Edward meets the beast

In last week’s episode Edward is sent out on his job as a biologist to check a smolt trap where he finds himself confronted by a large hairy animal approaching in the twilight.
The creature comes nearer, breaking logs and making grunting noises that shiver the hair on the back of Edward’s neck. The beast staggers out of the woods and looks directly at Cullen, who by this time is shaking like a leaf.
It is definitely not a bear. It’s on two legs and bears don’t walk on two legs. The face is shaggy with the appearance of bangs. It has almost no neck. The shoulders are stooped with long dangling arms that might almost define the term knuckle-dragger.
It carries a forked stick with a steelhead hanging off it, the tail dragging in the mud. That, with the hip boots, ball cap and fishing vest stuffed with beer cans allows Edward to quickly identify the creature, a steelhead fisherman.
The Boss Biologist had warned him there would be days like this.
Now Edward would have to engage in what had to be the worst part of anyone’s job, dealing with the public. It was a cycle of abuse.
The fishermen hated the biologists because the biologist wouldn’t raise enough fish and the biologists hated the fishermen because there was just too many of them. The steelhead fishermen were part of a lost tribe of primitive people who still inhabit the dark corners of the rainforest. They fished through the brutal winters in an attempt to catch the rare steelhead.
As the steelhead became more rare, the authorities constricted the steelhead fishermen into smaller and smaller areas where overcrowding caused the same sort of social anxiety and habitat degradation that has been exhibited in lab rats.
All of which made talking to fishermen a difficult and often pointless exercise in a form of ritualized marathon cursing called a “rigging fit” that could blister the paint off a humvee.
Luckily Edward had taken a class in how to talk to the locals in their own dialect, a fast-talking form of pidgin American, punctuated by a lot of spitting.
“Wan bir?” The steelhead fisherman said. It was a good sign, that Edward might be accepted on the river.
Edward had to think fast. To say no to beer might raise suspicions. If Edward was to operate and not blow his cover it might be best to give the impression that he was constantly inebriated. Luckily he had a cover story he’d learned at the biologist academy.
“Na, diwi.” Edward said, shaking his head. Hoping an alibi about getting busted for driving while intoxicated might give him enough stream cred to get away with not having to drink a canned beer.
It worked.
“Gotnychew?” The fisherman grunted.
Edward said not wanting to explain how he’d just had his fangs cleaned.
The steelhead fisherman drew closer, drinking, spitting, smoking and smelling like the fish that just slimed him from head to toe.
“Cupla slackbellies.” Edward lied, momentarily forgetting that he was holding a shotgun instead of a fishing pole.
“Conk ’em,” the redneck said, obviously OK with Edward shooting the fish or however he got them on the beach.
Leaving Edward to seeth in his vampire rage at being offered a canned beer. He’d get even with those steelhead fishermen if it was the last thing he did.
He vowed to stuff that creek so full of log jams you couldn’t throw a rock in it so forget about fishing here anymore.
Edward went home with the feeling his enemies had fled before him.

Die-hard Twi-hard

A previous column revealed how the diminishing returns of Twilight fans to the Olympic Peninsula has had a dramatic effect on our tourist industry.
I suggested that a sustainable alternative to mitigate the effects of the loss of the Twi-hards would be to invent a better tourist trap. The hunt for Bigfoot could revive the tourist industry that makes this country so cool.
Coincidentally on that very same day in February, Twilight author Stephanie Meyer took the opportunity to reveal on her Web site that she “would be glad to make another Twilight movie, if she ever wrote another Twilight book.”
Maybe there was more to her statement than just a mere coincidence.
As writers, Stephanie Meyer and I share a kinship that is beyond words. I felt a connection the first time I saw her, on Oprah where she admitted changing the ending of her book at her mothers’ suggestion.
That’s my philosophy. Who cares what the critics say about your book, as long as your mom likes it?
So if Stephanie Meyer needs a little help stepping up to the plate to pen another blockbuster, I am only too happy to postpone my hunt for Bigfoot to work on a Vampire script.
