Seeking Swamp-Squatch: on the trail of the elusive Florida Skunk-Ape

Posted: June 13, 2015 in NeverScience
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Jim Tusk is a hard man. His stoic features joylessly flaunt a scowl earned from a life of hardship and digestive discomfort. During his youth, Jim could have settled down in his North Florida hometown and been put to stud for his family pedigree and prize-winning wrestling acumen, but Jim had more grandiose visions for the future. He would leave his home at the river town’s end and move to the closest bit of “civilization” to be found: Orlando. Today, Jim manufactures television antennas for Algeria.

“Where I grew up, there was the urban legend of ‘The Bardon Booger’. It was a Bigfoot creature. You’d hear your garbage cans crash in the middle of the night and run outside with a baseball bat thinking you’d find r’coons or feral kids, but you’d just see the hairy back of this beast running down the dirt road. For a while, we thought it was Old Man Grayson… the dude had a hairy back, y’know. Of course, Palatka Joe had this ghost story about hanging around the pioneer cemetery at 3 am when the Bardon Booger would appear and grant you three wishes, but it ended up being some crack dealer from Crescent Beach and the wishes granted were never what you bargained for. I never personally saw the Bardon Booger, but I heard stories. The smell is the common denominator. There would be high school parties in the woods interrupted by the stench and pine cones; a stench like someone set their septic tank afire and then tried to put it out with potpourri aerosol instead of a fire extinguisher… and pine cones tossed through the air at keg party partiers as if they were flung by Brett Favre. There were homecoming stories about football stands emptying because the Bardon Booger could be smelled from under the bleachers where he was belching up girl’s skirts. There was even a rumor my cousin —- is the bastardized off-spring of the Booger. I mean, my Aunt —- is known to get a little nuts, especially when you let her close to the Wild Turkey, but that she would lay with the Booger in the river scrub, that she could give birth to a half-Booger spawn? I mean, don’t get me wrong, Cousin —- was born 18 lbs and has won prizes for his beard. Still, I cannot… I just think the father must be one of those crusty hippie white Rastafari guys from Gainesville easily confused with an ape. It was the ‘70s, after all.” Jim rationalized. “The Bardon Booger, though… that sum-bitch is real.”

In Late 2014, Jim’s brother John-Boy took a picture of what may be the Bardon Booger.

Skunk Apes over Palatka

“It ain’t exactly the Myakka Skunk Ape, but there is something there up in the trees, amongst the Spanish moss. Hey, do you know what the Spanish call ‘Spanish moss’? ‘English moss’. Weird, right?”

Right, weird.

Layla Santana Crow grew up in South Florida with a bit of Miccosukee blood in her veins, giving her an authenticity most of us born in America lack. Layla Santana Crow currently resides in Nashville where she hounds Russian spies who have infiltrated the Country Music scene, but her background includes up-close-and-personal research of Costa Rican new-world monkeys. She has also collaborated with me in the past with the writing of Cyrus Lee Hancock’s Complete Authority on Hurricane Sur-Thrival, driving the subject matter of the ‘what happens when zoo animals escape’ and ‘upholding fashion standards when there is no running water’ chapters.

Infamous picture of the Myakka Skunk-Ape which terrorized Sarasota County

Infamous picture of the Myakka Skunk-Ape which terrorized Sarasota County

“As far as primates in Florida,” Layla responded to my questions through intricately texted emoji. “You have your zoo escapees after hurricanes, runaway exotic pets and then the left behind silver screen legacy animals. In the 1930s, they were shooting ‘Son of Tarzan’ in Silver Springs, Florida. The primates they brought in still have legacy throughout Florida. For example, the Skunk-Ape of Myakka, which terrorized the Sarasota suburbs a few years ago, is likely the great-great-grandson of a Silver Springs television chimpanzee. Not the Abominable Snowman on spring-break.”

But wouldn’t we have more evidence of these chimp generations roaming Florida; evidence by way of Interstate roadkill or poor golf course sand trap etiquette or strip-mall mauling?

“Would we have more evidence of chimp dynasties and escaped gorillas?” Layla Santana Crow considered. “If you’d prefer to believe Skunk-Ape is a mystical cousin of Big Foot roaming Florida, wouldn’t there be more evidence of him? But there isn’t; all we have is second-hand gossip and blurred pictures.”

