My Brother’s Keeper
By Waddie Greywolf
                                

My dad lived a pretty ordinary life with one exception. He was a Vietnam veteran and struggled for years with post traumatic stress syndrome. He spent years trying to exorcise ghosts from his past; ghosts, who would come to him even in broad daylight and disturb his sleep at night with their unrest. He never seemed to stay ahead of them, but he never gave up the fight. He worked hard at trying to find some resolution and peace of mind, but the mental scars were too deep. His physical scars were a painful reminder as well. While I was growing up, I can remember he was always under VA care. Even though he took his medications regularly, they gave him little relief, but they were better than nothing. All he wanted was to be left alone to try and heal.

He never wanted a lot of material possessions out of life and taught me the greatest joy is just to love and be loved in return. He taught me that love, family, and happiness was worth more than all the wealth and possessions in the world. He only wanted to be comfortable, provide a good life for his family, and find his own modicum of happiness. When he returned from Nam he thought he could outrun his past. He bought a big Harley and hit the road. He traveled with some of the roughest men in the biker world. He also learned to travel with the best. They were men who didn’t judge. They asked no questions as long as you were forthright, honest, and contributed your share to the group. Still it wasn’t enough to escape the years he spent in that rotten, stinking hell-hole of a rice paddy.

* * * * * * *
I had an unusual relationship with my dad. I always loved, admired, and respected him while most of my school buddies hated their dads. They were constantly getting into trouble and at odds with their fathers. I guess I got a reputation of being a goody-goody, because I always thought about the consequences of some action I was about to consider, and how it might affect my mom and dad. The idea of hurting them or being a disappointment to my dad kept me on the straight and narrow. I figured my dad saw enough horror, pain, and sorrow in his life, he didn’t need me to add to his burden.

Dad never encouraged me to play sports, but I did. Most of all, I played because I genuinely love to, but that wasn’t the biggest payoff. My greatest joy came from the look in my dad’s eyes, and the hug he gave me after I played a good game. He’d put his big arm around me, pull me close, and tell me, “Ya’ done good, Son, real good. S’damn proud of ya,” he'd say. Often he’d wipe away a tear. Well, sir, you could’ve given me all the trophies or awards in the world and none would’ve meant as much to me as those moments with my dad.

I loved to get away with my dad and go someplace we’d never been before. Sometimes we’d take the old motor-coach on a weekend trip, just the two of us, go fishing or just to see what we could find of interest to do. We’d go to a rodeo, a monster truck rally, or a tractor pull somewhere; something interesting to do several weekends a year. We both looked forward to those times together. We grew close over the years, and I could tell my old man anything. He not only was my old man, he became my best friend. I could tell him the secrets of my heart, and he would listen. Nothing I could’ve told him would upset him or ever keep him from loving me.

I knew it in my heart he loved me without reserve, but still, there was something missing between us. There was something about his past, a major part of him, he would never talk about. Vietnam was always there, looming in the background like a darkly cloaked stranger waiting to devour him. I could never go there with him. As much as he loved me, I couldn’t offer him comfort from his pain. The times I tried his eyes would water, and he would quietly tell me, “One time, before I die, I’ll tell you. I can only tell you once. Don’t ask me why, because you’ll understand when when the time comes and I think you're ready for it,” he would say.

I thought it sounded very vague and mysterious, but my mom backed him up when I questioned her. “If your dad told you he’ll tell you, he will in his own time. You can’t force that man. Take it from me. Lord knows, I learned the hard way. He’s a good man with a big heart, and he loves us like no other. He’s proved his love to me, you, and your sister over and over. I’m lucky to have found him for a husband, but you’re just as lucky to have him as your father. He’s a complex man, but he’s not complicated. He has a right not to talk about his past. You’ll understand one day, trust me,” she said, and that’s all she would say on the matter.

They had two children, me and my older sister Joyce. Dad named me after him, Jessie Benjamin Cassidy, Jr. Mom told me dad’s folks go back to the same Cassidys as Butch Cassidy. Some even say my dad looks a lot like old photos of him. But there’s another side of our family I’ve never met. I overheard dad and mom speak of them from time to time, but it was always away from us kids like they didn’t want us to know. I guess every family has some folks they’d rather the rest of the world not know about. Dad wasn’t too fond of the idea one of his ancestors was an outlaw.

I was never called Jess, Jessie, or Ben. From the earliest I can remember, my dad just called me ‘Grub.’ Hardly anyone in our small town new my real name or even I was a ‘junior.’ I was Grub to everyone. I didn’t mind. I grew up with the name, and it was the name my old man liked to call me. He spoke my cognomen with such affection it made me feel good every time my dad called by my nickname. It was his special name for me. My mom would slip when she was mad at me and call me by my real name. It was about the only time I heard it. “Jessie Benjamin Cassidy Junior, I won’t have you using language like that in my house, young man!” she would scold me.

“Yes, ma’am. Sorry, Mom,” I replied.

Even when I graduated from high school, and they called my name for my diploma: “Grub Cassidy.”

I asked dad one time why he called me ‘Grub’ and he got the strangest, far away look on his face followed by a sweet smile and told me, “One day soon, perhaps, I’ll take you to meet your namesake. I been thinking on it a lot lately. We just may do it before very much longer,” he said.

Dad was raised to be a cowboy on a ranch in West Texas, but after he returned from Vietnam, he found it almost impossible to fit back into society. He bought a big bike and toured the country for several years until he met my mom and settled down with her. They decided to buy a ranch in a small town outside of San Diego about thirty miles. He would never talk to me about the four years he spent in Nam and only a few stories of his eight years being a nomad biker. Every now and then one of his old biker buddies would drop by, and dad would treat them like visiting royalty. They would toss back a few and talk about some wild times. I could tell from the stories, the way my dad and his buddies would tell them, they had some great times together.

My dad never was a bad man and stayed within the law, although I picked up enough from a couple of the bikers to learn he rode with some pretty rough men during his sojourn into the world of scoot-bums. None of them ever had a bad word to say about my dad. They would get me off to the side and tell me of the love, admiration, and respect they held for my old man. With tears in their eyes, they’d hug me, and tell me how proud I should be to have him for a dad. After they left, dad would never talk more about his life as a biker.

Certainly, any conversation about Vietnam was strictly ‘off limits.’ I remember one of the bikers bringing it up, but my dad hushed him up real quick. The man did so immediately out of respect for my dad and his family. One time we were sitting around the table listening to an older, grizzled, battle scarred, tattooed biker tell a story about a time when he and dad walked into the North woods looking for firewood for their camp and accidentally came upon a family of Bigfoot. He didn’t tell much more except the Bigfoot family was as surprised as they were, and he and dad high-tailed it out of there.

I laughed and challenged my dad and the old man. “That’s a good one. Everybody knows there ain’t no such thing as a Bigfoot,” I said.

“Isn’t such a thing, Dear,” mom was quick to correct me.

My dad smiled and leaned back in his chair. “Wouldn’t be too sure of that, Son,” Dad said, paused for a minute, and winked at his buddy, “If this man tells you we saw a family of Bigfoot, you can cash that check at the bank.” It’s all my dad said, and he wouldn’t answer any questions later.

* * * * * * *
My sister Joyce was four years older than I, and she graduated college the year I graduated high school. I wasn’t the only one who got a  nickname from my dad. He called Joyce, ‘Sissy’— short for sister— and it stuck with her until she went to college. Everyone in our small town knew us as ‘Sissy’ and ‘Grub’ Cassidy. She didn’t care either and worshiped my dad. No matter how bad he felt, how tired he was from working all day and trying to run a ranch part-time, he made time for his kids. He’d stop anything he was doing if we needed him. He never put us aside with an excuse. His arms were always open to hear the least or the worst of our problems.

It was also the summer my dad and mom planned for many years. When they felt dad was financially able, he would quit his daytime job, and run the ranch full time. It seemed all our lives converged, matured, and changed that summer, but it was a happy time for the four of us. We were never closer as a family. Joyce got a good job in our small town and decided to live at home for a while. She was a big help and companion for mom. To my sister’s credit, she insisted on paying her way, and shared our mother’s work load around the place.

I didn’t have plans to go to college right away and wanted to stay home a couple of years to help dad with some major projects. I wanted to make things as easy for him as possible when I finally left the nest. I was involved with ranch work since I was old enough to walk, and it became a way of life for me. By the time I got to school and started my first class, I put in a full day's work; after I got home from school I had chores to do. Living on a ranch is wonderful, but it’s one Hell of a lot of work. The problem is, you’re never through. There’s always something else that needs to be done. Nevertheless, it taught me anything worth having is worth working for; also, it taught me to always protect and respect the animals under your care.

We grew close as a family that summer, but there was something not right with my dad. He seemed preoccupied and restless. My mom had the patience of Job and never pushed him; however, she knew him well enough she could tell what was bothering him. We worked hard all summer, got a lot of things done around the place, but it seemed the more we accomplished the less happy dad was. He never was grumpy or mean-spirited. It was like a giant sadness would come over him, and for all his medications, he couldn’t shake it. I overheard a conversation one evening between dad and mom I wasn’t suppose to be privy to. They were in the barn, and I walked out to let them know Sissy and I had dinner ready.

As I approached the barn, I stopped for a minute to listen to their conversation. I knew how to be quiet, and they didn’t hear me coming. I listened for a moment not wanting to interrupt their conversation. There was a break, and they remained silent for a few minutes. Mom broke the silence, “We both know what’s wrong, Jessie. Why don’t you take Grub and introduce him to the family? Get away, just the two of you. I know how happy being with him makes you. Every time you two go on a trip together, you both come back new men. You’re both revitalized. It does as much for Grub as it does you. That boy worships you. You may never have another opportunity like this to open up to him, Jessie, and he needs to know. He’s been a good son to us, and he works his butt off around here. He hasn’t asked for a thing. He hasn’t said a word, but I know he’s hurting because you’re hurting. He’s like me. He feels your pain, but unlike me, he has no idea what it is or how to help you. It’s eating him up, Jessie. Don’t do that to our boy.

"Now’s a perfect time, before the cold weather sets in up there. You haven’t been back since you took me and introduced me to the family. That was years ago when I was pregnant with Sissy. They were so kind and considerate of me in my delicate condition. They treated us like royalty. I know they’d love to see you and meet Grub. You made a promise to them. He looks just like you, Jessie, and I know how proud of him you are. Go! I got Sissy here to keep me company, and we can manage the ranch just fine. If I need help, I can always call your dad. He’ll be here in a minute,” she urged.

They were quiet for a moment, but dad didn’t answer her. I cleared my throat, and continued on into the barn. I found dad hugging and kissing mom. Dad had tears in his eyes.

“Hope I’m not interrupting anything,” I said.

“No, Son, we’re just talking. What’s up?” dad asked.

“Dinner’s ready,” I replied.

“Thanks, Son! Come, we’ll walk back to the house with you,” dad said. Dad put his arm around mom, his other around me, and we started back to the house. “What da’ ya’ say, Sprout, you and me pack up the old GMC motor-coach and take off for a couple of weeks? We’ll load up on basics, throw the fishing tackle in the extra bedroom, and hit the road. We won’t schedule nothing. We’ll stop when we’re tired, find a stream what looks promising, like it might have a couple of fish in it, or stop if we see something what interests us,” dad said.

“Sounds great to me, Dad, but what about the ranch?” I asked.

“Your mom and Sissy will be here, and I’ll call dad. He’d love to come stay for a while and get away from his place. Besides, he loves your mom’s cooking. He and Barney (Granddad’s dog) love it over here,” dad replied.

“Great! I'd love to spend some one-on-one time with ma' dad. I’ll start packing right after dinner,” I said with enthusiasm. We had a wonderful dinner, and dad’s demeanor changed immediately. He was up, smiling, talking about places we might go, and things we might see. Mom and Sissy were happy for him and me and joined in the merriment.

The next day, dad and mom went off to the big Costco warehouse to do some shopping, and after my chores, I spent the rest of the day putting my things away in the motor-coach. When they returned dad asked me to give him a hand with some boxes of stuff he wanted to store in the spare bedroom of the coach. It was always Sissy and my room when we traveled as a family. I helped him unload a couple of cases of Skippy super-chunk peanut butter and a case of large jars of grape jelly. There was another case of strawberry preserves.

We had a small freezer unit in the coach. Dad and I put in some frozen dinners and meat we could cook on our journey. The rest we filled with several loaves of wheat and some white bread; more bread than we would ever eat. Mom and Sissy spent two days cooking and baking so we’d have cookies, a cake, and several pies which could be frozen and quickly thawed. We had a good size microwave/convection oven in the motor-coach. I noticed a beautiful chocolate cake neatly wrapped for the freezer with a note in mom’s handwriting: “For the family” I didn’t ask. I never saw dad pack so much stuff for our family let alone for just the two of us.

I laughed at him. “You sure you got enough peanut butter and jelly, Dad?” I teased.

“Yeah. I guess it does seem like a lot, but we got us one Hell of a price on it. It pays in the long run to buy in bulk. It has a long shelf life, and you never know when you might have a midnight craving for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Beside, it’s always nice to have extra in case you might be entertaining angels unawares,” he chuckled as he winked at me. I couldn’t imagine us entertaining anyone, let alone angels. Do angels eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? I wondered.

On the other hand, dad would run into folks he hadn’t seen for years, and it was like they hadn’t been apart for more than thirty minutes. My dad was that kind of man. He never met a man he couldn’t find something good about. He seemed to treasure his memories of their times together. So, I just never knew about my dad, and as it turned out, the first night we were on the road we ran into fifteen bikers who were his close friends. One of them was the big, burly, older biker who told the story about dad and him running across a family of Bigfoot. His name was Beryl.

“You takin’ your boy to the North woods to visit Al and Frank?” Big Beryl asked.

