats anyway! And besides, those girls probably didn’t want their pictures taken. Now are we going sasquatch hunting, or not?”
“Sure. But I’m not sure of our chances of getting good photographs with these cameras.”
“I imagine as good as our chances are of seeing one.”
“They’re out here,” Clem said. “C’mon.”
The community of Briar Circle adjoins national forest land and that is where we headed. I carried my cameras and four rolls of film in my knapsack. Clem carried a small ice chest with four water bottles, two sodas and lunch, along with a hunters’ blind, a notebook, and two camp chairs. He did not think this distribution of goods equitable, but this trip was his idea to begin with. Besides, I was the cameraman. I had to be prepared to respond quickly, and could not be encumbered with incidentals.
We hiked for a couple of hours, and Clem beat anything I’ve ever seen for not finding sasquatches. We found a turtle, but were not impressed. We saw a squirrel and a few birds. Then, on a muddy patch of ground by a stream, we found cougar tracks! I tried to photograph one with the Pentax.
This was when we discovered its battery was dead. I took a few shots with the twelve-dollar Olympus, bought on sale and good enough any day for cougar tracks. Clem was looking over my shoulder while I was doing all this.
“What’s that black spot in the window there?” he asked, referring to the viewfinder.
“It would tell how many shots you have left, but I dropped the camera a few years ago. It’s been this way ever since.”
“Oh. So do you know how many shots you have left?”
“Several, I’m sure.”
“Okay. I wouldn’t want to miss a chance to get a bigfoot photograph.”
“Yes, of course. And when is that likely to happen?”
“When we see one. They’re out here!”
“If you say so. What now?”
Clem scanned the area a moment. “Let’s put up the blind, and come back in a day or two and hide out. We’ve been making too much noise! But they need water. Who knows, maybe they get it here.”
This plan suited me. We set up the blind, set up the chairs, and had lunch. Clem insisted on being quiet so as to not frighten anything away. When we were finished, he baited a spot with our leftovers, though I’m not sure if sasquatches like sardines and peanut butter sandwiches. When this task was completed, I asked, “Ready to go?”
Clem sighed. “I guess so. But next time, I’m going to bring someone younger, prettier and female.”
“Well, pack a better lunch and make sure she likes goofballs,” I said.
I thought I had disabled Clem with my clever retort, for he merely stared and said nothing. My words did not warrant the expression on his face, however, which displayed a mixture of fear, excitement and anticipation. He raised a finger to his lips and hissed, “Shhh! Behind you! Get your camera! And, uh – get ready to run!”
I got my camera. I turned slowly. Not 15 feet away, two ape-like creatures covered in reddish-brown fur were watching us! About six and a half feet tall and hefty, they made no effort to be inconspicuous. In my imagined bigfoot encounters, the creatures were always fierce and threatening. These, however, appeared more or less bemused. Clem was thinking, for a change, and whispered, “Get a picture!”
I raised the camera, pressed the button – this suddenly animated them! They began hooting and howling, jumping up and down, waving their arms, pointing at us with hairy fingers and laughing!
“Pictures! Pictures!” Clem shouted.
“Uh – out of film!” Clem grabbed a fresh roll and – “Don’t pull it like that! You’ve exposed it! It’s no good, now!”
“You do it!” – as he quickly handed me another roll while I opened the camera.
“Okay, here! Darn it! I didn’t rewind! These shots are ruined! Gimme the film!”
“They’re mooning us! Hurry!”
With this bit of information, I could not help but look up. Sure enough, two hairy butts were pointed at us, wagging derisively, the creatures hooting and laughing at us all the while. “Hurry!” Clem shouted.
I hurried. I loaded the film in a chaos of rumps, howls and screeches, and a good portion of it was Clem. After several moments, I finally snapped the back closed, raised the camera, and—-the monsters were gone!
I won’t try to describe what Clem and I were feeling. We stood still and silent for at least 10 minutes. Then, for two hours, we looked for tracks, shed hair, for anything. There was nothing to indicate the beasts had ever been there.
The end of it is, this true story is all Clem and I have. After their disgraceful behavior, though, I won’t be hunting sasquatches anymore. I can be humiliated enough by my own relatives.
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