Touché, monkey lady.

While Layla Santana Crow had her suspicions, Jim Tusk was determined to know the truth. He and I have wandered the Florida pine scrub and rivers in search of the elusive Skunk-Ape for the better part of two decades. While I came close on a few occasions deep in the Florida wilderness when the stench of something ungodly abhorrent crossed my olfactory, seizing me from the spleen and shredding through my well-being as a hot comb moves through buttered grits, I never actually saw my antagonist. I would sit, undeterred, unmoved, waiting in the forest, assuming every plume of palmetto sparrow put to sky was a sign of primate presence; I would sit, watching as the mosquitos feasted on me and were similarly devoured by prehistoric dragon flies through the day & acrobatic bats by dusk; I would sit and emerge with nothing but four months of chigger tenants living up the low-income housing of my thighs.

Vic Neverman on the hunt with Jim Tusk in the Florida backwaters...

Vic Neverman on the hunt for Skunk-Ape with Jim Tusk in the Florida backwaters…

Stitch is a theologian in Oregon. Years ago in Portland, I was initiated into a secret society of brothers where I met and quickly became the pupil of the well-versed hierophant, Stitch. While his hermetic studies are largely theological, ontological, teleological, cosmological, soteriological, eschatological, ecclesiological, and on rainy days epistemological, somewhere within or along the peripheral fringe exists Stitch’s passion project: Big Foot.

“The Old Man of the Forest is a finicky dick.” I once read on a bathroom stall door of an old poet’s tavern in Portland, Oregon. It was a reference to Big Foot and his enigmatic nature. Stitch would elaborate, “What we have is two indistinct possibilities. One: you have a cryptid beast whose existence has been uncharted by recognized science. In this scenario, you have an incredibly coy primate – we assume, but without taxonomy efforts can only assume it is a primate – who has managed to evade modern science for centuries. In fact, the only evidence exists in strictly anecdotal folklore, which brings me to the second possibility. Two: there exists something in the human psyche, something archetypal and shared amongst different peoples, which begs for the existence of a primitive cousin, perhaps even a primitive elder, especially under the threat of ecological decay. What is even more intriguing is if you search the world for such folklore, you have the Sasquatch phenomena of North America and the Yeti of Central Asia. What is the commonality? The indigenous peoples of America are the descendants of Asians who crossed the Bering Straits land bridge long before the ‘discovery’ of the Americas by Vikings and Irish monks.”

So either Sasquatch is an unknown species of ape hiding very well or Sasquatch is an archetypal delusion necessary for our psyche inherited from the first peoples of America. But what about the third option Stitch discredits?

“Oh sure, there are those who believe Big Foot is an entity that can crawl through dimensions, arriving just in time to steal the marshmallows you were saving for s’mores only to fade back into a vortex before you finish squirting enough lighter fluid onto your barbeque pit to light a log pyramid. And those same people are likely to also believe Big Foot is piloting Unidentified Flying Objects, or at least being picked up by flying saucers as if UFOs were some intergalactic Uber-driver service. Yes, those beliefs, those believers, do exist.”

Rufus Holdsworth claims to have trained NASA astronauts on how to practice procreation at zero gravity, “Hint: a lot of Velcro.” I caught Rufus at a bad time as he was scratching Florida lotto tickets like a mangy mongrel with creditors and collection agents at his back instead of fleas. “Dude…” Rufus took a break from desperation to sip on the cracked can o’ beer I presented to him. “First one today, I promise. So if Big Foot exists simply as undiscovered primates, I am sure the fucking rednecks would have cannibalized them all by now. You have to think bigger. Sasquatch could be interdimensional beings who can slip-in quick enough to mutilate cattle and slip back out before the black helicopters show up. Or maybe they just shape-shift into ordinary ornery humans and blend in with Wal-Mart camouflage.”

Connecting the Regional Mythologies

On the Hunt: to discourage panthers, Jim leaves his mark on a tree to claim this territory.

On the Hunt: to discourage panthers, Jim leaves his mark on a tree to claim this territory.