“Yeah, Beryl, been thinkin’ about it. I thought I might. I made some promises I need to keep,” Dad said.

“I'll say you did! Well, it’s about time. The family and other folks around there have been asking about you for years. Hell, ever' time I see 'em they always ask about you. I told ‘em about you and your family. They always wanna' know when you plan on visiting,” Beryl said.

“You seen them lately?” Dad asked surprised.

“Oh, Hell, yeah! I visited Al and Frank about this time last year. All the old gang is still around there, and I know they’d love to see you again, especially to meet Grub junior. Talk about killing the fatted calf. By the way, you packing any presents?” I heard Big Beryl lean into my dad to ask in a low tone.

“Two cases of super chunk peanut butter; one case of grape jelly; one of strawberry preserves, and about two dozen loaves of bread,” replied my dad equally as quiet. I pretended not to hear.

Big Beryl shook his head and chuckled as he gently nudged my dad with his huge elbow. “That ought a’ do it,” he said as he continued to laugh and slap my dad on the back. “Mind if I join ya’ll up there? I got me some things to do with the family here, first, but depending on your schedule, I can meet you at Al and Frank’s in a week. I better meet you someplace else first, because word travels fast in that small place. After your first night, I’d probably never find you guys,” Big Beryl said with another big laugh.

I never saw my dad laugh like he did with Beryl. He threw back his head and really let go. It was good to hear my old man laugh. “Good point, Brother! Why don’t we meet in Centerville and you can follow us up. It’s only – what – an hours drive to Al and Frank’s from there?” Dad asked.

“‘Bout that, maybe a little less, I’d say. It's only thirty-two miles as the Harley flies,” replied Big Beryl, “I’ll look for you in the R.V. campground, and if’n you ain’t there yet, look for me at Rosey’s Bar and Grill downtown. What say we meet there five days from today? That’ll give you and the boy a chance to take a leisurely trip up and me a chance to take care of what I got to do,” Beryl said.

“Fine, five days it is. Look forward to seeing you again," Dad agreed.

We stayed the night in the camp site outside of Barstow with the bikers, said our goodbyes the next morning, and headed out to Las Vegas with the early morning sunrise. I’d never seen my dad in such a good mood. His love for me was always solid, but when we were traveling together by ourselves, he radiated love toward me from every pore in his body. In all our years together as father and son I never felt more close to him. I felt like he and I were on a quest together to find the Holy Grail. He was like a knight in shining armor to me who knew the wherefore and why of the sacred vessel, its secret hiding place, the magic trails we must travel to get there, and I was his faithful page for our wonderful adventure. I decided not to question but to ride along and support my Sir Knight in any battle he saw fit for us to wage. It was my way of showing my dad how much I loved and trusted him. It didn’t matter to me where or what we might be doing as long as we were together on an adventure.

* * * * * * *
Dad and I spent a couple of nights with friends in the suburbs of Las Vegas. They took us to dinner and gambling with them. Dad gave me a hundred bucks to gamble, but he told me to make it last the night. If I lost it the first ten minutes, that was it. He never asked anything of me he didn’t do himself, and I knew he set himself a hundred dollar limit. I did better than him. I won heavily at blackjack.

I ran my hundred into a couple of thousand, and the men of the casino were getting nervous. They were watching me carefully. They thought I might be a card counter or figured out how to beat the system. I wasn’t and didn’t. I was just in a great mood, and I was winning. Dad was agog. He broke even but laughingly told me he would never tell me again about gambling.

We had a wonderful time in Vegas. We headed up to Reno and stayed with some folks who were old biker friends of dads. They rolled out the red carpet for us, took us to dinner and some shows. It was all exciting and fun, but I was really looking forward to getting away with dad into the wilderness. Granddad always told me to be careful what you wish for, you just may get it.

We finally arrived in Washington state and rode into the small town of Centerville. It was really small. There was one bar and grill, two filling stations, a post office, two grocery stores and a old fashioned, wooden floor drug store with big apothecary jars in the window, filled with different colored water. When we pulled into the R.V. camp ground dad looked down the main street and saw Big Beryl’s bike parked in front of the bar and grill. He told me to jump out, run get Beryl while he checked into the space rental office, got us settled, and hooked up. It was a beautiful warm day in Washington. I took my time enjoying the small town sights as I walked toward Rosey’s Bar and Grill.

It was dark inside, and I had to wait for a minute for my eyes to adjust before I could see well enough to look for Beryl. I didn’t have to wait long, because out of the dim light came two enormous arms that swept me off my feet into a big bear hug.

“Is that young man old enough?” the woman behind the bar hollered to Beryl.

“He’s old enough for anything you got in mind, Rosey, I guaran-damn-tee-ya,’” Big Beryl growled at the woman. “What chu’ drinking, Son?” he asked.

“I ain’t much of a drinker, Mr. Beryl, a Coke with some ice would do me just fine," I replied.

“Give my young friend a Coke, Rosey,” Beryl barked as he pushed his money on the bar to her.

She smiled, gave me my Coke, and took the money from in front of Big Beryl. She turned towards the cash register and then turned back, “Damned if he ain’t the spittin’ image of your buddy what used to travel with you years ago. What was his name? The big cowboy— Jess, you remember— Jessie Cassidy?” she asked.

Big Beryl patted me on the back and roared with laughter. “You wanna’ tell her, Son, or you want me to?” he asked.

“He’s my dad, ma’am. I’m Jessie Cassidy Junior, but everybody calls me ‘Grub.’ He’s down to the R.V. campground parking our motor-coach. He sent me to fetch Mr. Beryl,” I replied.

“Well, son of a bitch,” she drawled, “get chore' sweet, young ass down here to the end of the bar so’s I can give you a hug proper like,” Rosey demanded. Big Beryl was laughing his ass off, winked at me, and motioned for me to go to her. I did, and she gave me one Hell of a hug. I couldn’t breathe for a couple of minutes. She laughed and kissed me on the cheek. “I used to have the damnedest crush on yore' daddy. Lordy, was he a fine looking man. Every woman in these here parts was a’ trying to get into his nickers. He’d come strolling into the bar – tall good look’n cowboy, and fifteen women sittin’ at the bar would wet their panties,” she said. She laughed at her own revelation to me, and laughed harder when she saw me blush. “And – you know what, Youngster? I do declare, you’re even better looking than him,” Rosey allowed. Then she really hooted as I turned beet red. “Well, now you just sit chore' handsome young ass down there next to that big, ugly old man and tell me a little about yourself. Don’t you two try to make for the door. I’ll break both your legs. Your old man will figure out he has to come get you and Beryl. I’ll treat you three to dinner right here. I still got me a soft spot in my heart for your old man – and you? Why, I’d have a tasty young morsel like you for dessert,” Rosey threw back her head with laughter having a really great time at my expense.

I loved her immediately. She was a character. Beryl was laughing his ass off. He had to stand up to get his breath he was laughing so hard at Rosey. Time passed, and I told Rosey about my mom and sister. I told her about graduating from high school and helping dad with the ranch. Just when I was about to run out of things to tell her, dad walked through the door. He stood for a minute for his eyes to adjust and found Rosey’s arms thrown around him in a big hug. They shared a laugh, a couple of tears, a good hug, and a peck on the cheek. “S’damn good to see you again, Jess. I threatened them two varmints at the bar I was gonna’ break both their legs if they tried to make for the door. I knew you’d come on down here. You wouldn’t come to town and not come see Rosey,” she said as fact.

“You’re right on all accounts, Sweetheart. You don’t know how good it is to see you again, my Fair Lady,” Dad said in his most charming cowboy way.

“You always was the charmer, Jess, but my Lord, what you and your lovely wife created in this young man is remarkable. You couldn’t a’ made him no finer looking. I been making the poor lad blush ever’ five minutes. Come sit down, relax, have a drink, I’m treating you men to a dinner at Rosey’s. Fine T-bone steaks with all the trimmings,” she said.

“Ah, Rosey, you’re such a wonder. God love ya, you ain’t changed a bit. I was worried maybe you had, but it does my old heart good to see you’re still full of yourself,” Dad said. We all laughed at my dad’s words of affection for Rosey. We had a great time with her. She joined us for dinner and let the evening bartender take over.  She had two waitresses who waited on us.

It was a great meal, and the company was fantastic. I learned more about my dad that evening than I ever knew. I also watched him respond and interrelate with his peers in front of me, not as my dad, but as a beloved companion. In essence I felt myself becoming as Beryl and Rosey, one of his close buddies. Something changed between us that night. When dad excused himself and went to the men’s room, I asked Big Beryl about it. I expressed to him and Rosey my feelings. I had a glass of red wine with dinner, and it made my tongue a little loose.

“You think this trip is just for you, Son?” Beryl patiently asked. Rosey smiled and shook her head. She must have been on the same wavelength as Big Beryl.

“Well, I ain't sure, sir. I never know about my dad. I love him, and I know he loves me; but, I’m frustrated because he won’t let me know certain parts of him. I feel like, maybe I’m not good enough to share those things with him; like, maybe he’s disappointed with me. He can be mysterious sometimes,” I lamented.

“Indeed, he can, but don’t you never feel your dad don’t think you’re good enough. Why, I rode with your old man for over a year before I knew a damn thing about him. Now, today, I know your old man like the back of my hand. I can almost read his mind. I know, fer’ damn sure, he can read mine. I can tell ya’ this much – sure as God made little green apples – he certainly ain’t disappointed with you. Your old man ain’t one to brag, but I done know'd for a fact, he’s s’damn proud of you he can hardly contain himself sometime. I don’t know how many times he’s told me his family is the only reason he made it through all these years. Now, about this trip – it serves a couple of purposes.

"Your dad is a remarkable man. It’s your dad’s way of giving you a rite of passage into manhood, but before he can do that he has to let go of his little boy. Bringing you on this trip is sort of a metaphor for your and his relationship as father and son. Don’t mistake what I’m about to say, Grub. You will always be his son, his boy, but this trip is about letting go. This trip is to say goodbye to his little boy, and to welcome his son into his world as an adult, as his friend and his new buddy in his life. In a way, it’s ripping his Gotdamn heart out knowing he has to let his little boy grow up. No father ever wants to see that day come, especially Jess. He feels deeper about things than most folks, and for what that man’s been through, s’far's I’m concerned, he has the right. 'At’s just the way he is. Am I right so far, Rosey?” Big Beryl asked his companion.

“Dead on, Sweetheart, dead on. You have to keep a part of you back for him, Son, what will always be his little boy and not be afraid. You have to let him know, even though you’re now an adult, there will always be a part of you that will still be his little boy; no matter how old or successful you get, you’ll always need him as your dad,” Rosey said.  

“Exactly! Well put, darlin. You’re his world, Grub. This trip is all about letting you grow up, but to do that, he has to take you to meet some folks who are very special to him. Don’t try to second guess him, Son. You'll fail. Just trust your old man and don’t fear anything what may happen. Things may get to seem pretty strange to you in the next couple of day, but remember, your dad would die before he placed you in harm’s way. Trust me, you’re going to learn some things this week that will open the door what’s been closed to you for so long. Don’t allow it to overwhelm you. Just take it moment by moment and try your best to understand. Now, here comes your old man. Not a word about what was discussed here, understand?" Beryl admonished me.

“Yes, sir. I understand and thanks, Mr. Beryl. You, too, Ms. Rosey,” I said.

It was a wonderful evening. I had a second glass of wine which made me feel even closer to my dad. I kept quiet and let the three of them talk. I would ask a question from time to time until my eyes got heavy, and I seemed to be nodding off. I couldn't get them to stay open. Next thing I knew I was leaning on my dad’s shoulder trying to listen, but my eyes just wouldn’t cooperate.

“You better get him to a bed, Jess. He’s had a big day. I don’t think he was ready for me,” Rosey laughed.

“You scared the Hell out of me the first time I met you. That’s just part of your charm, Sweetheart,” dad winked at Rosey, “How can we ever thank you for your kindness and hospitality, Rose? It's been a wonderful evening,” Dad said.

“You’re company was payment enough. You know you and Beryl have always been my favorites, and to get a chance to meet another charmer like you, well, I don’t get blessed that often. You and Beryl taking him to meet the folks?” Rosey asked.

“That’s where we’re headed next," Dad confirmed.

“Drop by before you leave town tomorrow. I got some things for them I want you to take with you. Tell ‘em it’s from me, okay? They ain’t been down this way in a couple of years. They always stop by when they do, though,” Rosey said.

Vetoing Rosey’s objections, dad and Beryl left a handsome tip for the two waitresses. Dad woke me and told me it was time to walk back to the coach. I hugged and kissed Rosey and the two waitress goodbye. I apologized for being a cheap drunk. They laughed. I wasn’t really drunk, but I sure was relaxed. Dad had me get on behind Big Beryl and told him he’d meet us back at the coach. We no sooner arrived when a truck pulled up and dad got out. Rosey gave him a ride. I immediately went into our bedroom, took off my clothes, showered, and went to bed. Dad stayed up for a while longer talking with Beryl, then put him to bed in the other room.

I barely remember dad crawling in bed next to me, pulling me into his arms, and holding me for a minute. I opened my eyes to see him looking at me with love and pride. It felt like he was looking at his little boy for the last time with all the love in his heart, but the eyes that were looking back at him were the eyes of a full grown man. He kissed me gently on the forehead, told me he loved me, and wished me a good night. I told him I love him, too, but a part of me would still be his little boy in the morning. He rolled over and was silent, then I heard him chuckle to himself. "Damn that old man!" he said barely above a whisper, then sighed. I smiled to myself.

