Will the real Bigfoot please stand up?

Published 7:05 pm Wednesday, December 11, 2002

By By Lloyd Albritton
Here's an interesting news story.
Last month a Mr. Ray L. Wallace died at the age of 84. In August of 1958, Ray and his brother Wilbur, of Humboldt County, California, played a practical joke on the world. They carved some big wooden feet which fit onto their boots and made some tracks in the woods which were later spotted by a heavy equipment operator employed by Ray's construction company, who reported the tracks to the local newspaper, The Humboldt Times, in Eureka, California.
The local story dubbed the mysterious creature Bigfoot, and compared it to another popular mythical creature of the Himalayans, The Abominable Snowman. The national media picked up the story and it spread like wildfire. Later alleged sightings of the Bigfoot character added to the story's intrigue.
Ray Wallace's son says that his father fed the myth of Bigfoot by recording weird creature sounds and playing them for a video recording, and that his mother also participated in the joke by dressing up in a homemade Bigfoot costume for the photos that his father provided to the press.
In spite of Wallace's subsequent confession and this logical explanation, many alleged experts on the Bigfoot phenomenon still insist that there really is a Bigfoot.
I love practical jokes and have played a few myself, though never one as successful as Ray Wallace's Bigfoot joke.
When I was a teenager, several of my buddies and I rigged up a sheet on a thread spool which we pulled across the road on a strand of electric wire. The joke was on another buddy of ours who always walked that road late at night on his way home from visiting his girlfriend. We scared lots of people that night with our ghost sheet prank and have laughed for years about it, but The Atmore Advance missed that story.
Had we known it would work so well, we would have called in a news tip and perhaps thousands of tourists would be visiting Nokomis Road today to see the infamous Brushy Creek Ghost.
My friend and notorious storyteller and prankster, Van Johnson, told me once about how he and his brothers fooled the local game warden into believing a huge bear was loose in the woods.
They attached a big claw onto a long pole and made claw marks on some trees and tracks on the ground. The poor game warden set bear traps for months trying to catch that big bear as the boys laughed at him the whole time.
Van was also with me during the ghost sheet adventure too. His version is far more entertaining than mine, but Van has been known take liberties with the truth in the interest of making a good story even better.
My ex-wife's brother, Tim Dortch, once wrapped himself in aluminum foil and put on a football helmet and walked down the side of the highway in the evening dusk light. Sightings were later reported of space aliens in the Bratt community. One local resident – who was known to imbibe of the Christmas spirits with regularity even when it wasn't Christmas season – came by the Dortch home to warn the family to clear out.
Practical jokes range from harmless and hilariously funny to mean and cruel and totally devoid of good judgement. I was taught as a child that "an idle mind is the devil's workshop." Indeed, there is nothing so devilishly creative as the mind of bored country boy.
My late uncle, Winkle Caraway, was a prankster as a young farm boy and once tied his straw hat to a string and tied the other end of the string to the tail of my grandmother's cat and set the hat afire.
My grandmother (Uncle Winkle's future mother-in-law) was furious when her cat came leaping toward the house screaming like a banshee.
Practical jokes are common in every generation and at every age in life. Still, when we play practical jokes on others, most of us laugh a lot harder than we do when a practical joke is played on us. Practical jokes can also get out of hand and result in unpredictable and dangerous consequences.
Like, for example, the time I put a rubber snake in my buddy's desk drawer and did not consider his fear of snakes and that he was wearing a gun. He had to be subdued and the gun taken away from him to keep him from shooting ME! And then, there was the time I faked a phone call to my good friend, Charley Dyer, and told him that his beloved camper had been stolen and used in a bank hold-up and was full of bullet holes. Charley almost had a heart attack.
The point of most jokes is to cause the other person to laugh. Practical jokes, on the other hand, must be taken seriously by the victim to create the desired effect. Consequently, many people believe all practical jokes are mean and immature and are the work of the devil.
If they are right, then we should not expect such clowning around in the heavenly kingdom, should we be lucky enough to get there. Sounds pretty boring, doesn't it?
If Van Johnson makes it to heaven, I'm betting God will have a tack in His chair before the week is out. But, of course, God probably already knows what Van's going to do and He probably likes Van as much as I do.
Lloyd Albritton publishes a series of commentaries on the Internet entitled The Albritton Letters at www.Lloyd-Albritton.com.

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