Here goes:
Picture a little love nest, out where the roses cling. There’s Edward, the 160-something-year-old vampire, plus Bella the child bride and their baby in a log cabin in a suburb of Forks.
In a relatively short time, they run out of things to talk about. Money is tight. Edward is depressed. He sits around and watches a lot of TV. He sees an episode of Ax-men and decides to go logging.
At least it will get him out of the house.
With his tailored hickory shirt and Italian designer cork boots Edward is subjected to a brutal hazing ritual on his first day on the job. A small chip of wood is placed on a stump.
To prove he is not a TV logger, Edward must strike the chip with his ax, with his very first try, which he does dead center. Next, Edward is blindfolded and told to chop the chip again. Edward heaves a might chop. The crew says he missed the chip to the right, to the left, over and over again.
Edward keeps chopping until he hears everyone laughing. Edward takes the blindfold off to discover, he’s hacked his kidskin rigging gloves to pieces.
Humiliated, Edward is forced to seek alternative employment opportunities. He makes a hopeless attempt to be a fishing guide. He is polite, reasonable and efficient. He doesn’t drink, chew, spit, smoke, cuss, or lie, but they let Edward have a fishing guide license anyway. Edward fakes it for a while but screams like a girl when he has to touch a fish.
Edward just couldn’t hack it as a logger or a fisherman. It’s tough to hold down job when you’re a vampire who sleeps all day. Down on his luck, with no employable skills or experience beyond being a blood sucker, Edward applies for the one job for which he would be uniquely qualified, a government biologist. It was a detail-oriented, fast-paced work environment and Edward was a multi-tasking, self-starting, out of the box team player. During the application process, Edward is asked if he has a college degree.
“Forks U,” Edward sneers.
He is hired.
It is a perfect job for Edward. Sitting in a dark room in the basement of the capitol building with a gang of biologist spinning a big roulette wheel. Each spin of the wheel sets another fishing season or emergency closure somewhere.
At his first day on the job, the boss biologist, (Double B) had Edward placing voodoo pins into a picture of a newspaper columnist and in no time at all he is closing down fish hatcheries like a pro.
Being the new guy, Edward has to go outside once in a while. He finds himself up a creek, electro-shocking bull trout. He’s sitting on a log eating his lunch, blood sausage on rye when he sees her. A
vision of female pulchritude, even if she is eight feet tall and covered with hair. It is a Sasquatch. The mythic creature that has haunted this land since the beginning. The creature just sort of appeared and walked into the woods
Edward left in such a hurry he ran off and left his blood sausage sandwich and the electro-shocker. Edward was afraid the Double B might be mad back about the lost gear but he said they had plenty more where that came from. Besides, they had a new job for Edward and he had a brand new tool. It was an eight shot, three inch magnum twelve gauge shotgun with boxes of shells.
“You want me to shoot the bull trout?” Edward asked.
“No! You idiot!” The Double B said. “We want you to shoot the owls!” The Double B went on to explain how the Canadian Barred Owls were invading our borders, crowding our American owls out of nest sites and eating the Spotted owl’s white lab mice. There had even been stories of the Canadian owl attempting to breed with the American Spotted Owls.
“Is this the kind of country you want for your children?” The Double B asked Edward. “An America where you can no longer hear the hoot of an owl at night? Instead we are forced to listen to a Canadian owl calling Eh, eh eh. Think of our children’s’ children’s future and of their children as well. Don’t they deserve to hear an American owl? If we as biologists have to shoot some owls to save owls, I think it’s the least we can do.”
Edward was shocked.
As a vampire Edward could suck the blood out of a carcass or slaughter werewolves like rats at the dump with a wild joy on his heart-strings but the idea of harming an innocent creature was abhorrent to the very fiber of his being. Besides, it was one of the reasons he and Bella got together in the first place. Edward was one of the few guys in Forks that didn’t hunt.
“How can I shoot a defenseless owl that’s just sitting on a limb?” Edward asked.