* * * * * * *
Dad and Beryl were up at the crack of dawn the next morning and laughed at me as I dragged my ass into the living room. I sat down at the table and dad handed me a cup of coffee the way I like it, blond and sweet. I wasn’t hung over, just a bit groggy from sleeping so soundly. With two cups of coffee, I was feeling more alive and awake. We pulled out of the R.V. grounds about six in the morning. I was sure Rosey’s wouldn’t be open. I was wrong. The entire town was there having breakfast.  Dad and Beryl agreed to have breakfast, and we grabbed a table near the kitchen. Out came Rosey with both arms full of orders of food for the folks. She was as busy as a one legged man at a butt kicking contest.

She had something funny to say to almost everyone. Rosey was on, holding court at center stage. A big lumberjack of a man at the counter complained he ordered his eggs scrambled, but they were sunny side up. Rosey looked down at the plate with a frustrated look on her face, took her fingers, and scrambled the eggs right on his plate. “There, Dick. Them eggs is scrambled,” she declared. The poor man didn’t know whether to shit or go blind.

Rosey threw back her head, roared with laughter, grabbed up his plate, and took it back to the kitchen to get his order right. She had everyone in the place rolling on the floor with laughter. Another man complained his hot cakes were rubbery. She strolled over to his table, took a good long look at his hot cakes, whipped one off his plate and slammed it to the floor. “Damned if that sucker didn’t bounce!” she exclaimed, laughed again, and whisked his plate away to the kitchen to get him some more hot cakes. Everyone heard her chastise the cook. “Phil, make Hank some more hot cakes, but this time don’t add so much of that old latex paint to the batter,” she yelled. She had the place in stitches.  

She took our orders and brought us our food. When we finished and paid for our breakfast, she had her cook and dishwasher bring out two big produce boxes and a gunny sack filled with all kinds of assorted fruit. Everything and anything you might imagine. Dad had them put it in the other bedroom. It was enough fruit for an army of people. The spare bedroom smelled like Carmen Miranda’s headgear on a hot afternoon. Who would eat that much fruit I wondered? It would make the average man shit like a goose for a month. Then I remembered Big Beryl’s admonition to me from the night before to just trust and go along with the flow. I didn’t say a thing to my dad; however, while he was driving further North I would catch him glancing over at me from time to time to see if he could gauge my level of curiosity. I returned his glance one time and smiled. He knew it meant I would follow him anywhere without question. I trusted him without reserve. He was satisfied.

* * * * * * *
After about an hour of traveling, Big Beryl pulled his bike off on a side road. We followed on the dirt road for about five miles or more. It ran down to a beautiful river. It was the most beautiful spot on Earth I witnessed to that point. The river was beautiful and nestled in and among the trees were about fifteen individual cabins and one great house that looked like a lodge. Dad explained it was a retreat where folks could come, stay in the cabins, fish and generally commune with nature. They could hike the trails back into the woods for several miles to view spectacular scenery. They also had an R.V. campground with electricity and sewer hook ups. Dad wasted no time in choosing a space and skillfully backed the motor-coach into it.

Down the front steps of the big lodge came two fine looking older men with their arms open wide to greet dad and Big Beryl. There was hardy handshakes, much hugging, back slapping, and a kiss or two on the cheek. It was obvious, the gentlemen were thrilled to see my dad and Beryl again, but they kept looking out the corner of their eyes at me.

“Al! Frank! I’d like to introduce you to my son, Jessie Junior; however, he mostly answers to the name ‘Grub,’” Dad said.

Al and Frank looked me over. Al took my hand and pumped it with both of his. “Aww, Hell, Son, that ain’t gonna’ get it. Gimme’ a hug,” he commanded. I gave the big man a hug, and I thought he was going to cry in my arms.

“Damn it! If he gets a hug, so do I. Out of the way, Old Man. Let your better half have a hug,” Frank said. I hugged Frank, too. He laughed and whispered to me, “Damn, you look like your old man, Son. You’re both fine looking men. It's so good to finally meet you,” he said.

My mind was going in circles. Better half, he called his friend? Could they be? Ah, who the Hell cared? This far from nowhere and as friendly as they seemed – fuck it. So, two men love each other, what of it? Besides, I was with my old man and Big Beryl. I trusted them completely.
 
Dad tried to pay the men for the space, but they wouldn’t take his money. “Are you kidding? After all you done for us over the years. Take your money and put it were the sun don’t shine, Cowboy,” Frank told my dad smiling.

I liked the two of them immediately. I didn’t give a shit what church they belonged to or to what gods they prayed. They were good men and obviously thought the world of my dad and Big Beryl. That was good enough for me.

“What are your plans, Gentlemen? You gonna’ stay around here for the evening or are you gonna’ hike out to visit family right away? They know Beryl’s here already. They heard his bike. Somehow they have a sixth sense when someone special’s coming. Well, you know, Jess. We’re being watched even as we speak,” Al declared.

“Well,” said my dad, “I thought we’d stay here this evening and tomorrow afternoon hike up to the gorge. I’d like my boy to see the sun go down from there, and we’ll stay the night,” he said.

The men fell out laughing. “Stay the night?” Al asked doubled over with laughter, “Hell, if we see you again in three days we’ll be damn lucky.” Dad and Beryl joined the men in a good laugh. Al continued, “Well, that sounds like a plan. Have dinner with us, then you can go your way.”

This was all beginning to be more than a bit mysterious for me, but I wasn’t about to ask. I remembered big Beryl’s admonition to me from the night before. What was all this talk about being watched? Was there some covert government operation being carried on in these parts? I looked all around. I could see nothing, but I noticed dad would look off into the distance, then look at Beryl and wink. Beryl would chuckle and nod his head as if in agreement.  

We had dinner with Al and Frank, and my suspicions were confirmed. They were a bonded couple. They were mates. They weren't overt about it, but they made no effort to hide the affection that passed between them. It was deep and genuine. They lived simply but neatly and were superb cooks. They fixed us a dinner that was, in their vernacular, “to die for.” I could tell from their conversation with dad and Beryl, they were a close knit group, and all four men had strong affection for each other. We talked for hours about everything. I finally got up enough nerve to ask a question about something that was bothering me. “Mr. Beryl and my dad told me they accidentally ran into a family of Bigfoot. I didn’t believe them at first. I know my dad wouldn’t lie to me, and after getting to know Mr. Beryl better, I believe he wouldn’t lie to me either. Have either of you seen any around this area?" I asked our two gracious hosts.

Both men were silent for a moment, looked at each other, smiled, and looked to my dad for guidance. I saw my dad barely nod his head to them. His simple gesture told the men to answer my question honestly. “Yes, Son, we see them all the time. They lived around here for thousands of years before us, and the way we’re going, probably will out last us for thousands more. Unlike us, they live in perfect harmony with nature. They are peaceful, sentient, and have a keen sense of right and wrong. They take only what they can eat or use from the Earth and harm no one unless provoked. Beyond being just sentient, they’re highly intelligent and extremely curious. They’re curious about a lot of things. Within the last thirty years Al and I have been here, they’ve grown more curious about us as well. They were watching us when you arrived. There were at least eight that Al and I saw. How many did you and Beryl count, Jessie?” Al asked.

“About the same, Frank,” my dad answered quietly.

“I only counted six,” Big Beryl allowed.  

“How come I didn’t see one?” I asked.

“You don’t know where to look, Son,” Al replied.

“Do you think I might get to see one, Dad?” I asked.

Dad looked at me with a slight grin on his face. “Would you like to see one, Son?” he asked in reply.

“To actually see an animal most folks think is a myth? You bet I’d like to see one,” I assured him.

“I’d say your chances are better’n fifty-fifty,” said Big Beryl. He chuckled and added, “You never know, sometimes you see them and sometimes you don’t.”

“Just remember, Grub, if we are lucky enough to see one they aren’t just animals. Like Al said, they are a highly intelligent and amazing species. They are not human, but you must consider, we’re animals, too. As you probably learned in school we belong to the species Homo sapiens. Homo sapiens means, ‘wise ape.’ They belong to another family of apes several of us like to call ‘Homo pacificus americaninsis’ or ‘peaceful American ape.’ We believe strongly, there are other related species yet to be discovered in other parts of the world and even more relatives left to be discovered in other parts of our country.

"No matter how thin you slice it, we’re both apes and descended from a common ancestor. That makes us family – genetic cousins in a way. We belong to the same subspecies, Mammalian, who suckle their young. There are only two anatomical differences between them and us. Human males are the only mammal on our planet without a bone in the penis and the female of our species is the only mammal without a free floating sack. All other mammals from Bigfoot, the great apes to the sperm whale, the males have bones in their penis and the females have free floating sacks.

"If we should, by chance, run into one, it’s important you not show them fear. Their sense of smell is a hundred times more sensitive than ours. Some even speculate they have a greater facility for smell than dogs. They can smell your fear. They can tell you’re afraid and will have nothing to do with you. They’re extremely powerful animals but as peaceful as they are strong. They react to fear the same way we do. Fear is a built-in protective response in all animals. The response to fear is flight. If any animal senses fear in another, they figure if they’re afraid they should be too, and instinctively run from it. So do they. If you show them you’re not afraid, and mean them no harm, they won’t be afraid of you.”  

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from these men, and my dad seemed to know as much or more about these creatures than the others. I was impressed, but I wondered why?

After a wonderful evening we said our goodbyes. Beryl, dad, and I began our short walk back to the motor-coach. All of a sudden, the most blood curdling scream filled the night air as if it was surrounding us. It made the flesh crawl up my back, up my spine into the back of my neck, up my neck to the top of my scalp; there, it made my scalp crawl away in opposite directions. Was I scared? No, not at all. It went way beyond scared. I was terrified. I stopped dead in my tracks, heard my dad laugh, and Big Beryl chuckle. “What, the Hell, was that?” I managed to get out.

“I think the question is, who, the Hell, was that?” Big Beryl laughed.

My dad smiled but didn’t comment. He just shook his head and grinned real big. I didn’t say another word, but made an effort to make a steady pace back to the motor-coach. I was tired and ready for bed. Dad wanted to stay up and talk with Beryl for a while. I took off my clothes, showered and got into bed. Through the clear night air, came another scream that sounded like a woman being stabbed through the heart with an ice pick. Again chills ran up my back, and I wondered if this caterwauling was going to continue all night. How could anyone get any sleep with that racket going on? I was about to go to sleep when I heard Big Beryl leave the motor-coach. He was gone for quite a while, but returned as dad was getting out of the shower.

“It’ll be all right now. I talked with them,” I heard him tell my dad, “They’re excited you’re here, and can’t wait to see you. I told them you bought Grub with you. I thought they were gonna’ flip out. They wanted to come down right now with me to the coach, but I told them we were going to bed.”

Was he talking about Bigfoot? How did my dad know so much about these creatures? Was he going to take me to meet them? Was he and Big Beryl friends with them? Was this the family he was going to introduce me to? My final thought before drifting off to sleep was a small prayer, “Please, God, help me. Make me strong and don’t allow me to embarrass my dad no matter who his friends or family might be.” A voice in my head responded: “If they love your dad, how bad could they be?”

* * * * * * *
Dad and Big Beryl allowed me to sleep in. There seemed to be no hurry as we weren’t going hiking into the back country until early afternoon. Dad got out the chocolate cake mom baked and froze. He also set out half of the loaves of bread. He set them on the counter to defrost and then began to pack three hiking backpacks. When he finished the backpacks weighed about thirty pounds each. Dad got me up around eight for coffee and some wonderful, fresh, cinnamon rolls Al baked that morning. They were so good, I pigged out and had three. The four men sat and talked about us taking off an hour or so after lunch. Al and Frank had lunch already prepared for us.

“You guys didn’t have to go to that trouble,” Dad said to Al and Frank.

“Hesh up, Cowboy!” Frank spoke sternly to my dad, “We fixed it last night before we went to bed, and it was ready this morning. You men need a big, heavy meal before you start up to the gorge. It’s not so long a hike you can’t make it in about three, maybe four hours, but you have no idea when your next meal might come, so you need the food. What kind of friends would let you wander off into the wilderness half starved. ‘Sides, that handsome young son of yours is still a growing boy. He burns a lot of calories. He needs a lot of food!” he added. Dad laughed and hugged both men. He was obviously enjoying being reunited with his old friends.

In their conversation, Al and Frank looked at me in my new levis and flannel shirt and raised an eyebrow. “Grub, you might wanna’ change into the oldest clothes you brought along. Just take a tip from two old back packers, after you’ve hiked up to the gorge and back, you won’t wanna’ take them home with you,” Al told me. Dad and Big Beryl agreed with him. I looked at dad and noticed he had on old faded Wranglers, one of his oldest flannel shirts, and an old rag-tag jacket mother begged him to throw away for years. Big Beryl was dressed similarly. I went in an found my old work clothes I kept in the motor-coach in case dad and I needed to do some emergency repairs. They were pretty worn and tattered in a few places, but I felt they might work. When I returned to the living area, the men approved my change of clothes.

Later we went up to the lodge for another meal with Al and Frank. They weren’t kidding about a heavy meal. They served a big salad. You could take as much as you wanted and a one dish stew with everything you could imagine in it. Al called it Frank’s Slumgullion Stew. It had chicken, beef, pork, and fresh salmon mixed with all kinds of complimentary vegetables. It was wonderful. It certainly was filling. During lunch dad talked with Al and Frank about the fresh fruit Rosey sent and how they were going to get it to the family. By this time I figured out that “the family” meant the Bigfoot.

“Leave it with us. We’ll load it on old Bessie May Mucho and hike up tomorrow morning. It’s getting late in the season. We ain’t got but one cabin rented, and they’re away on a river rafting expedition; won’t be back ‘til next Thursday. The old girl needs some exercise anyway. Hell, all she does is hang around here and gets fat from everyone feeding her treats. She ain’t afraid of the folks so she’ll be just fine,” said Al.

“She wouldn’t be s’damn fat if you stopped those early morning coffee klatches with her and feeding her sticky buns,” Frank chastised Al. They all laughed.