In Oregon, I came across the ‘finicky dick’ comment regarding the Sasquatch/Big Foot legends of the Pacific Northwest, yet the same could be applied to the Skunk-Ape tradition of the American South. Beyond ‘the Bardon Booger’, there are accounts of cryptids known as ‘the Sandman’ in Georgia, ‘the Honey Island Swamp Monster’ outside New Orleans, ‘the Fouke Monster’ aka ‘the Jonesville Monster’ of the Boggy Creek region of Arkansas, ‘MoMo’ the Missouri Monster, ‘the Green Chimp’ which is likely an escaped chimpanzee overcome with moss and algae, ‘the Holopaw Gorilla’, ‘the Abominable Swamp Slob’ and ‘the Everglades Ape’. Specific to Central Florida are stories of ‘the Deland Dune-Man’, ‘the Bithlo Bogger’, ‘the Pine Hills Perp’, ‘the Lakeland It’, ‘the Oviedo Green Orang’, ‘the Sanlando Devil’, ‘the Apopka Poon-Hound’ (note to self: fact-check that one), ‘the Winter Park Wookie’ and ‘the New Smyrna Dream-Snatcher’. Given the commonality of these strange beasties: all mostly three-toed (unlike common apes), possessing a revolting stank and a nocturnal presence, we can assume Stich was right – either there is a separate species of primate or these legends are a common figment of the human imagination projected upon the darkness of night as transference of our anxieties.

Other commonalities among these regional Skunk-Apes could be attributed to behavior of other animals. Skunk-Apes are said to be aggressive towards dogs, much as bears are. They eat small livestock, such as goats and chickens, but this could just as easily be blamed on coyotes, feral cats, foxes or chupacabra. Skunk-Apes are said to be bi-pedal, but will on occasion run on all fours when frightened: well sure, who wouldn’t?

The tangled waterways are the only way to get into the interior of the jungle, but often it is difficult to tell up from down...

As Above, So Below. The tangled waterways are the only way to get into the interior of the jungle, but often it is difficult to tell up from down… Jim Tusk waits ahead.

The strangest commonality amongst Skunk-Apes, from the Mims Monster to the Zephyrhills Zeke, from the Bardon Booger to the Frostproof Freak, from the Inverness Sketchy-Guy to the Eustis Stink, and well beyond the Florida ape-fright, all over North America, there is an odd pattern that may be attributable to anxiety or pranks & hoaxes or just a carnal perversity: each of the traditions of Skunk-Ape mention the beast’s voyeuristic pleasure derived from watching homo sapiens fornicate within cars in remote locations. In the legends, there is little to none as far as complaints regarding sexual intercourse being interrupted by Skunk-Apes in other settings, e.g. tents in the wilderness or outdoor hot-tubs or skinny-dipping. No, this category of encounter ‘coitus interuptus’ tends to only occur when the steamy acts are held within parked automobiles. But why?

Ultimately, we return to the psychological manifestation of the elder of the forest. I, notable SCIENTIST Vic Neverman, believe Stitch is somewhat correct. There is a drive within the misfired synopses of our mind to relate to the earth through an anthropomorphic deity such as Big Foot. For example, there exists a set of psycho-analytic film critics which maintain Chewbacca only exists as an extension of Han Solo’s sub-conscious. Your garbage cans may have been kicked over by a hairy-backed neighbor, but your social disenfranchisement yearns for the wisdom of a primitive ancestor embodied by Skunk-Ape. What if your aunt wasn’t knocked-up by some counter-culture Pinko-Commie, but rather by some mystical beast-man? Anxieties are heightened within an automobile during sex because the act is both confined and broadcasted through a transparent windshield! Sexual acts engaged in nature outside of the automobile either appreciate privacy (e.g. tent, cave, log-cabin, igloo) or lack confinement (e.g. lake sex, ocean sex, beach sex, up-against-a-tree sex, on-top-of-a-mountain sex,  middle-of-desert sex), which frees anxieties otherwise capable of projecting archetypal ape-man fantasies. I mean, just a hunch…

Jim and I are never going to find the Skunk-Ape paddle-boarding into the Florida jungle. What we need are some volunteers* willing to drive into the wilderness to bait the Old Man of the Forest. Who knows who might show up – a wayward chimp, an undiscovered species of ape or an inter-dimensional spectator? I’ve got my audio video equipment; any takers?

*Volunteers can apply for a role in the experiment by contacting Vic at VicNeverman@gmail.com

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