“It’s easy,” The Double B laughed, “You just don’t have to lead them so far.
That night at the Cullen house is not happy one. Despite the fact that Bella had cooked one of his favorite dishes, Edward can’t even finish his blood soup. Bella thought it was the full moon that was getting Edward down. He used to run with his vampire pals when the moon was full. Now Edward just sat around and complained about his job as a government biologist.
“I didn’t mind shutting down the fishing seasons and closing the fish hatcheries,” he said.
“Heck it was kinda fun really. Watching those old red neck fishermen scream like a scortched warewolf because they couldn’t fish anymore. And there was nothing they could do about it.”
“Electro-shocking the bull trout was really fun. Just flip the switch and they float to the surface so you can count em. I must have set the knobs on my electro-shocker wrong by accident. About half the bull trout got a little singed so I thought I’d fry them up for a little shore lunch for the crew.”
“And you know what? It’s like they said. Endangered species just seem to taste better out in the fresh air. But I just don’t know if I can shoot an owl.”
“Shoot an owl!” Bella said. “Why on earth would you want to do that? You’re a biologist not a bounty hunter.”
“I know, Edward said. “ But the Boss Biologist, we call him the Double B, said our Spotted owls are being endangered by a bunch of Canadian Barred Owls. They must have snuck acrosss the border at night. Now the Barred owl is trying to breed with the Spotted Owls and it just ain’t natural. We can’t have all these wild critters breeding like that out where the tourists can see them. Something’s got to be done.” Edward said. “We got orders to shoot the Barred owls on sight.”
“That sounds awful,” Bella said. “I’m sure you’ll make the best little owl hunting biologist ever.”
Edward can’t believe his ears. Listening to Bella he thinks it might be the cabin fever talking. He skulks into the office before daylight the next morning. There must have been a biologist party the night before. The place looks like a biker gang had spent the weekend. There are empty shotgun shells all over the floor and a half eated bucket of chicken on his desk.
“Have some,” The Double B says as he lurches into the office about noon. ‘We saved it for you.”
“Thank you,” Edward said. He had to admit he was hungry. Bella was a loving and supportive wife but she couldn’t cook her way out of a Glad bag. At last night’s dinner the blood soup was clotted. Edward wolfs down the chicken chicken at the office until he bites into a chunk of buckshot.
“Where did did this chicken come from?” Edward asked.
“Who said it was chicken?” The Double B said. “That’s Southern fried owl. You know the rules. You find the buckshot, you wash the dishes.”
Edward goes to the kitchen and puts on his rubber gloves, sensing somehow that he has hit rock bottom.
It is while washing dishes in the basement of the capitol building, Edward begins to suspect that maybe he just isn’t cut out to be a biologist. He doesn’t want to shoot a Killer whale with a radio tracking dart, electro-shock a bull trout or shoot an undocumented Barred owl just because the poor bird got lost and found itself on the wrong side of the border.
“Cullen! Hurry up with those dishes!” The Boss Biologist bursts in whacking his leather hip boots with a gaff hook handle. “I think we finally found a job you can handle. I want you to get out there and empty those smolt traps!”
“What’s a smolt trap?” Edward asked.
“A smolt is a baby salmon that is migrating down the creek to head out to sea ya see? We dam up the creek and catch the smolts in a trap so we can count them!”
“But isn’t it illegal to dam a salmon stream? If you block the creek how are the other fish going to migrate upstream to spawn. I mean don’t smolt traps endanger the same threatened fish that we are trying to restore?”
“That’s a real good question Cullen. And someday we’ll get us a big ol’ government grant to study the problem. But right now we have a big ol’ government grant to trap smolts. Just remember one thing son. We’re biologists. We make the laws here. So unless you like washing dishes I suggest you get out there and count some smolts! I got some owls to shoot!”