“Well, at least someone around here appreciates my sticky buns. After all, love is were you find it, Darlin,’” Al said and grinned at his mate. My dad and Beryl fell out laughing at the men’s exchange.

“I appreciate your sticky buns, Sweetie,” Frank raised an eyebrow, winked at Al and made him blush. We all laughed. It was obvious they loved each other very much.

“Who’s Bessie May Mucho?” I asked.

“She’s a wild ass what drifted into our place one day and decided it was a nice place to call home – what, Frank – about fifteen years ago?" Al asked his mate.

“More like twenty. Hell, she was here when Jess was stay’n with us. Right, Jessie?” Frank asked my dad and he nodded in agreement, “and that’s been over twenty years. It was Jessie what talked her into staying. Now, we can’t beat her off with a stick,” Frank lamented.  

“I didn’t have to do too much talking. You guys provided everything she needed. Hell, why do you think I hung around for s’damn long?” Dad asked. Al and Frank got a big laugh out of that.

“I guess you’re right, Hon,” Al spoke to Frank, “Damn! Where has the  time gone. It seems like yesterday in my mind. Anyway, Grub, she’s more of a pet than a pack animal. She’s like a faithful old dog. We’ve never put a bit or bridle on her; not even a rope around her neck. We just pack her up, and she knows to follow us. We take her with us occasionally when we want to go back packing. If we don’t, she gets so damn fat we’ve considered making her a poster child for Jenny Craig.” Everyone fell out laughing at Al.  
        
* * * * * * *
Rites Of Passage ~ “When I was a child, I thought as a child and spoke as a child. When I became a man, I set aside my childish ways.”

We were a little late getting on the trail to the gorge. I was stuffed. I never should’ve had that second helping of apple cobbler with fresh, homemade, vanilla ice cream, but damn it was so good. If Al and Frank fed my dad like that all the time no wonder he stayed around for a while. I’d give it serious consideration myself.
 
The backpacks dad made up for us were heavy but not overly so. For three or four hours up a pretty well traveled path it shouldn’t be a problem. Dad and I hiked with heavier packs. The final addition was two plastic containers for each of us. One was more of Frank’s delicious stew, and the other was more apple cobbler. We’d been on the trail for about an hour, and I thought I saw something move in the trees just to the left of my vision. I didn’t turn my head, but centered my attention on my peripheral vision – there it was again.

“Mr. Beryl, I keep seeing something out of the corner of my eye moving in the trees about fifty yards to my left,” I said to him.

Big Beryl chuckled. “Oh, yeah. We’re being followed; have been since we hit the trail. They wouldn’t let nothing happening to us. How many have you seen, Son?” Big Beryl asked.

“Only the one, sir, and it was quick. Kind of like a fleeting shadow,” I replied.

“There’s at least five I've counted,” he said.  

“Six,” I heard dad interrupt Big Beryl, “three to our left and three on our right.”

“Why don’t they just come down to us on the trail?” I asked.

“It’s not the way they do things, Son,” Dad explained, “As big as some of them are, they’re very shy, and they have good reasons to be. They probably would if it was just Beryl and me, but remember, I ain’t been here in over twenty years, and you’re new to them. They’re sizing both of us up. I might have changed in twenty years. They don't know. They's just exercising caution. Just don’t be afraid, Grub, you couldn’t be safer if you were with your mother.”
 
“Hell, it ain’t mom I’m worried about, Dad. Of course I’d feel safe with her. She’s a tigress,” I said and laughed. Dad and Beryl agreed.

After the second hour, I was beginning to feel the weight of the backpack, but I didn’t complain. We seemed to be making good time, but I didn’t ask how much further it would be. I didn’t want to give dad the impression I was getting tired. I wasn’t. I was thoroughly enjoying myself, and the country was beautiful. I caught a couple more glimpses of some movement of something reddish-brown in color on my right and again on my left.

The trail kept winding up into the mountains and the higher the elevation the harder it was to breathe. We took several breaks, and I was glad Al was thoughtful enough to give us his care packages of stew and cobbler. I decided to have a bit of both with some much needed water. Dad and Big Beryl did the same. Al and Frank were right. Trying this hike on an empty stomach wasn’t a cool idea. While we were sitting and eating dad kept giving me directions where to look.

“Don’t try to look right at them,” he advised me, “use your peripheral vision. Their vision is much better than ours, and they can see where your eyes are looking. They won’t make a move if they think you’re looking in their direction. Now, check out about a hundred yards directly in front of you at your ten o’clock position,” dad said.

I kept eating looking down into my food, and sure enough I saw almost a full shot of a humanoid creature move in the brush next to a large tree.

“See it?” asked Big Beryl.

“Yes, sir, first full shot I got of one. What a magnificent creature,” I said quietly and continued to eat my stew. Dad and Beryl laughed, obviously glad I was enthralled by the experience. “I’ve heard they’re sometime called 'skunk ape.' Is that awful smell coming from them?” I asked the two men who proceeded to laugh at my question.

“That’s them, all right,” Big Beryl replied and laughed, “They use their smell as a defense against large predators like wolves, bears, and cougars; sort of like a skunk would use its spray to keep a larger animal from attacking. I’ve seen Grizzlies run from them because of their smell. They communicate and interrelate through odor. They repel us by their odor and attract others of their kind the same way. It’s the way they mark their territories. If they bond with a human, they expect him to take on their scent. It’s part of their culture and rituals. To become a part of them you must smell like them. Don’t worry, Grub, you never get used to it, but it bothers you less the more you’re around them. Now you can appreciate why Al advised you to wear old clothing. One thing they definitely have in common with a skunk is, once you get their smell on you, there’s no getting it out of your clothes. I don’t care how many times you wash them or with what brand of soap, you will never get the tell-tale odor of Sasquatch out of them.”

“For all that, they are very modest,” my dad continued, “Their hair covers their bodies and private parts so they don’t have to be afraid of exposing themselves. The first time they saw Beryl and I bathing naked in the river they turned away in shame and embarrassment,” Dad said and laughed as he reminded Beryl of the incident.

We finished our snack, loaded back up, and hit the trail again. I hardly ate any of my stew and just a few bites of my cobbler. I thought I’d save the rest for an emergency. I noticed dad and Big Beryl did the same. It was just the right amount of rest we needed and with renewed vigor we made good time. It took us a little over three and a half hours to crest the summit of the gorge. Dad and Big Beryl held back as they let me take the lead to the summit. I almost ran the last few feet and what I saw before me took my breath away. “My God in heaven!” I exclaimed. It was all I could get out and I heard my dad and Beryl chuckling behind me. “How could any man see this and not wonder if there ain't something more about the universe we don't understand? Dad, Mr. Beryl, – thanks for bringing me here. This is truly a once in a lifetime experience.”

Dad walked up beside me, put his arm around my shoulder, and pulled me close to him. He nuzzled me behind my ear with his bushy mustache and looked out over the vast expanse with me. “It’s something I always wanted to share with you even before you were born. I’m glad we took this opportunity to come up here. I know I don’t tell you very often, Grub, certainly not often enough, but now seems like as good a time as any to tell you I love you, and I’m proud of you, Son,” Dad said softly.

“You know I love you, Dad, and I’ll always be here for you,” I replied.

“I know that, Son. That’s part of why I love you. You’ve never given me a moments doubt you love me. If it weren’t for your love, your sister, and your mother's love, I never would’ve made it through the dark times. My family's love sustained me and made me realize life is two-fold. The bad and the good. My family’s goodness has made the trip worth while.”

I guess I was overwhelmed buy the beauty and love of the moment because my eyes started leaking. The next thing I knew dad had his arms around me holding me, and we were both shedding a few tears. It was one of the most powerful moments I ever shared with my dad. There would be several more before our trip was over.

* * * * * * *
Oh, Brother, wherefore art thou?

“Little help over here!” Big Beryl demanded of us. He took off his backpack and was busy gathering wood for a fire. There was a big, round, rock fire-pit which was left by other hikers who built it many years ago. There was even a concrete picnic table with concrete benches on either side. It was hard for me to imagine hauling enough concrete all the way up here for a picnic table but someone did. Dad and I took off our backpacks and I started to help Beryl gather wood. Pretty soon we had a good pile, and Beryl started a small fire. It was getting late in the afternoon and the sun was just before setting.

Meanwhile, dad unpacked some things from the backpacks. He brought along mom’s cake and was gently unwrapping it. He carefully cut it into small pieces and left it sitting on the end of the table. Then he started manufacturing peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches. Beryl and I joined him to set up an assembly line operation and before long we made thirty sandwiches and piled up along the front side of the table. Dad packed two jars of peanut butter and one jar of jelly in each backpack. He included two loaves of bread in each backpack as well. When we finished we had a little over fifty sandwiches prepared. Dad was pleased. Then he brought out several pieces of fruit and placed them on the other end of the table. Bananas, apples, pears, grapes, oranges, plums, and a box of fresh strawberries. The table looked like Belshazzar’s feast. Then he covered the whole thing with an old sheet he’d borrowed from Al and Frank.

Dad always carried with him a hip flash of Southern Comfort. He would laugh and tell everyone it was medicinal. He got laughed at a lot, too. As the sun began to set in the West the colors of the canyon and mountains took on an entirely new perspective. It was like watching a graphics art show on T.V., but it was right in front of me. It could be smelled, felt, and touched. It touched me in return. God must have known we were coming because he made that particular sunset a memorable one. All the colors of the rainbow and then some were represented in the vast panoply of nature. A phrase kept running through my head, “God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.” Surely, at that moment, in the continuum of time and space, in this place, all was right with the world. I was only to appreciate that phrase more as the evening wore on.

Dad got out his hip flask, took a pull on it and passed it to Beryl. Big Beryl took his pull from the flask and handed it to me. I handed it back to my dad.

“Naw, you’re a man now, Son. Time you joined the men. Take yourself a good swallow of comfort. I have a feeling you’re going to need it,” dad said with mischief in his voice. Beryl was sitting next to me and couldn’t stop laughing. Dad smiled as I took a goodly pull from the flask and made an awful face. It was sweet and had a good taste, but my God, it burned all the way down. I swore my damn toenails curled back on themselves. Whew!

“Holy crap, Dad,” I declared as I shook my head, “You’re right. It has to be medicinal. What don’t kill me’s gotta’ cure me, right?” I asked. Dad and Beryl got a good laugh out of that. I will have to say it did mellow me out a bit, and my dad was right again. It was probably just what I needed for what was to come.

After the sun went down we sat on a huge log in front of the fire talking softly about nothing in particular; of nothing in particular at all. I thought every now and then I could catch a glimpse of some movement, but I couldn’t be sure. All I knew was the smell was becoming overpowering. It was getting stronger by the minute. Somehow though, it wasn’t as repulsive as it was the first time I got a whiff of it. It reminded me of the time our dog got sprayed by a skunk. It became my job to bath him in tomato juice, and then, a good hot pine-sol bath. He stunk like a skunk, and in turn, I got it all over me. After a while it wasn’t so bad. It still stunk to high heaven, but it must have burned out certain olfactory nerves in my nose because in time it became less difficult to bear. However, for months afterwards, Barney still had the faint lingering odor of skunk musk.

“Here, Sprout,” Dad handed me his hip flask one more time, “take another good pull,” he said. I did and handed it back to him in anguish. He took another and handed it to Big Beryl. Beryl took a hit and past it back to dad.

“‘Bout time to start the evening festivities, Jess?” Beryl stretched, and yawned like it was the most natural thing in the world to ask.

“Yeah, I think so, old friend. I want to try something first. I wonder if he’ll remember," Dad said quietly.

“Are you kidding?” Beryl challenged my dad with a smile.

Dad leaned back and started to whistle in loud, pure tones. Dad was a great whistler and had perfect intonation. He started whistling, “On top of old smokey, all covered with snow. . .” and stopped. He waited. Nothing. Then he tried again, “On top of old smokey, all covered with snow. . . ” and stopped. This time from the trees came a perfectly intoned, whistled response, “I lost my true lover from courting to slow.” I was shattered. No one told me they could whistle and in perfect tune. Dad rose slowly from the log where we were setting.

“Grub?” he spoke softly as a question into the forest trees as if the name was sacred to him. I thought he was talking to me, but I caught big Beryl’s eye and saw him shake his head. Less than ten feet from us appeared a huge creature about eight and a half feet tall. It was almost like he appeared out of no where. Suddenly he was right there before us. I was stunned not only by his size but his beauty. He had the most expressive golden eyes, and I was sure I saw them glisten with moisture. He slowly raised his huge arms, and opened them to my dad. Dad didn’t hesitate and was in the huge creature’s arms in a second. I watched as my dad cried like a baby in the big creature’s arms. It stroked my dad’s head and sang to him in a deep rumbling tone, which, for lack of a better description, was in tune with the human soul. You didn’t need words to know, he was singing comfort and welcome to my dad.

I began to see more and more of the creatures appear. I was almost overwhelmed. There must have been twenty-five or thirty of them. Huge male adults, females and young. Some of the young were not more than three to five feet tall and stayed behind their adult parents. There was one huge male almost a head taller than the one dad called ‘Grub.’ He was massive and enormous. He had to be ten feet tall and was huge all over. Dad finally pulled away from the big creature and tickled him on his belly. It laughed. My God, it laughed. It sounded for all the world like human laughter.

“My God, look at you!” My dad exclaimed and spoke to the big creature, “You’re huge! You are your dad’s son all right,” he said. The big creature had a big, shy smile on his face. Dad turned to me and motioned with his hand for me to join him. “Come here, Son. I want you to meet your brother and namesake, Grub. I want you to meet my other son, Grub,” Dad said.

