It was a childhood dream of mine to discover Bigfoot. I had a map showing all of the U.S.’s major sightings hung on the wall next to my bed and I looked at it every night before I went to sleep. I watched the grainy, shaky Patterson video a billion times, analyzing that hairy mammal’s awkward gate and cursing the footage’s lack of focus. I read every book and article a kid with limited transportation options could get a hold of in the days before the internet. I soon became the preeminent expert on tall tales, fairy tales, fables, myths, legends and parables—anything unbelievable, far-fetched, or grossly unproven fell into my realm.
I focused on Bigfoot mainly because it was a creature that seemed accessible to a kid living in southern Maryland. The lochs of Scotland were too far away and even traversing the wilds of New Jersey to find their devil was beyond my reach. But Bigfoot sightings had been reported all over the country and my family living in a rural area made it seem like a reasonable target.
I was no fool though. Deep down I knew there was no Bigfoot. I wanted there to be a large, elusive beast still somehow living undiscovered, shunning civilization at every turn. Drunk, lonely, crazy— even at the age of twelve I could read between the lines of the accounts from people who saw the creature. Still, I ran around our fields, pretending to find tracks and even made a plaster cast once, insisting the resulting mold looked like a footprint of a large humanoid.
It was never really about the creature. Like many young boys I craved adventure, wanting to be the hero and intrepid explorer of my own great story. I mapped my family’s property, marking places likely to hide treasure. I pined for the next chance to go into our house’s crawl space and look for hidden caverns under our home while my father worked on the plumbing. When the limits of our land became too cramped for my exploration I would walk through the woods and fields of several neighbors’ properties to a secret pond deep in the forest that had been formed by converging streams dammed by beavers. The journey to get there was always filled with peril and marked by strange monsters like huge deer leaping rows of eight-foot-high corn in a single bound, barking foxes, and dive-bombing hawks carrying away fat rabbits in their sharp talons.
Today, my home is littered with dragons, the slightly newer symbol of that desire for adventure and legend since Bigfoot-themed art is too hard to come by. They represent my search for something bigger and greater but also the many dragons I have had to slay in my own not-so-mythical life. I realize that I do not do enough exploring these days, something I resolve to fix in this new year, both physically and creatively.