A RECENT OPINION poll on the Peninsula Daily News website asked, “Sasquatch: Real or myth?”
A more appropriate question, given the recent one-day opening of halibut fishing in the wind tunnel we like to call the Strait of Juan de Fuca, would have been, “Halibut: Real or myth?”
I know a lot of people believe there are halibut because they claim to have caught one, but you know how you can tell if a fisherman is lying: His lips are moving.
Having bobbed around in the salt chuck for days on end throughout the years with nothing but a ratfish to show for it, I’m pretty sure the halibut are a mythical creature invented by the tackle industry to convince people to buy $20 fishing lures.
It only stands to reason. I’d have better luck seeing a Sasquatch than catching a halibut.
Although seeing a Sasquatch is not all it’s cracked up to be.
You have to put up with the inevitable questions, such as, “How come I’ve never seen a Sasquatch?” Or, “How come nobody has shot one yet?”
Which would reflect the stewardship we accord the rest of the species on this planet.
I’m no expert and I don’t know everything.
All I know is what I have seen in a lifetime in the woods and what old-timers have told me and friends on fishing and rafting trips have witnessed.
I figure the Sasquatch have been on the Olympic Peninsula as long as man has.
Every tribe of Native Americans on the Peninsula has a tradition of forest giants.
Sometimes, they are cannibal ogres.
Others are healers while some rob salmon from the nets.
That was enough for a prominent anthropology professor to discount the Sasquatch legend as a Native myth on the grounds that some tribes said they came from bears.
Not all Native American legends are myths.
When James Swan was an ethnologist and teacher in Neah Bay in the 1860s he recorded the Makah legend of the aurora borealis. How the Northern Lights were made by a race of small Indians that lived far to the north.
They were so powerful they caught whales with their hands and boiled out the blubber on the ice — Eskimos.
Every tribe on the Peninsula has a legend of the flood.
The Quileute say some of their people were swept away across the Olympics until they came to rest on the other side of the mountains where they became the now-extinct Chimacum tribe.
Strangely, these two tribes on opposite sides of the Peninsula spoke the same language.
A recent Peninsula Daily News article revealed the S’Klallam village of Tse-whit-zen, located on the west end of Port Angeles harbor, was subjected to five separate tsunamis throughout its 2,700 year history.
The legend of the flood is no myth.
Then there is the legend of the Queets woman who was sent home to die by her European doctor.
She went into the woods and healed herself with plants in the rain forest.
Perhaps someday modern science will research the legendary medicinal powers of plants Native Americans used for medicine.
Native American legends say the Sasquatch have a great psychic power that allows them to slip through other dimensions, whatever that means.
I think it means they are impossible to catch unawares, hunt or capture.
Instead of trying to prove the Sasquatch exist, I have tried to prove to the Sasquatch that I exist, one peanut butter and jam sandwich at a time.
It seems to be working.
The Sasquatch believe in me!
Seeing one is a legendary event, probably a lot like catching a halibut.
Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.
He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patnealwild [email protected].