I looked into the big creatures eyes and could only see deep affection. He gently took my hand and pulled me into him. I threw my arms around him and almost wet my pants. (They probably would’ve loved that.) I couldn’t imagine seeing one of these illusive creatures, and now here I was embracing one in what had to be a loving gesture. “Me, Grub,” It softly spoke to me. Oh, shit! No one told me they could speak either. I almost shit my pants right there.

“Me, Grub, too,” I told him softly and hung on for dear life as I felt it ever so gently caress my hair and head. I couldn’t have gotten away if I wanted to, but the funny thing was, as fast as my heart was beating, I didn’t want to get away. How many folks ever get to see a Bigfoot, let alone be embraced by one? He stank like a cesspool, but at that point my other senses were over-riding my negative olfactory response.

Holy smokes, my heart was pounding a mile a minute in excitement, and then, I not only heard but felt his song to me from the bottom of his soul into mine. He rumbled on and sang to me as he caressed and held me until I could feel my heart begin to stop racing. Finally, I could feel his heart beating in perfect sync with mine. Our hearts literally beat as one.

A sense of awe and calm came over me I can’t put into words. It was remarkable to say the least. It was one of the most wonderful and certainly one of the most powerful experiences of my life. It changed my life right then and there. I grew up in that big creatures arms. In the arms of my beloved brother whom I never met before, I saw a vision. I saw a vision of what I must do with my life. There was no room for doubt.

Then I heard him say, “Grub, love little brother, Grub.”

Without hesitation I replied, “I love my big bother, Grub, too.” Then I lost it. I was so touched by his generosity of spirit I started crying, and once again he sang his song of comfort and welcome to me. I couldn’t let go I was so moved and touched. Finally, I felt my dad’s hand on my shoulder, and Grub released me into his arms.

I cried in my dad’s arms. He chuckled and comforted me. “There’s more of the family for you to meet,” Dad said. Grub stepped aside, and I got a good look at the monster behind him. One look in his eyes told me he wasn’t a monster at all but a highly intelligent, sensitive creature capable of great love.

Dad addressed the huge Sasquatch. “Tank, I promised you, one day I would bring my son to give to you so we might share both. This is my son. He carries my name, but I call him Grub after our other son. I would only share him with you if I was sure he has a faithful spirit. He is strong and brave. I'm proud of him, and feel he's worthy to be your son. He is good in his heart, and has no fear,” Dad told the huge beast before me.

The giant creature opened his arms to me, and I went to embrace him. Just before I did I watched one tear rolled down the fur on his face. I spoke to him. “Grub proud to be Tank’s son,” I said. He must have understood every word because he held me tighter and petted me all the more. Then as his son did, he sang to me. It was the most relaxing feeling that came over me. He didn’t bother with words. He didn’t have to. He went straight for my heart and sang his song to my soul. I lost it again, and started crying when I heard him rumble in a deep bass voice. I held him tighter.

“Son, Grub, easy to see. Look like other dad,” he said. I realized he was telling me he thought I was good looking. I don’t know how long we stood there, but I was in no hurry to part company. I never felt safer in my life than in Grub or Tank’s arms. I felt either would lay down their lives before they hurt me or allowed me to be hurt.  Tank was big Grub’s father, and now he was my other dad. How lucky can one kid get? I already had a wonderful man for my natural father, and now I had a being, a giant creature, my genetic cousin, for my second dad.

My dad knew what he was doing. He brought me on this trip knowing this was the end of my childhood, and now was my time to accept my role of responsibility as an adult. What better way than to introduce me to his extended family. I could only wish he did it sooner. I tried to imagine growing up amidst such wonderful, loving creatures. As the evening went on, I was introduced to Tank’s mate, Dora. They are monogamous and mate for life. I met Tank’s second in the family. His name was Hogan. Dad named him after Hulk Hogan because he was big and always preening himself. I meet Sally, Grub’s sister, and several other grown children. They all shyly took my hand, but didn’t embrace me. There were thirty-two in all.

Dad moved to the table and removed the cloth. There were sighs from the folks. He indicated for them to help themselves. I thought it would be mayhem, but it wasn’t. They were very orderly, and only took as much as they could carry in their hands. After everyone went through the line there was still food left, and dad offered anyone who wanted more to help themselves. Tank said something to the young ones, and they were the first in line for more. Dad and Big Beryl gave them anything they wanted until it was all gone. I was amazed. I thought there might be in-fighting, pushing, and shoving, and hoarding of the goodies. There was nothing like that. The older shared with the younger, and siblings shared with each other. Mom’s cake was like gold to them. Even though dad tried to slice as many pieces as he could it’s hard to make thirty-two pieces out of an average size cake. It didn’t seem to bother them. They seemed grateful for the treat, and shared even the smallest morsels with each other so they all got a taste.

Dad told Tank and Dora that Martha, his wife, made the cake and sent it to them. Tank wanted to know if I was the child she was carrying when they visited many years ago. Dad pulled out his wallet, and showed them my sister’s picture. Everyone had to see and oohed and aahed over a photo of my mom and sister. They were very careful with it, and returned it to my dad with reverence. I was becoming enchanted by these creatures. Tank would have nothing but I sit next to him. I did, even though his smell was enough to gag a maggot. However, to my credit I was getting more use to it.  

I noticed they would sit well away from the fire. Later, dad told me they’re afraid of fire because of the destruction they experience from natural fires. They haven’t yet learned fire can be controlled for their warmth and protection. Dad isn’t real sure how much they should be taught about our ways. They seem to be doing just fine without our help.

I had to laugh when I brought Tank and Dora a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Dora slowly ate hers, but Tank put the entire sandwich in his mouth as if it were a cookie. He really enjoyed it. It seems peanut butter is one of their favorite of our foods. It was funny to watch him eat it because it would stick to the roof of his mouth, and he would make funny faces trying to get it off with his tongue. He reminded me of our dog Barney when I gave him a taste of peanut butter. It would stick to the roof of his mouth, and he would lick and lick to get it off.

The young ones played around the outer perimeters of the group, and once in a while an adult would scold one. It would immediately stop its play and go to its parent. From time to time Tank put his big arm around me and pulled me close to him. It was hard to imagine a creature as big as Tank could be so gentle and show genuine affection. I was amazed by the whole evening. Dad came and set beside me to talk. “What do you think of your new family, Son?” he asked and smiled.

“I couldn't be more pleased. I couldn’t wish for better, Dad. I’m truly overwhelmed and happy. These folks are not at all what I might have imagined them to be. The name you gave them as “peaceful” certainly is apt. I’ve never felt such love from anyone anywhere except from my immediate family,” I replied.

“I hoped you would like them. I fell in love with them many years ago, and I’m sad I didn’t make a greater effort to return more times to see them; however, I’ve had a running battle within myself over whether it’s a good or bad thing to intermingle with them. Will they learn bad things from us? If we intermingle too much, will it make them less shy and contribute to their downfall? Beryl has had more contact with them over the years than I have. Al and Frank come to visit with them regularly, but won’t allow them to come around the campgrounds or lodge during tourist season for their own safety.

“During the off season, during the winter, they come to Al and Frank’s back door and knock if they really need something. Al and Frank have saved several of their lives when they were desperate and didn’t know what to do. During the harshest winters they’ve provided them with food. There’s a number of people who help them out. Rosey and a half dozen folks in Centerville help them from time to time. They usually don’t get that far south. Once in a while, during the winter, Rosey and a couple of folks from Centerville will drive up with a truck load of food.

There’s a retired veterinarian who lives not far from Al and Frank, and they got him involved a number of years ago. He stays at the lodge regularly during the winter just to be available for them if they need him. You should hear the funny story Frank tells of the Vet when they first ask him to doctor a Sasquatch. All the while he’s explaining to Al and Frank the inconceivable stupidity of such a notion that there could be the slightest thread of truth to the Bigfoot legends, Tank, Dora, Grub, and his two sisters quietly slipped into the room and were standing behind him. He sniffed the air and asked Al and Frank, “What’s that awful smell? You guy’s cesspool back up?” Al and Frank were about to burst from held back laughter, and indicated for him to turn around. He turned around and fainted. When they brought him to, he couldn’t believe they were still there.

“Oh, my God! Oh, my God! They’re real!” was all he could say. After he finally calmed down, he took care of the child with no problem. He was a professional, and that was his job. Fortunately, he takes his job seriously. The family love and cherish Al, Frank, and the Vet. His name is J. B. Brown and he’s a good man. He was the one who came up with the technical name for them after a conversation with Beryl and I over dinner one evening.

“How did you get involved with them, Dad?” I asked.

“Well, that’s one of the stories of my past I been meaning to tell you. I was afraid if I told you without proof you'd always be suspect I might be blowing smoke up your ass. I suppose now is as good a time as any, because if I leave anything out or don’t tell it right, I’m sure I’ll be corrected,” he said, laughed, and winked at Big Grub.

* * * * * * *
Jessie’s Story ~

“We are but sojourners here for a while. Where we pass, time will erase our footprints, but good or bad, nothing may stop the momentum of our actions. We make the future happen. The choices are ours.”~ Buckminster Fuller
    
“When I returned from Nam I didn’t fit in anywhere. I couldn’t keep a regular nine to five job. I was a mess. The government didn’t offer any counseling for returning vets. They would if you went to VA and actually requested it, but most didn’t know they had the option and stayed as far away from anything that smacked of government or military as possible. I thought I could outrun the pain of what I went through in Nam, but I couldn’t. I saw horrors no man should ever have to live through, Son. I was a Navy field corpsman attached to the first cavalry division, and I lived every day in fear and horror. I tried to do the best I could for the wounded, but there were just too damn many – we had so little time.

"I got separated from my outfit twice behind enemy lines because I stayed behind after the last evac chopper left the area. Later, I’ll tell you some of the things I went through. I never wanted to tell you when you were younger, because it ain’t something a kid needs to grow up with. I’ve sheltered you from it, because I wanted you to grow up without the thoughts of what I went through. Every man wants a better life for his children. You grew up to be a fine young man, of whom, I’m very proud. I meant what I said to Tank about you. Now, I feel you can handle a little of what I’ve kept secret from you all these years.

"The story of my involvement with this family is a direct result of my years in Nam. I returned, and was riding with Beryl and his extended biker family. We rode up to this area several times, and stayed with Al and Frank. We helped them with any large project they might have and stayed in the lodge. Sometimes there was as many as fifteen or twenty of us. Over a period of several summers we built all but three of the cabins. We never hung around after August because the cold weather set in, and it wasn’t much fun riding a bike, especially with snow on the ground.

"One August, somewhat like this, I wasn’t in the mood to go South with the family. I asked Al and Frank if I could stay the winter with them and help out around the place. They were thrilled to have me, and it worked out great. Never ate better in my life nor had better companions than Al and Frank. They treated me with respect, gave me my privacy, and I gave them theirs. Didn’t mean we couldn’t laugh and giggle at some of their crazy antics.

"Al and Frank told me about the family, but I didn’t believe them. Even though they were serious, I thought they were bullshit’n me. I will have to say, ever’ now and then, I saw something move through the woods I couldn’t quite make out or understand. Anyway, in the spring of that year I’d been to Centerville for the weekend on my bike. I spent most of my time at Rosey’s having a good time. I made it a rule never to ride my bike unless I was stone-cold sober. I’d seen too many bikers get wiped out because they had too much to drink, and their reaction time was impaired.

"I left Rosey’s on a Sunday afternoon, and noticed clouds gathering in the North. I kept a pretty close eye on the weather forecast, but this seemed to be a freak storm that just came out of nowhere. As you know, it’s about an hour’s ride to Al and Frank’s, so I began to pick up speed. The last thing I wanted was to be caught and have to ride through some hellacious storm. I always carried my rain gear in my saddle bags, but I didn’t want to stop long enough to get it out. I really wanted to beat the storm. Well, to make a long story shorter, I didn’t beat the storm, and about five miles from the turn off to their place the bottom dropped out. It began raining, sleeting, and hailing all at the same time. I mean, it was raining so hard I could barely see beyond my handle bars.

"It was the most scared I’d ever been on my bike. The rain started mixing with the sleet and hail to coat the back top with ice, and it became more difficult to handle the bike. I kept thinking if I just hung in there, the turn off to their place would soon appear. The next thing I knew my back wheel was trying to go faster than my front, and I went into a skid. I hit the shoulder of the road, and went ass over teakettle down the embankment into the brush and slammed into a tree. It broke both my legs, my right arm, and a branch from a bush somehow got stuck into my side. I was bleeding pretty bad from the wound.

"I passed out, and didn’t come to until it started to lightly rain again. I couldn’t move, but started to cry out for help. It suddenly struck me as funny, because there wasn’t anyone for miles around to hear me, and yet, here I was calling for help. ‘Who was I calling to?’ I thought. I lay there and started to cry in frustration. I was angry at myself for not planning things better. I could’ve stayed over at Rosey’s and started out later. Rosey always had a room for me if I wanted. She never required anything of me but my friendship and a little help around the place.

"I began to think about dying and how it was gonna’ feel. I thought how ironic it was, I survived four years of absolute Hell in Nam, got shot up, and sent home; yet, here I was, about to die in a ditch. I kept crying out until it began to get dark. I knew when it got dark, and started getting colder, I would die of hyperthermia. I got to thinking that wouldn’t be so bad. I’d just get sleepy, go to sleep and die; an easy enough way to go. It was certainly a better way to go surrounded by the peacefulness and beauty of nature than on a battlefield in Nam. I was beginning to resign myself to the idea, and started to look forward to it. I convinced myself I was beginning to feel drowsy.  

