A Common Tongue

In the summer of 1983 I took an American Youth Hostels tour of Europe. While in Germany I took a day trip separate from the rest of my group to visit Auschwitz. On the train on the way there a guy from Belgium struck up a conversation with me. He didn’t speak English. I didn’t speak … Belgian? What language do Belgians speak? So we spoke in French. I’d had two years of French in high school. I was pretty good at writing in the language but awful at speaking it. I can’t remember what we talked about but I can guarantee that we stayed away from philosophy, politics, popular culture and any other subject that required the ability to express complex thought.

On Star Trek, Captain(s) Kirk (and Picard and Sisko and Janeway) never had to worry about having a conversation with members of the alien civilization of the week – the Universal Translator made sure that everything was heard in simple 20th Century American English. Without the UA, most episodes never would have gotten past the characters trying to figure out how to say hello to each other across the great gulf of unknown languages.

I’ve had five years talking to Skook and we’ve learn to express fairly complex ideas to each other. We’ve created a sasglish patois that probably sounds like a couple of monkeys gargling cottage cheese. This is combined with an improvised sign language that bears little relation to the ASL that some members of my family can speak. With all that there are still a lot questions I can’t ask. Not and expect to get a real answer. I’m curious about famous human/sasquatch encounters that I’ve read about over the years. I ask Skook about the Patterson film, the Ostman kidnapping, the Ape Canyon siege, the capture of Jacko and I get blank looks.

This is perfectly understandable. Imagine seagulls could talk. Now imagine one of those seagulls asks you questions about seagull/human encounters somewhere far away. He can’t tell you how far away the encounter took place because your standards of measurement aren’t equivalent. He can’t tell you the name of the human involved and it doesn’t help to have him tell you the names of the seagulls. You can’t even agree on how long ago these encounters took place because you don’t have the same standards of time. So you shrug and he doesn’t understand that because seagulls don’t have shoulders.

Uh. Anyway …

Skook was useless when I first read the Wallace family’s claim that Ray Wallace (and many of the rest of the family) had been hoaxing Bigfoot prints since 1958. So I had to narrow my questions to whether or not he knew of humans faking sasquatch footprints. His answer was … probably.

He knew an old bull sasquatch that for years wore a pair of wooden feet during migration. They were slightly larger than the bull’s own feet. He called them his Skinwearer feet. He claimed to have stolen them from a human one night while the human was taking a piss. Apparently the old sasquatch wore those feet up and down the west coast for over a decade. (Time frame is approximate. I’ll get into sasquatch time reckoning another time.) He kept them tied on with ropes he stole from human territories. He threw them away after cutting up the soles of his feet in some berry vines. His calluses had faded and left his feet as vulnerable as a calf’s.

Skook had kept the left foot with him for a season. He used for hunting marmots. He’d sneak up and smack them on the head with it. He finally broke it over the head of an angry Grizzly when they both were trying to lay claim on a roadkill deer.

The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization have a page calling into question the Wallace family’s claims. Ray’s letters to various sasquatch phenomena investigators come off as weird to me with claims of UFOs and government conspiracies. But weird is relative. Maybe Skook is hoaxing me. Maybe Bigfoot does drive a flying saucer and the US government hunts him for his pelt. I don’t think so. But …

He does seem to laugh a lot.