Friends, Vinn and Best
Thirty-three-year old Sam T. Best was embarrassed and angry. His workmate, Dan Vinn, had just laughed at him. And that in front of the men at lunch break. Best thought Vinn a friend. He’d known him seven of the ten years he’d worked for the Park’s Department of Toka, Oregon.
Best, neck and face reddening fast, simply stopped talking and chewed slowly and long on a piece of homemade bear jerky. He studied the jerky, turned it in his fingers. Vinn had been with him when he shot the bear the jerky was made from.
Vinn was still talking, still laughing. But he wasn’t laughing at Best anymore. He’d glanced at his friend and noticed the bear jerky and realized what he’d done. He had humiliated him in front of these clods that they both worked with. Vinn lobbed his soda can into the trash and stepped to Best’s side. “Look bros,” he said to the three men still eating, “I believe Sam here saw the bigfoot. Okay?”
Best immediately felt better. He couldn’t believe it of himself, that is that he was so touchy about being laughed at when he said he’d seen a bigfoot. A guy learns something about himself every day, he guessed.
The conversation rallied for a few minutes. One of the guys told about a cousin seeing what he thought was a bigfoot, late one night. He’d been drinking a little, so only told a family member or two, this guy being one of them.
Both friends forgot the incident. It wasn’t difficult to do. Vinn and Best were good friends.
Saturday next, the two men were scouting for deer stands at their favorite hunting area, thirty or so miles from home. For the first time, they were planning to try bow hunting. They’d both had a little experience with bows as boys. They stood practicing now, shooting at a homemade target, propped against a Madrone about twenty feet away. Neither came anywhere close to hitting it. Vinn shot the last of the arrows. While they gathered them, they laughed nonstop at their ineptness with the bows.
The clouds were darkening; it was going to rain. A cool wind blew softly in fits and starts. When it blew, paper-dry leaves whirled loudly between them and the target. A blue jay landed loudly in a tall, scraggly Douglas Fir to their right. Another jay joined the first. They were angry about something: a clump of grey-green moss fell to the ground just under the birds, and one blue feather floated slowly down. Brush Creek rushing nearby and the dry leaves rustling on the ground and in the trees prevented the two men from noticing the sounds that were coming from a tree to their left, ten or so feet away.
When they finally heard the groaning and huffing, both men jerked their heads up to determine where it was coming from. Best, the father of three, flung an arm out as if preventing a child from stepping off a curb into traffic. Vinn, eyes on the tree, walked into the extended arm, abruptly aware that Best meant for him to stop.
Vinn breathed out a string of expletives when he stepped into a hole. He fell, loudly, catching himself with his hands. Best, keeping eyes on the tree, awkwardly waved an arm around searching for one of his friend’s hands or arms to help him up, but failed. Not making contact, he glanced down. Vinn sat, rolling down a gray work sock to examine the fast swelling ankle.
It now misted fine rain. The blue jays again sent up a ruckus. This time they dove for the animal in the tree where the noise was coming from. Evidently, the animal was near the jays’ nest. Crack! The bear broke off a dead limb. It fell. Thud. He was quickly moving down the tree, almost to the ground.
Best shook Vinn’s shoulder to get his attention and get him to his feet. But first Vinn twisted onto his side and searched frantically for the animal in the tree.
“Can you walk, Dan?”
“Sure. I’m okay. What is that anyway?” He scrambled, with Best’s help, to his feet.
“A bear, what else?” Best said, as he caught his friend’s cap before it hit the ground.
“That’s no bear! Look!”
The animal was now on the ground. It resembled a bear. It was on all fours, but it had feet, not paws.
“God in heaven, what is it? ... Sam?”
The men stood quietly, frozen in place. They knew they shouldn’t run from a bear. The animal reached a huge hand for the tree as he stood up, standing slightly bent.
“How’s the ankle?” Best asked Vinn again. “Can you walk on it? Dan, it’s a bigfoot! We got ‘t run!”
The noisy blue jays dove at the animal, again and again.
“Come on, let’s get.” Best offered an arm to his friend, knowing the ankle was weak.
Before turning in the direction of their rig, they watched the massive being calmly, as if in slow motion, turn, step over the broken limb and lumber behind the fir, heading in the direction of a near blackberry thicket. He, from time to time, looked back, apparently to check if they were following.
Once back in Toka, sitting in lawn chairs in Best’s cluttered garage, new tire smell heavy in the air and with icy beers in hand, they hashed over every detail of that amazing beast. It was jointly decided that they wouldn’t make a report to anyone, but they did believe they’d return and try to find prints and maybe get one in plaster.
And most important of all, they agreed not to talk about “their” sighting with the boys of the Toka Park’s Department. Why? Because they both agreed, that animal was no laughing matter.
(The men’s names are fictional as well as the town, Toka, Oregon. That is, as far as the authors are aware.)