"That’s when I got a whiff of the most awful smell. It kept getting closer and closer. I wasn’t afraid, but I could hear something moving in the forest. I cried out again hoping it was a hunter or a kid going through the woods. There was no response, and I started to cry again. I closed my eyes, but when I opened them I was staring into two of the most beautiful, reddish, golden eyes I’d ever seen, but my God, they were in the head of a monster. I jumped and cried out from the pain. He moved back. Then I laughed, because here I was face to face with a Bigfoot, and I couldn’t move. Suddenly, he laughed, too. My fear of him vanished. I looked him in the eyes and spoke to him. “Damn, you’re bigger than a Sherman tank,” I told him, ”Well, Tank, old fellow, if you’re gonna’ kill me, do it quickly and get it over with. Don’t let me lie here and suffer, Big Guy.”

"He leaned over me again, and I could’ve sworn I heard him say, “Tank, no kill!” With that he picked me up, and started off through the woods carrying me. The pain was unbearable, and I wished several times he would just kill me. He didn’t. I passed out from loss of blood and the pain. He carried me to Al and Frank’s front porch, and let out a scream that immediately got Al and Frank’s attention. They came running out of the lodge only to find me lying on their porch broken and bleeding. They put me in the back of their Bronco, and rushed me to the small hospital in the larger town twenty miles North of here.

"The doctor’s didn’t know how I made it through. I lost so much blood they didn’t think I’d live through the night. They patched me up, and kept me doped up for several days. While I was in my haze, I remembered being carried through the woods. I would open my eyes and see Tank’s eyes looking down at me with all the concern of a parent for a small child. I could remember my ear pressed against his foul smelling chest and hearing his big heart pumping overtime as he hurried through the woods. I could remember his song to me as he ran. It needed no words. As I lay in his huge arms, I realized his song was sustaining me. I wanted to die and leave my body, but he wouldn’t let me. He kept me inside my body. He comforted me with his song, and the further we went the less pain I felt. It was as if he anesthetized my entire body with his song. Well, he sang to you tonight, and Grub sang to you. I know you understand what I’m talking about,” Dad said.

“I do, Dad. I understand completely. It was the most remarkable experience of my life,” I replied.

“I’ve told people, but few believe me. Unless you’ve experienced it, it’s hard to believe. I don’t know whether I’d believe a story like mine if I heard it from a stranger. They asked me in the hospital how I came to be on Al and Frank’s front porch, and why I smelled so bad. Did I fall into a sewer? I laughed and told them they wouldn’t believe me if I told them. Surprisingly, several folks did believe me. The doctors didn’t, but two of the nurses were American Indians from a local tribe. They believed me because they knew of the Sasquatch and knew of their unique odor. They were the ones who cleaned me. Al and Frank believed me because they saw Tank and his family many times. They saw Tank running away into the trees when they found me on the porch.

"After I got out of the hospital Beryl rode up to be with me and help Al and Frank take care of me. He went out several times with Al and Frank trying to find my bike. They followed Beryl in their truck as he walked along the side of the road looking into the forest for any sign of it. They never found a thing until one afternoon Beryl was returning from Rosey’s, and saw a giant, ape-like man standing in the middle of the road. Beryl slammed on his brakes, and watched as the creature ran down the embankment. He stopped his bike and watched as he saw the big fellow move a lot of brush and undergrowth to reveal my bike. They hid my bike for me.

"Beryl rushed home to tell Al and Frank, and couldn’t get his story out fast enough. They jumped in the truck, returned to the spot, and managed to wrestle my bike to the road. It was hardly damaged, and Beryl started it right up. He followed Al and Frank back to the lodge, and parked my bike in their shed. Not only did Tank save my life, he hid my bike so no one would find it. Now, any creature, no matter how big, how bad he appears, or how foul he smells will do that for some other creature he doesn’t know, can’t be all bad. He certainly deserved my gratitude and appreciation, perhaps even my affection,” Dad said.

“Mine, too, Dad, otherwise I wouldn’t be here right now,” I replied.

Tank leaned over to me and spoke softly. “Dad, talk too much,” he said. Tank made a joke. I could see the mischief in his eyes as I laughed. My dad almost fell off the log laughing. Then Tank laughed and held me tighter. And you know what? I don’t know if I was getting use to him, but Tank didn’t smell so bad anymore.

“They understand a lot more than we give them credit for, Son. I have a feeling Tank and Grub have learned a lot of our words over the last twenty years. I have to be more careful with my words. However, everything I’ve told you is the truth,” Dad said.

Tank nodded his big head and added, “Truth. Jess tell truth to my son, Little Grub,” he said in his deep voice. I almost lost it when Tank called me his son. Dad just beamed with pride. I could see big Beryl out of the corner of my eye laughing his ass off. He was following every word of our conversation.

Dad continued his story, “Anyway, I ended up spending the next two years or so with Al and Frank. It took me about six months to completely recover, and no two people could’ve been better to me. They did everything, and God love ‘em, I let them. I still love them very much to this day. Beryl came up to visit as often as he could, and we enjoyed his visits. I got to where I could get around and started taking hikes into the woods to build up my strength. I wasn’t the least bit scared anymore. I always had a sense I was being watched over. I always took a light backpack with me on my walks. I’d make a sandwich, carry a bottle of water, and my first aid kit. For years after Nam, I carried a full field kit with me almost everywhere I went, especially when I went hiking. It became my security blanket.

"As you know, I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and every other sandwich I’d take with me was peanut butter and jelly. One afternoon I stopped to have my sandwich and some water. I laid my sandwich down on a log, ‘cause I had to take a leak. When I finished, I turned around, and my sandwich was gone. I looked everywhere for it, but I couldn’t find it. I never heard a footstep or the scurrying of any critter what might have taken it. However, there was a faint lingering odor of Sasquatch in the air. Several days later the same damn thing happened. I would turn my back for a couple of minutes, and my peanut butter sandwich would be gone. I knew it couldn’t be a small critter, it would leave tracks, or I would hear it. Still I would smell the lingering odor of Sasquatch. My suspicions were aroused. After it happened the third time I decided, to Hell with it, I’d just pack a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I did that for weeks, and every damn time the sandwich would be gone. Finally, one day I just set it on the log next to me, and opened mine to eat. I spoke in a normal tone of voice and said, “All right, I got your sandwich waiting for you, here, but if you want it you have to come sit beside me and eat it.”

"I started eating my sandwich, and turned to see a small Sasquatch about four feet tall slowly approaching. I smiled at him, picked up the sandwich, and handed it to him. I thought he’d bolt for the bushes to eat it, but he didn’t. He came around, joined me on the log, and ate his sandwich with me. He was really grubby, even by Sasquatch standards, so I named him Grub. That went on for a couple of months. As time went by, he would sometimes join me on my walks. Once in a while, he scared the crap out of me, he'd smile real big, and I'd just laugh. It was like he would appear out of nowhere and then follow me down the trail like a puppy. We would stop, have our sandwich, and I would talk to him. He seemed to listen, but of course, never responded. I didn’t think he could. I didn’t know they were capable of speech as we know it. Many times I would pack some fruit for him and me. He especially liked apples and bananas. I had to show him how to peal a banana. He never saw one before. I began to call him ‘Grub,’ and he would respond to his name.

"I told Al and Frank about my new friend, and they were astounded. I told Beryl, and he was amazed. Beryl knew me well enough to know I wouldn’t lie to him. One day I asked Beryl if he wanted to take a hike with me. He agreed, and we set out on the trail. I thought we wouldn’t see Grub ‘cause Beryl was with me, but I packed an extra sandwich and a piece of fruit just in case. Sure enough, after we were on the trail for a mile or two, out pops Grub from behind a tree. I introduced him to Beryl. He looked Beryl up and down and decided, if he was a friend of mine, he must be okay. Beryl was amused by it all, and kept giggling like a school boy. He even got Grub and me giggling until we were all laughing.

"We sat down and had our sandwiches and fruit. Grub sat between us. Beryl and I talked like nothing was unusual. What was unusual about it? Two friends were taking a walk in the woods, and were joined by another. The small one was a bit more furry than the two big ones, but what was strange about that? Beryl didn’t want his banana, and gave it to Grub. I thought he’d bolt it down, but he didn’t. He carried it with him until we told him goodbye, and later, I found out he carried it home to his little sister. Beryl joined me for a week, and Grub would meet us in a different place every time. We would greet him like we were really happy to see him, and he’d just smile real big. One afternoon I was telling Beryl the story of my accident and about the huge Sasquatch who saved my life. “Beryl, you wouldn’t believe it,” I told him, “he was ten feet if he was an inch.”

“Sounds like the same fellow who showed me where your bike was. He had to be at least that tall,” Beryl said.

“He looked like a Sherman tank, so I called him ‘Tank.’ He even laughed at me for calling him that,” I told Beryl. He and I were laughing.

Suddenly we heard a voice between us. “Tank, my dad,” Grub said. Beryl looked at me and I looked back. Our mouths dropped open. We had no idea Grub could talk.

“Grub, we didn’t know you could talk. Why haven’t you said something before now?” I asked.

“You talk. Grub listen,” he replied. The perfect squelch from a pint-sized Sasquatch. Beryl and I were so tickled we started laughing and couldn’t stop. We got Grub laughing, and had a great time. That was all we got out of him the rest of the day and for several days after. Beryl and I made a pact we wouldn’t try to draw him into conversation. If he wasn’t comfortable speaking, we wouldn’t try to make him. Besides, he had a way of letting us know exactly what he wanted. He knew he could get anything he wanted out of us, but we didn’t care. Beryl and I fell in love with him. He may have been God’s grubbiest creature, but to us, he was the Creator's finest hour. We couldn’t talk about anything else. About a week later it seemed Grub wanted to talk again. He told me he was glad I got better from my accident, because his dad told him he thought I was a good man. Grub told me it wasn’t Tank who found me. It was him.
 
“Tank is your dad, Grub?” I asked him. He nodded his head.

“Grub find you. Get dad,” he said, like it was common knowledge and no big whoop.

“Well, then, I owe you and your dad my life, Grub, and I want to thank you for that. Would you tell your dad I will be forever in his debt, and I appreciate what he did for me? Tell him I hope to meet him face to face again someday to thank him myself,” I told him.

“Tank, know,” Grub said.

“How could Tank know?” I asked him.

“Tank with Grub all time,” he replied.

“You mean he’s watching and listening to us right now?” I looked at Beryl, and he looked as puzzled as I was.

“Where is he? We can’t see him,” Beryl asked gently.

Grub only responded by pointing to his conical shaped head with one digit. Beryl looked at me and slowly shook his head. I didn’t know if Grub was being cute or evasive. The other thought running through my mine was inconceivable. Beryl saw the look of dismay on my face and grinned. He read my thought, shrugged, and I read his. (Is it so inconceivable they might communicate telepathically?) In a smaller way Beryl and I just did. Is it our vanity that precludes us thinking a creature we first observe as being way behind us on the evolutionary scale might have developed talents we haven’t? Or worse, we once shared the ability, and lost it when we began to develop tools and technology.

Or perhaps the most shattering to our civilization, we lost it when we invented religion. Think about it. Why would you need religion to assuage your fears of death or prepare you for an after life if consciously you were immortal? If you knew, without a doubt, your spirit and memories lived on in your progeny after your physical body runs out of steam, why invent a crutch? In a similar way, isn’t that why we strive to have families, to leave something of ourselves behind; to know our linage will be passed down? In essence we leave something of ourselves behind.  Given, man is an animal, is it mankind’s way of marking the cosmos with his scent?

“He hears your head, and you hear his?” I asked quietly not knowing if I was prepared for the answer. Grub went on eating his apple but nodded his head.

“Can you hear Beryl and Jess, Grub?” I asked what I thought was the next logical question.

“Not try. Jess and Beryl’s head talk too much,” he said almost like the thought disgusted him. He got me again. I was stunned, but Beryl thought that was the funniest come back since Abbott and Costello. He got me and Grub laughing. Then we heard it. We heard Tank’s unmistakable scream. Grub smiled. Beryl and I looked at each other, and there was no doubt in our minds Tank was putting the period at the end of the sentence. He just confirmed what his son, his child, told us.”

“Dad, are you telling me...?”

“Yes, I certainly am. It took Beryl and I time to adjust and understand, believe me, but they proved it to us over and over again. Why do you think they can speak but haven’t bothered to develop language? They don’t need it. Believe it or not they feel sorry for us because we’re so alone in our heads. Tank and Grub sensed that about me from the beginning. They could see, yet unwittingly share what terrors I went through in Nam, and it devastated them. They even ask me onetime, not to think about such terrible things. It made them sad. However, to go one more miraculous step further, if it weren’t for Tank, Grub, and their family, I never would’ve  recovered enough from Nam to have a family of my own, which I suppose, makes them even closer to you family-wise,” Dad said.

Tank reached over and gently rubbed the hair on my dad’s hair with obvious affection. Grub was sitting by big Beryl, but got up and sat down next to my dad. Grub put his arm around him, dad leaned into Grub, and let himself indulge in the affection from his friend. I have never seen my dad more radiant or happy than he was at that moment. He just proved to me Grub knew his friend reached a sore point telling his son about the horrors he lived through; horrors, Tank and Grub already experience all too vividly. This was almost too much for me to take in.

It was like the lonely, troubled, but wonderful man who I grew up knowing as my dad was suddenly being replaced by this awesome figure of a man. A man who lived in several worlds unknown to almost everyone who knew him, and somehow managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat of his despair.

I leaned even closer into tank’s embrace, and felt him take his huge hand and gently caress my head as if to tell me it was all right. This was a story I needed to hear, to know, understand, and appreciate the depths of my dad’s sorrow. My admiration and love for my dad multiplied ten fold in one evening, and I was staggered with the knowledge of what he went through. Dad sighed, leaned back, and relaxed against Grub’s huge chest and continued.

“The only other people we shared our knowledge with was Al and Frank. Fortunately, they believed us and couldn’t wait for our return everyday to hear the latest revelation. Usually, we made them wait because it made for great, entertaining conversation over dinner. The four of us reveled in the thought that we were the only ones who knew these things about our forest brothers. Later we came to find out we weren’t alone, that many others knew, and became as protective or more so than us.