For Edward, the worst part about being a vampire biologist is having to go outside during the daylight hours. Nevertheless he drives out to the smolt trap with a new found sense of professionalism. When Edward gets there, he sees something has gone horribly wrong. The smolts are gone! Edward hurries back to the office where the Double B is plucking his daily bag of owls. He tells the Double B that something got into the smolt trap.
“Could’a been anything,” the Double B said. “Bears, raccoons, mink, otter, they all like baby salmon. Here kid, I’ll let you borrow my riot gun. Just remember to hold low with the buckshot. This is your last chance Cullen. Try not to screw it up.”
After the pep talk Edward decides he is going to be the best little vampire biologist ever. Sure the biologists played a little rough. But in all of his hundred and sixty some odd years of being a vampire, this was the first job he had been able to keep for more than a day.
Edward likes the feeling of power that being a biologist give him. Of being outstanding in his field by himself, playing god with the Eco-system with a riot gun and a brand new four wheel drive with the wind in his hair, lead in his foot, the windows down and the stereo up.
Secure in the knowledge that the proletariat has but to give him some static and Shazzam! Edward can bring most any field of human endeavor to a crashing halt just by inventing another endangered species.
It’s twilight by the time Edward gets back to the smolt trap. He hides in a patch of brush and waits for whatever is stealing the fish.
In the gloaming night sounds come from the woods, heavy footfalls breaking logs and a call that sounds like a cross between a whistle and the mewing of a kitten. As it comes closer Edward raises the riot gun to his shoulder.

River monkey mania

There are strange sights seen on the Hoh River in winter.
“I saw a monkey sitting on a log,” my fancy friend said one day as we floated through the rain forest.
“Was it a big monkey?” I asked.
“A very big monkey!” he said.
“That’s just Harvey the brush ape. He doesn’t mean any harm,” I lied. There was no time to explain to the poor person sitting in the front of the boat that we had to get out of there before something bad happened, again. We were in mortal danger of being casualties of a primate behavior research project gone berserk.
Bigfoot or Sasquatch, also known as Stick Indians, Skookum or Seatco, are part of a tradition of large hairy ape-like creature that has haunted this land since before the beginning. Every tribe of Native Americans on the Olympic Peninsula has an oral tradition of these creatures.
They tell of a village wiped out by Skookums on Hood Canal, a war above what is now Blyn on Sequim Bay with a cannibal ogress that was stealing children. There was a battle between the S’Klallam and the Quileute when the giant buried them under a landslide to form Lake Crescent.
A gathering of Quinault, Cowlitz and Chehalis were wiped out at Enchanted Valley up the South Fork of the Quinault River. The same thing was supposed to have happened up the Wynoochee River.
The Press Expedition spent the winter of 1890 lost up the Elwha River. They had been warned of Seatco, by Washington’s former Territorial Governor Eugene Semple.
Seatco had a bad reputation for causing landslides and knocking over giant trees with a stick. That’s how they got the name “Stick Indians.”
The Press Expedition met a party of S’Klallam hunters up the Elwha Valley near what is now the Olympic National Park boundary. The hunters told the explorers they had no idea what was upstream.
Of course this might have just been a S’Klallam story to keep the hunting and fishing for themselves. Their traditions say the Sasquatch had their own territory where the S’Klallam did not go.
In 1924 S’Klallam journalist George Totsgi wrote in the Olympic Tribune, a Port Angeles newspaper in July 18, 1924, that “Indians would not go up the Elwha River without many white men along because of their fear of the Stick Siwashes.”
History records another example of the Native American dread of what lurked in the rugged, unknown interior of the Olympic Mountains.
In July of 1885 Lt. Joseph P. O’Neil hired an “old Indian guide,” for his U.S. Army expedition south of Port Angeles. That was until the guide found out where they were going, up Ennis Creek.
O’Neil describes how once the guide saw where the expedition was camped and where they were going, no amount of pay or death threats would detain him. The guide ran out of camp the very first night. O’Neil chalked it up to a native superstition, a fear of the Thunder Bird, the mythical monster bird large enough to catch whales, said to nest in the Olympics but it might have been something else. Maybe it was just a coincidence but O’Neil also mentions a lot of screaming at night around their camp. The mules were stampeded into the timber.
