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Geographical Index > United States > Washington > Walla Walla County > Article # 97

Media Article # 97
Article submitted by Vance Orchard (orch@bmi.net)
Article prepared and posted by Matthew Moneymaker


Friday, October 03, 1997

A woman describes experiences of local homesteaders.

By Vance Orchard


Of course the call got my attention, especially when the woman ... in her 80s ... said the February Bigfoot track chase reminded her of the days on the upper Coppei when her family "lived right among them." Yes, and several other families who were homesteading in this section also experienced the family (or families) of Bigfoots who lived nearby, my caller informed me. My caller, by the way, remains anonymous in this relating. That's her choice, but the story she tells is one of the most interesting of the many Bigfoot tales I've heard from this part of the Blue Mountains. And, after all, the stories recounted about the subject are what make up a big piece of the interest this anomaly seems to hold.

My caller had opened the conversation by observing that a comment I'd made in a recent Bigfoot report, about Bigfoots possibly eating a deer killed by a cougar, would prove a point she remembered about her childhood days on the upper Coppei. There, at Coppei Falls, she said, Bigfoots reputedly would chase elk and run them over the brink at the falls. Then, at the base of the cliff, the critters could pack off the elk at their leisure! When I reminded her that early native American mankind had used the same tactic to kill off thousands of buffalo, she felt certain the old stories were true. And, she had a number of stories to tell, too, about this area in the foothills of the Blue Mountains near Walla Walla. The story of the Bigfoot encounter at Huntsville (25 miles east of Walla Walla) in 1900 has been the oldest recollection locally of the Bigfoots of the Blues. What my caller was talking about were the experiences of her family and other homesteading families of the 1920s. She said she was 13 ("...that's 70 years ago") when her father recounted his own first experience with the Bigfoots which were to become so much a part of their life on the Coppei.

"My father told me one day he was looking across to an open hillside on which rested a huge white log. Then, he says he saw the 'biggest, strangest bear ever' walking out of the brush ... two others followed and then all went to the log and sat on it, then went to tearing it apart and had their lunch (of grubs, etc.?) then went off down the trail. My father made me promise not to tell my mother about this incident."

My caller was to have her own experience and encounter with a Bigfoot as did her mother and two sisters, I was to learn as the telephone conversation continued. What my caller saw that day possibly was a young Bigfoot. "What I saw was a sort of man-creature, about six feet tall, reaching up into a young tree, its fingers spread ... it had brown hair and its face was gray...it turned its head on its shoulders like an owl would to see me. I froze and it just disappeared into the brush." Her mother's encounter came one day when the family's herd of six milk cows was apparently "rustled" ... they were not in the usual place they were pastured in, my caller said. "We always figured the Bigfoot family had herded the cows off... mother followed the tracks and after a time caught up to our cows with a small Bigfoot with them. She figured the older Bigfoots had left the young one to look after the cows. "Mother said she looked at the Bigfoot and it looked at her. She was scared but ran after the cows and she and the cows all ran toward the homestead. "Mother said the Bigfoot was just a caveman, but he was dressed up in furs and really needed a bath!"

My caller's second encounter was not with the creature itself, but it must have been close by for the strong odor was noted, a factor in many sightings of Bigfoots. "My two sisters and I had ridden horseback into the woods one day ... we came across where limbs had been stripped from a young tree in the trail. The horses wouldn't step over them ... there was a rustling in the brush ... my horse reared up on its hind feet and wouldn't go over the pile of limbs. Then, I smelled a strong odor ... like a 100 pairs of socks from as many stinky feet ... not a 'dead' smell and not a 'skunk' smell ... a sweaty smell... real pungent, too."

My caller made an observation about the Bigfoot family and its possible relationship to the abandonment of homesteads on the Coppei. I have an opinion on that, but it would be interesting to talk with some of the descendants of those homesteaders. Members of the Bigfoot family often raided her family's garden, my caller told me. "Many people around there had experiences of following tracks made by a big barefooted man .... sometimes the stride of tracks was so far apart we had to run and jump to get from one step to another ... it was a real big one, I guess. My caller also noted that "a real big one looked into our windows one night. Lots of people up there had this sort of experience and it was pretty un-nerving to them ... I think it was a reason many left that area and gave up their homesteads ... they just moved out and never said why, although not all were doing too badly." My own idea of why some people gave up homesteads was simply because the land would not provide a living for the family. I know this was the experience of my mother's family in the Colville country at the turn of the century. When the homestead was "proved up" her father had to head to the nearest town and take a job in a sawmill to earn a living. The land wouldn't do it and nobody was buying the land, either. So, the family wound up just moving out and abandoning the plans for the homestead, my mother told me.

A couple more comments about the Coppei Bigfoots. According to my caller, the creatures "were a family ... no mistake about that and I think they even had names for each other. And, another thing, when a Bigfoot got angry, they'd throw rocks at whatever made it angry."


Bibliographical Information:

I have written about the people, places and things of SE Washington and NE Oregon for 46 years. For 38 years I did a column for the daily Union-Bulletin of Walla Walla and for the past seven years for the weekly Waitsburg, Wash., Times. The following story appeared in 1992 and was one of the most interesting! …and I have written many Bigfoot stories.



 
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