"Beryl stayed with us all that summer. He was as enchanted by our little buddy as I was, but the fall came, and it began to get cold. One Friday afternoon, Beryl told Grub he had to go away. His visit with me had come to an end, winter was coming, he had to go South, but he would be back in the Spring. He would carry Grub’s memory with him in his heart wherever he went. Grub begged Beryl not to go. He didn’t want to let go of his big friend. Beryl talked with him and Grub seemed satisfied with Beryl's promised to return in the Spring. That was the beginning of a long, close friendship that’s still as strong today as it was then. Beryl is the only man I know who can walk out, find these folks within minutes, and carry on a conversation with them. They listen to him, love him, and respect him. They know he would never do anything to harm or betray them, and has proved it many times.

"After Beryl left I continued my hikes into the forest, but it was back to just Grub and me. For the first week I got very little out of my buddy. I didn’t push. I thought if he wanted to talk he would. The following weekend I decided to take a longer walk than usual, and Grub dutifully trudged along. I packed several things I knew he liked. I could tell he was really in a funk. I could feel the sadness coming from him. “You really miss our old friend, Beryl, don’t you?” I asked him. Grub nodded his head. I watched as a tear formed, and rolled down the fur on his face. I instinctively put my arm around him, and pulled him close. That’s all it took, and for all the world, I held any little human boy in my arms who missed his friend. He cried his heart out. It was the first time I ever touched him. I tried to offer him what comfort I could.

“Shuu... it’s okay. He promised he’ll be back to see you again, and he will. He can’t forget you. Why, I’ll bet he’s thinking about you right this minute. You’re very special to him, Grub, and I know you love him, too. You’re all he could talk about. He’ll be back before you know it,” I told him.

"The release of his feeling and sharing them with me seemed to help, and he began to get better after that. He even bought along his little sister a couple of times. She was shy around me at first, but after she shared her brother’s goodies, and found I wouldn’t push her she fit right in. Grub and I would have a good time with her. She was and is a special lady,” Dad said, and waved to Grub’s sister across the way who had two kids of her own.

"That winter was a particularly cold one. I was worried for the family because Grub seemed to be losing weight. I wondered sometimes if what I was giving him was the only food he had for periods of time. He wouldn’t tell me as much, but I could see and expressed my concerns. He never asked for more than what I brought him, but I noticed he began to eat only half his food, and the rest he would carry back to his family. He was sharing with his little sister and mother. I began to make more sandwiches, and give him a paper bag full. I got a letter from Beryl just before Christmas to wish me a happy holiday, with a message inside to read to his little buddy.  I read the letter and Beryl’s words to Grub one afternoon sitting on our favorite log.

"Dear little buddy, Grub. I hope this letter finds you well and happy. I hope your family is doing well this winter. It has been a particularly long and cold one. I don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten you. I told Jessie to read you these words I wrote on this piece of paper. I wanted you to know I miss you and think about you everyday. I think about you every night before I go to sleep. I will be back up there to visit with you as soon as the cold weather is over. I’m an old man. Cold weather and my bones don’t agree with each other. Have faith I will return to see my little buddy then. It isn’t often a man has such a fine young person for a friend. Your loving friend, Beryl.

"Grub was ecstatic Beryl would take his time to sent him a letter. He made me read it to him fifteen times or more, and he would linger over every word. I could tell at the end of our walk that day his heart was full. The winter was cold, but he had the warmth of his friend’s love to hold on to. That was the winter when Bessie May Mucho showed up. After I fed her a couple of times and gave her a warm stall in Al and Frank's big barn to sleep in she began to follow me everywhere. She insisted on accompanying me on every hike. I began to load her up with extra food, and she would trudge up the trail behind me like a puppy dog.

"She and I became great friends, and she got used to Grub and the family. They never seemed to threaten her. I would take all kinds of produce and fruit several times a week. I was spending all the money I saved from Nam, but it was worth it. Then, I got lucky or maybe God heard my prayers. Al and Frank found a group of folks who were more than willing to contribute to our cause. A couple of supermarket managers gave us all their out of date produce and meat products they were going to throw away. By the end of that winter I met Tank and the rest of the family face to face.

"Many times they were waiting for me at the point I usually left the food. I would leave it with Grub so he could make sure scavengers didn’t get it first. Fortunately, we didn’t lose a member of the family from starvation or the cold. They all made it through that terrible winter. By spring, Grub was beginning to pick up weight again, and the rivers were teeming with salmon. The family began to gain back lost weight.

Beryl didn’t get back up to visit until the first week in May that year. I wrote to him several times telling him about our family and new surprises weekly. My letters were carefully coded, so the average person would only read about some man’s regular family. There was never any mention of Bigfoot or Sasquatch, and they were, indeed, becoming more a part of me and Beryl’s extended family.

"It seemed like the winter just wouldn’t let go, and April was the first decent month we’d seen since September. Six months of bitter cold. I never was one for cold weather, and I suppose that’s why, once I moved to the South, I never wanted to return to the cold. Anyway, Beryl returned the first week in May. I swear Grub knew he was coming. Beryl is not one to tell you he’s coming. He arrives, knocks on your door, and will stay for a month. He could move in with us, and I wouldn’t mind. That Sunday the last day in April, over sandwiches, Grub spoke, “Friend Beryl be here tomorrow,” he said and was all excited.

“I haven’t heard from him. How do you know, Grub?” I asked.

“Grub hear him. Beryl near. Grub hear Roe-z,” he said. Come to find out Beryl spent the weekend at Rosey's, and was within Grub’s range, I suppose. Sure enough, just as Grub told me, Beryl came riding up around noon the next day. I was sitting on the porch waiting for him with a cardboard sign: “Welcome back, Big Buddy!” He was laughing his ass off before he even got off his bike.

“Did that little shit tell you I was coming?” he asked raising an eyebrow in suspicion.

“Why else would I be sitting here on the porch waiting for you? If I know him, he’s up there on the trail within ear shot of us right now about to piss his fur,” I replied.

“Good! Might clean him up a bit,” Beryl said and roared with laughter as we embraced and kissed each other on the cheek. Al and Frank came out to greet him, but we didn’t even bother to go into the house. Al handed us a care package, and we headed for the trail. We no sooner went around the bend, out of sight of the lodge, when out pops Grub up the trail a bit. He came running to Beryl as fast as his legs would carry him. Beryl grabbed him up in a hug and swung him around. Grub was giggling and yelling with joy. His buddy had come back to visit. It was one of the most joyful afternoons we ever spent on the mountain.”

“Good day. Beryl my buddy,”added Grub, "Grub little then,” he added.

“Grub still little,” Tank said with a snort. We all roared with laughter. Next to Tank, he was little.  

"Beryl spent almost the whole summer with us, and we got a Hell of a lot of things done for Al and Frank. We would get up at the crack of dawn, and work our asses off ‘til almost noon. Frank would feed us, and we’d lie down for a thirty minute nap. Al would have our care packages fixed, and we’d head out for the trail to visit Grub and the family. That summer the family welcomed Beryl into the family without reserve.

One of Grub’s little cousins, a female, fell off the bank into the river. No one in the family knew how to swim. Maybe because when their fur got wet the weight would drag them under. Beryl jumped in, clothes and all, and pulled her to safety. He was almost too late, but he started mouth to mouth. I ran to help, but by the time I got there she started breathing and threw up most of the water.

"Beryl became a hero to them. They got the idea he breathed his life force into her to make her live again. They thought she came back from the dead. They were partially right, but I explained to them she would’ve died if Beryl didn’t breathe his breath into her. Her lungs were full of water and needed air for her to start living again. I know they understood, because later we watched a young one revive his brother who almost drown. That summer began an ongoing mutual admiration and respect that has lasted between us ‘til this day, but Beryl and I became sloppy in our habits and allowed Grub and the family to let down their guard. It almost cost us Grub’s life.

"There was a real creepy guy staying in one of the cabins at Al and Frank’s. He was all the time dressing up in camo fatigues, taking his thirty-thirty and going into the woods to hunt, but no one ever saw him bring back anything. It was like he was hunting for one specific thing but never seemed to find it. None of us thought much about it, but we warned the family there was a creepy guy staying in a cabin at the lodge and be wary if they saw him. He had a gun and might be dangerous.

"He struck up a conversation one morning with Beryl and me. He asked where we went every afternoon. We told him we hiked up the trail toward the gorge a ways every day for exercise. We told him I was still recovering from my bike accident; the doctors told me to hike to gain strength back in my legs. He asked if he could go along with us sometime, but we sort of shined him on. Looking back, maybe we should’ve just let him tag along and warned the family if he was with us not to show themselves. They were pretty good about that sort of thing. They trusted Beryl and my word about other humans.

"Well, unknown to us he began to follow us, and obviously, he must have seen we established a relationship with a family of Sasquatch. Time passed since we talked with him, and nothing more was ever said. Beryl and I assumed he was going his own way when he figured he wasn’t welcome with us. I even told Beryl we should’ve told him we were a couple like Al and Frank, and we didn’t want to share our privacy. Hell, I knew Beryl wouldn’t have a problem with it,” Dad said, winked at Beryl, and he fell out laughing.

“‘At’s true,” Beryl laughed, “I ain’t into men, but if’n I could’ve prevented what we went through I would’ve sucked your dad’s dick like a new born calf right in front of him,” Beryl said. Big Tank roared over that one.

"That near fatal afternoon we were visiting and having a good time. We brought Bessie up with a load of goodies for them, and it was a time of great fun and joy. I’d never seen the family look better or happier. It was getting late, and we knew Al and Frank would have dinner waiting for us when we got back. We hollered at Bessie who had three young Sasquatch on her back slowly riding them around the area. She was having as much fun as they were. As time went on she became more sociable. They reluctantly crawled off her, and here she came. She was ready to go home to supper and her warm stall. We hiked back down the hill. Beryl and I were in great spirits. We had a wonderful afternoon, and were talking about this and that. We took Bessie to the barn, wiped her down, fed her, and went into the house to shower and clean up for dinner.

"It was dark by the time we sat down to eat with Al and Frank. We were sharing stories of the family and the good time we had. They were always enthralled by our tales and experiences with them. We learned something new almost daily. It was like they became the four of us’s extended family, and it bonded us together. It’s a bond we still share today knowing the four of us were and are a part of something much bigger than the sum of ourselves. We just finished dinner and Al brought in dessert on a tray. He almost dropped it when we heard the most blood curdling scream at the back door. I recognized it immediately as Tank. I would know his yell anywhere. I knew it was him the other night welcoming us back to the mountain.”

Tank squeezed my shoulder again. “Jess right. Jess bring son for Tank. Tank yell for joy,” he said.

“We ran to the back-door and outside. There was Tank with Grub in his arms with a big gaping hole in his right shoulder. The cowardly, little bastard built a camouflage blind weeks earlier, and was watching our every move waiting for an opportunity to shoot Tank. It was his ambition to become the first human to bring a dead Sasquatch back for verification of a new species. He had no idea about their beauty, their intelligence, or their uniqueness. He didn’t care. It was the universal story of greed, fame, and fortune.

"He wanted his fifteen minutes of glory, and didn’t care who or what he hurt to get it. When he finally drew a bead on Tank, Grub heard him in his head, saw the flash of his scope, found him out, saw the gun, and watched as he pulled the trigger. Grub’s brain went into protective mode, and he didn’t think about anything but saving his father. He quickly reacted, jumped up in front of his dad, and took the bullet. It was lodged deep in his shoulder, and it nicked an artery. He already lost a lot of blood. They didn’t know to put pressure on the wound to slow the bleeding.

I had my med kit in my back pack, and hollered for Al to get it for me. We got Grub onto their huge, screened back porch, and laid him on a blanket. I was yelling orders to Frank, Al, and Beryl. They didn’t question, and reacted as quickly as they could. Frank brought a clip-on light with a two hundred watt bulb, and clipped it onto the back of a chair. I couldn’t see the bullet, but I knew it was still in there. It had to come out. I had to sanitize and cauterize the wound to stop the bleeding. Al bought me my kit, and I got out some tools I’d need. Then, I noticed the blood from the wound was slowing. 'My God,' I thought, 'he’s running out of blood.' I have to transfuse him, or he’ll go into cardiac arrest. I took his pulse, and sure enough, it was weak."

“Guys, if I don’t get some blood into him he’ll die,” I told them.

“He can have my blood. I’m “O” neg universal donor,” offered Beryl.

“Yeah, but in whose universe?” I asked. Beryl knew exactly what I meant. Human blood might not be compatible with their blood.

“Do you think I could get Tank to let me take some of his blood?” I asked.

“Are you kidding? For his son?” asked Frank.

“Tank,” I barked at the huge creature. "Lie down here next to Grub,” I told him. I lay down next to Grub to show him, then I indicated for him to do it. He didn’t hesitate and lay down. I took my scalpel and cut my arm near the inside of the elbow. I drew my blood to show him.

“Tank I need some of your blood to put into Grub,” he looked puzzled. I pulled out my transfusion hand pump and showed him. I showed him I needed to go from his arm to Grub’s. He still looked puzzled. I closed my eyes and tried with my mind to show him what I needed to do. When I opened them, looked into his eyes, I knew he understood, and his eyes told me to proceed. I cut some fur away from the inside of his arm, found a good vein and inserted the needle. He didn’t even jump. I showed him I wanted him to open and close his fist. He began doing it. His blood began to spurt out the other needle. I hooked the other needle into Grub’s vein and slowly began to pump Tank’s blood into Grub.