This camp was on Skull Creek, a small tributary of Ennis Creek, named for the discovery of a well preserved human skull the expedition turned up while cutting a trial.
Native Americans did travel up into the interior of the high Olympics. The Stick Indians obviously didn’t kill everyone who went upriver.
The S’Klallam hunter, Boston Charley, was the last medicine man of the Clallam. He hunted the high Olympics. Boston Charlie told of breaking his leg in the headwaters of the Elwha and being cared for by a Sasquatch who brought him berries and water. Maybe it was the same Stick Indian that followed him home one autumn down at the mouth of the river and took all of the fish out of his smokehouse and left a calf elk in trade.
Many people have seen the Sasquatch since that time. Many more have heard calls and screaming around their camps in the woods at night. That’s normal in these hills but you should have heard the scary noises at night around camp once my hunt for Bigfoot started.
There was the chest beating, posturing and eating noises coming not from the surrounding wilderness but from the nightly buffet at the Bigfoot hunter’s camp. The terrifying scream of the Sasquatch seemed tame by comparison.
I’d be the first to admit I was only in the hunt for Bigfoot for the money and possible future product endorsements. I could have been a contender. A lot of folks claimed to be hunting Bigfoot, but I had Bigfoot hunting me. He was always hanging around, knocking over coolers, raiding the garbage can and removing the 100-pound metal screen that was over the compost pit so he could get at the fresh salmon parts inside.
He liked to push trees over for fun. Or just stand there and watch me chop wood. You always knew when he was around when you heard the calls of ravens and other birds that were too loud to come from a bird.
You generally see a raven when he calls. They want the world to look up and take notice. Anything that doesn’t is liable to be the raven’s next meal. The fact is some bird calls in the woods weren’t made by birds at all. Harvey was a mimic who could sound like anything from a bugling bull elk to a police siren. He liked to scream around the camp at night when he ran out of beer.
That was a mistake, leaving bowls of beer on the riverbank at night. I thought I could lure the creature in and get him drunk enough for a quick ride to the zoo. Instead it was just another failed experiment in primate research.
For whatever reason I failed to find funding for my hunt for Bigfoot. I had to cut costs. Expenses were mounting.
Accidents will happen. Like when the plaster of Paris used to make impressions of the creature’s track was dumped into the pancake batter. Or when alcohol intended to preserve stool samples was dumped into the punch.
Then, a series of large footprints with a stride about six feet apart that were found in the mud along the edge of a pond. It looked like a human foot except it was large enough for my size 12 boot to fit inside with room to spare.
This called for expert analysis. I called Professor Grover S. Krantz, a physical anthropology professor from Washington State University who retired in Agnew, near Sequim. He has been called “the father of cryptozoology,” that is the study of animals that have yet to be officially “discovered” by modern science.
Dr. Krantz was one of the few scientists who not only researched the existence of Bigfoot; he believed the creature existed based upon physical evidence. Hand and foot prints of the creature exhibited dermal ridges and the physical mechanics of a large creature that walked on two feet and did not have an opposable thumb. Krantz found that suspected Sasquatch hair did not resemble the hair or fur of any known animal. Sasquatch dung was found to contain a parasite found in pigs in Northern China.
For his research Dr. Krantz was denied grants and promotions. He could not get his research published in peer-reviewed journals. It took him 10 years longer than normal to become a tenured professor.
Dr. Krantz had never seen a Sasquatch himself but he thought they existed based upon tracks, hair, dung and a fossil record that stretched back a million years or so.
He made a cast of the track I had found. While he was mixing up his special plaster of Paris solution, Dr. Krantz revealed that the goal of his research. He wanted to collect one of the creatures so it could be protected. I asked the Professor how he planned on “collecting” a Sasquatch. He said it would have to get shot. By then we were sitting in the kitchen of the lodge which was packed to the rafters with elk and deer horns with some bear and varmint hides thrown in. I told Dr. Krantz that I was a was a fair shot with a .338 magnum with hand loaded two hundred grain boat tails going 3,000 feet per second that will blow a hole in an elk a half a mile away and kill the one standing behind it, but I wouldn’t have the guts to shoot a Sasquatch. Besides, I told him.