"We watched as the color began to come back into Grub’s cheeks and the palms of his hands. It was working. I felt his pulse again, and it was returning to normal. The wound began to bleed freely again. I had Beryl take over pumping the blood into Grub, and set about getting the bullet out. It took me almost thirty minutes to get that damn bullet out of him. It was lodged tight in his collar bone. If it hadn’t been for Frank having a pair of needle nose vice grips I don’t know what I would’ve done. Once I pulled the bullet out, I knew we were almost home free. I cauterized the wound and stitched him up with some gut. I stopped the bleeding, but I still wanted more of Tank’s blood. He lay there the whole time softly singing his deep rumbling song to his beloved son. Finally, I figured Grub had enough of his dad’s blood to recover, and I unhooked them both. Tank started to get up, but I wouldn’t let him,” Dad paused for a moment.

Tank squeezed my shoulder again and said, “Dad Jess, bossy man,” he said, smiled, and we all laughed. A little humor was greatly needed at that moment.

“After a while I let him sit up. Al handed him some juice to drink and gave him a banana to eat. I told him he had to eat and drink before I’d let him up. Here I am half his size giving him orders. What a laugh,” Dad said shaking his head. Everyone laughed at my dad.

“He was a good patient though, and followed my instructions. I think he was thrilled because he knew Grub was going to be all right. Finally we got him up. Beryl picked up Grub and Frank threw an old quilt over the day bed on the porch. We lay Grub on the bed, and covered him with another quilt. Al had been busy all that time with hot towels and sterile bandages. He brought me a hot towel, and I laid it across Grub’s head. I gently washed and wiped his face. His color was really getting better. I told them to let him rest. He would be all right in a while.

"I turned and stomped out the back-door. I nodded to Grub’s mom and little sisters as I stomped past, and headed for the cabin the son of a bitch was staying in. I went to his door and damn near kicked it in with my boot. I knew he was the last guest of the season, and no one else was around to hear or witness what I was about to do. He came to the door with his gun in his hand. He pointed it at me with his finger on the trigger.”

“What? You gonna’ kill me like you did that innocent child?” I shouted at him enraged.

“What child? That was a fucking wild animal. I have a right to shoot anything I please,” he yelled at me.

“You know what, you cowardly mother fucker, you’re looking at as wild an animal as you shot today, and you better pull that trigger pretty damn quick ‘cause he’s about to kill your ass,” I told him. I started for him not caring if I died or not. I was so angry I didn’t care if the world went on another day.

“No! No! Get back!” he cried, but by that time I grabbed the end of his gun, and pointed it to the ceiling. He pulled the trigger, and the gun went off. It blew a Hell of a chunk out of the plaster ceiling, but I was able to wrestle it away from him, and I hit him in the gut with the butt of the gun. He doubled over, and I hit him again with the butt of the gun to the back of his head. I kicked him in the side and groin with my boot, and was about to administer the coup-de-grace to his head, again with the butt of his own gun. I raised it up high to make one quick, lethal blow to his worthless skull when a giant furry hand grabbed the gun over my head and took it away from me.”

“Jess, no kill!” Tank said in his deep voice.

“I stood there in frustration and started to cry. I found myself, once again, in Tank’s huge arms crying my guts out. I knew he was right, but I would’ve killed the man. I was so frustrated and angered by what he did. I felt so ashamed of my own race or tribe of apes. That was the second time Tank ever sang to me. He sang to me, held me, healed me, and wouldn’t let me go until he was sure I wouldn’t kill the man and my mind was in a better place. For all the good things Tank ever did for me, that was about the best. I guess it was an even exchange. I saved his son, and he saved me from myself,” Dad said.  

“Dad Jess throw man’s guns and all his stuff in river, Brother Grub,” Big Grub said to me.

“I wasn’t going to tell him that part, Son,” Dad said and laughed at Big Grub.

“After I threw his stuff in the river, I returned with Tank to the lodge to find Grub awake asking for his dad. Tank went to him and held him. He sang to his son the most wonderful song, and there wasn’t a dry eye on the back porch or the back yard. I was a mess. I finally broke down after I realized just how close to losing Grub we came. Tank told Grub I saved his life, and now he had to give him to me to be my son. I was thrilled and proud to think Tank would trust me enough to give me his son, but I made a deal with him. One day, when I had a son, one I was sure I could be really proud of, who was worthy enough, I promised I would bring him and give him to Tank. That way, we could share each other's sons. Do you understand, now, why I gave you to this big fellow, Son?” Dad asked.
 
“Certainly, Dad, and I’m proud and honored to have Tank as one of my dads and Grub for a big brother. Most men only have one dad. Big Grub and Little Grub have two dads,” I said with a pleased sigh. Tank pulled me closer and caressed me some more. Big Grub had his arms lightly draped around the front of my dad. I could tell my dad was really relaxed, and enjoying sharing all this with me. It meant a lot to both of us. I was convinced my dad was one of the most remarkable men on the face of the Earth.

“How long did it take Grub to recover? I asked.

“Hell, you can’t keep that kid down for long,” Big Beryl replied, “he was up and around the next day. We kept him in the lodge as long as we could, but we knew he wanted to get back to his dad and family. The next evening Tank came for him, and we told him we’d be up to visit the next afternoon. Your dad didn’t want infection to set in, and he needed to remove the stitches in about a week. We made several trips up, but Grub did just fine. Jess removed the stitches after five or six days. He healed up real quick,” Beryl said.

Dad asked me if I wanted another pull on his flask, and I didn’t refuse. I was already so relaxed I figured it would put my lights out. After that, I got real sleepy and could barely hold my head up. The next thing I knew I was being carried by a huge creature to a bed of soft leaves and vines. Dad followed with my sleeping bag, and he unrolled it for me. He helped me get undress, and I crawled into it. Tank lay next to me and pulled me to him. He began to sing to me in his deep bass tones. It wasn’t really singing. It was a rumble. There were changes in pitch, but it was like a resonance that vibrated in tune with my soul. It was beautiful, it was hypnotic, it was relaxing, and it was wonderful. I found myself drifting off into the deepest, most peaceful sleep I experienced in years; to sleep in the arms of a monster, a new dad, to whom my beloved father gave me to share. I was deeply honored to be considered a part of Tank and Big Grub's family.

* * * * * * *
I awoke the next morning looking into the eyes of a great beast; Tank’s beautiful eyes; eyes, that spoke volumes. I gently reached up and touched his cheek with the palm of my hand. He smiled and moved his face into my hand in a gesture of affection. He reminded me of Barney when I put my hand on his head. He would move his head around to get me to pet him more. However, Tank was far from a dog. He was a highly complex, sensitive, peaceful, and sentient creature. I knew he could see to the bottom of my soul; certainly, into the being of my heart. I was captivated by my new family; more so than if I’d been captured by swashbuckling pirates, held for ransom, and suffered from terminal Stockholm syndrome. I knew they would become a major part of the rest of my life.

Dad and Big Beryl were right. Tank turned away from me when I got out of my sleeping bag to put on my clothes. He was embarrassed for me and my lack of fur. We joined the others in time to greet Al and Frank who came over the rise into the campground followed by Bessie loaded with the fruit Rosey sent to the family. Bessie wasn’t the least bothered by the young Sasquatch who ran up to them to pet her and welcome her back among them. Tank and Grub welcomed Al and Frank, and helped them unload the sacks of fruit. It was a great breakfast for the family. I was hungry, too, and was going to finish the stew Frank made, but they brought enough rolls and goodies for everyone. Al and Frank must have baked all night. Beryl gently punched me in the ribs with his elbow and pointed out Al feeding Bessie one of his sticky buns. He looked up and saw us laughing at him. "Well, Hell, she's been on the trail for several hours hauling all that stuff for us, she deserves a treat," he allowed. We all laughed.

Al and Frank spent the day with the family and returned that afternoon. Tank and Grub wanted us to stay so we agreed to stay over another night. It was good we saved Frank’s stew for the evening. The family didn’t eat all the fruit Rosey sent, and there was plenty for that evening. We stayed three nights with them, and then, we returned the fourth afternoon. There was much hugging and touching. I was amazed, I even became accustom to their smell. That last afternoon, they escorted us all the way to the bend in the trail that leads down into the valley where the lodge was. Dad promised we would return the day after to spend some more time before we had to leave. Big Grub didn’t want to let us go. Tank reminded him we had our world, and they had theirs. They waved as we departed.

We visited one more time, stayed one night with them, then returned the next morning to the lodge. We stayed one more evening with Al, Frank, and Big Beryl, but the next day we had to get on the road to return to Southern California. Al was right. Dad and I threw our old clothes away. After cleaning up, I discovered I had become sensitive to their odor. Now I can tell instantly if a Sasquatch is anywhere near the area and most times how many are in the group. Over the years I find myself becoming nostalgic when I get the slightest whiff of their smell. I can now identify separate family groups by their different but distinct odors. As you might have guessed, I have returned many times and have lived extensively among the family. They are as much my family now as my parents and sister.

My dad accomplished his goal of letting go of his little boy. He brought me into manhood the same time he introduced me to a new world. For my rite of passage he gave me to a wonderful new family; a uniquely loving family of which I am proud to be a part. At the end of that summer my goals were not clear, but my dad showed me the path. On our return, my dear mother and sister commented I returned taller of stature, much more mature, and focused in my life. I knew in my heart I set aside my childhood, my childish ways, and became a man. My first introduction to a new part of my family changed my life. I knew I had to do something to assure their way of life so they might continue to exist in an ever crowded and polluted world. I spent many hours in deep conversations with my dad, Big Beryl, Al, and Frank as to what I should do with my future. There were many suggestions, but everyone left it up to me to decide my own path.

What did I do with my life? I went to school and became a medical doctor. I have a second doctorate in primate anthropology. I am considered the world's leading authority on primate behavior and medicine. During my years in school, I spent almost every summer at Al and Frank’s with our family. Many summers I was joined by my dad and Beryl for a couple of weeks. Mom, dad, and my sister all made the trip to visit a couple of times. My sister couldn’t believe they really existed, and was as fascinated by them as the rest of us. It truly became party time when we all got together. I came to love and appreciate Al and Frank as brothers over the years and found there were no more loving and dedicated men.

Among my other duties, I run a small clinic in the forest behind Al and Frank’s place. It was a joint building effort. Al, Frank, dad, big Beryl, me and a couple of locals who knew the family helped. Best of all the family helped a lot. You can only imagine the lifting power of two ten feet tall giants. The clinic is hidden so well you’d have to know where to look to find it. The average hunter or hiker will pass within feet of it and never know it’s there.

I have become the country’s leading and most vocal de-bunker of Bigfoot or Sasquatch sighting. I give lectures all over the world on the myth of the Sasquatch legends in which I hammer home my point that there is no such creature as a Bigfoot. I arrange for people ‘in the know’ to stage demonstrations of how they fooled hundreds of people with big feet strapped to the bottom of their rubber boots. I try to make sure every year someone dresses up in a gorilla suit and is caught trying to convince folks Bigfoot is real. I point out to the press and in lectures across the country multiple examples of hoaxes.

Why do I do this? One reason is personal selfishness. I don’t care to share my family with the world. Can you imagine the media hype to want more and more coverage of these mysterious creatures? Money making entrepreneurs who would offer a vacation package to spend a week living among the Sasquatch? We would kill them and destroy their unique culture with overexposure.

It’s my decided opinion they hear enough garbage in their heads from the few who live in and around the area. I don’t want to see them exterminated like we tried to do with the American Indians. I don’t want to have to go to a zoo to visit what’s left of my beloved family. If it was found out they have abilities we don’t, can you imagine the paranoia of the military mentality and their imagined threat to national security? Whether they were a threat or not, they damn sure would make them so. I don’t want any of them to suffer interrogation, harassment, or worse, medical experimentation.
 
Can you imagine what it might do to the rigidly unbending, right wing fundamentalist, for them to suddenly discover we are, indeed, the product of evolution when they find out there’s another, separate, sentient species of bipedal apes who exist? If, as the bible declares, we were made in God’s image, then who made these beautiful, humble, peaceful, and loving creatures who are enough like us to be genetic first cousins, who seem to have a far greater sense of right and wrong than us wise apes ever did?

If they could find no logical explanation to fit their narrow views, would they try to exterminate them because they believe they were the descendants of a race of giants who were created as the offspring of fallen angels who found the daughters of man fair and took them for wives? Far fetched? Consider their false justification of slavery because of Ham's alleged sin against his father. Noah cursed Ham's son Canaan whose children were condemned to lives of servitude for perpetuity. From the eighteenth through most of the twentieth centuries, the blacks of Africa were considered Hamites, or the son's of Ham. It was not true. It was simply an invention to serve the purpose of small minded and largely greedy men.   

With the mental capacities of these beautiful creatures, it has often occurred to me, just perhaps, they have the ability to plant suggestions in the mind's of men of great power. Is it possible, they have been the mysterious ‘watchers’ described in ancient text? Certainly the songs they’ve sung to me and others over the years are nothing short of miraculous by our standards. Do they have the ability to sing their songs to the minds of a troubled world? Are they part of a grander scheme of an undiscovered eco-system ethos; a slender thread, if destroyed or broken could send the world into chaos? Have they been the ones who have somehow gently and graciously pulled us back from the brink of self-annihilation? In my imagination I can hear Tank's deep voice as he stopped my dad from killing a man, "Jess, no kill!"  Likewise, I can hear him projecting to some crazy man about to push the red button, "Man, no kill!"

Sometimes, when I’m deep in the forest with my family, having a good time, enjoying their company, I tell my nine foot tall brother and ten foot tall dad the latest hoax or contrived deception I’ve helped be a part of to keep them safe and anonymous. We share a good laugh together. My biological dad, my rock, the very foundation of my life, insists I have, indeed, become my brother’s keeper.


The End ~ My Brother's Keeper
Copyright © 2003/2016 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All rights reserved~
Mail to: [email protected]
WC = 25,727


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