“That would be murder.”
Dr. Krantz disagreed. No matter, he was one of those guys with whom you could disagree and still have a conversation. It was one I’ll never forget.
Dr. Krants left the lodge with a cast of the print that he would subject to a series of measurements, the details of which he would not reveal. He called a week later and said the track was a fake. That was the last time I talked to Grover S. Krantz. I felt terrible; to think he thought I was lowdown enough to make a fake Sasquatch track. Like I needed another chore!
The possibility that the track was a fake created a far more terrifying possibility. The prospect of a large hairy ape stalking the camp was one thing, the idea of some obviously deranged person walking around bare foot in the middle of hunting season when the woods were full of hunters shooting at anything that moved 24-7, was really scary. The hunt for Bigfoot sort of fizzled after that. It was OK.
Dr. Krantz wanted to collect a specimen of this undiscovered ape species to prove it really existed. That’s what got me wondering, who the real savage beast was. Except for knocking over a few trees, throwing some rocks Harvey had never done anything to me to get shot over. Meanwhile the human race had plundered the natural resources of this land into economic extinction in just a few short years.
I told Harvey he was lucky he was a fake and a fraud and didn’t exist. He’d stay that way if he knew what was good for him. Many creatures from the hundred pound salmon to the Olympic Mountain Moonshiner have gone extinct shortly after they were discovered. I was through studying Bigfoot. I cut off his beer ration.
Harvey just moped around the woods near the camp, moaning. Once in a while he’d yell “Hey!” like he was ordering another round. I could tell he was depressed but I had my own problems. Once you discover Bigfoot, how do you get rid of him? I thought he was one of those problems you could ignore and they would just go away.
The run of fall salmon had started running. The Eagles moved upriver to hunt the salmon. They are the fishermen’s friend. Eagles sit in the trees and watch the fish. Once you figure out the eagles it’s like having your own private bird dog for fish. I thought it was only fair if I fed them the heads and guts. I started cleaning the fish at the same spot along the river. Some days the eagles seemed to be waiting, some days they weren’t. I threw the fish heads and guts on the same stretch of beach anyway. I figured the eagles would get them eventually but I was wrong.
Something else started hanging around that stretch of beach. It smelled worse than a dead skunk. There were no more eagles or any other birds on the gut pile. We heard a raven calling from back in the woods. We never saw the raven.
“That sure is a loud raven,” my fancy friend said from the front of the boat.
“It sure is,” I lied. “I rowed down river as hard as I could.
We hadn’t caught anything that day. Fishing is like that. Some days only sure way to get a fish is to go to a supermarket.
Harvey did not understand this concept of not catching fish. It was my fault. I had violated the prime directive of wilderness travel. I fed the wildlife. I was the supermarket. The shelves were bare. Harvey registered his displeasure.
When were kids we used to play “sink the navy.” That was a game where we threw a stick in the river and threw rocks at it. Whoever hit the stick, “sunk the navy.”
Before I knew it Harvey was trying to sink my navy.
“Kersploosh!” A big rock sailed out of the woods and landed with a splash five feet of our stern.
“What was that?” my fancy friend asked.
“A fish jumped!” I lied.
“Why don’t we try to catch it?” He asked.
“Oh, it was just an old spawner,” I lied, launching into a guide yarn about how no real sportsman would try to catch fish off their spawning bed.
“Yes I would!” my fancy friend said. “I’d like to catch … something.”
“Let’s go downstream. This hole has a lot of snags.” I lied again. He made a cast anyway and wouldn’t you know it, caught a big bright steelhead. He wanted to catch another one but it was starting to get dark.
I cleaned the fish, threw the guts on the beach. It was way past time to get out of there.