I don’t know why I started wondering about Bigfoot this morning. Yes, the actual Bigfoot, as in Sasquatch the large mysterious cryptid hominid of North America’s Pacific Northwest region. I don’t put much faith in the whole Bigfoot phenomenon because I think one would have been discovered by now if it existed, making it all that more unusual for me to suddenly have this interest in the topic. If folks want to believe in it then I’m happy for them. I hope they find one. I’ll get excited when I can visit one in a zoo.
There was a particularly famous image of a so-called encounter that seeded my thoughts. I think many 12MC readers might be familiar with it. The photo depicted a critter in mid stride, arms swinging, ambling along a creek bed with trees in the background. Some basic checking revealed it as Frame 352 of the Patterson–Gimlin film. I won’t reproduce it here because of potential copyright limitations. Even Wikipedia used the image with some trepidation so curious readers can follow the link and probably come to the instant realization that they’ve seen it before. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
My actual goal was designed to uncover the exact spot where the Patterson–Gimlin "sighting" occurred. That was relatively easy to find because the notoriety of the image generated a lot of follow-up efforts either to confirm or debunk the story. It was a spot along Bluff Creek in Northern California’s Six Rivers National Forest. Curiosity satisfied, I still faced a quandary. How could I illustrate an event when I couldn’t use a copyrighted image? Let’s just say interesting things happen when one types Bigfoot into the search bar at Flickr. That’s how I got sent down tangents like,
The Hairy Man Festival
Bigfoot / Hairy Man by JD Hancock, on Flickr (cc)
The mere existence of Austin Texas’ Hairy Man Festival seemed completely bizarre. The truth behind it was even better.
The legend of the hairy man dates all the way back to the 1800’s, when Hairy Man Road in Round Rock was just a simple dirt path that cut through a dense wooded area parallel to Brushy Creek. Travelers who navigated the route gained convenient passage in and out of Austin, but at a price: They risked angering a territorial hermit who did not take kindly to trespassers.
So about twenty years ago local residents decided to hold a festival with a Hairy Man theme. It featured lots of live music, a 5K race along Hairy Man Road (map) and even a Hairiest Man Contest with a $500 prize. People will find any excuse for a party and that’s what makes things like this wonderful.
Hairy Hill, Alberta, Canada
Canadians could be hairy too in the form of a tiny village, Harry Hill in Alberta (map).
Hairy Hill was too small to have much of anything recorded about it although Twelve Mile Circle did uncover one local source that claimed,
The unusual name of this small community is rooted in history. The buffalo used to sun themselves on these picturesque hills and had rubbing wallows where large amounts of hair would accumulate. In the 1900’s when the Canadian Pacific Railway laid its tracks they found all the buffalo hair on the large hills and named the hamlet Hairy Hill. The original hamlet site was located two miles south of its present location and was relocated to be closer to the railway. The hamlet of Hairy Hill is only 95 km from Edmonton and plays host to the very popular Hairy Hill Rodeo
Somehow I found bison hair much more comforting as a source of legend than either the possibility of Bigfoot running through dense wilderness in California or the mentally unstable man in need of a barber who harassed travelers in Texas. One would need to move to Manitoba for that level of oddity, where Hairy Man Point (map) was named for the supposed spotting of a large hairy man by the Ojibwa sometime in the distant past.
Yowie! It Must Be Australia
Woodburn Yowie by Sydney Wired, on Flickr (cc)
On a roll, I decided to examine Hairy places in Australia too, encountering both Hairy Mans Rock in New South Wales (map) and Harry Man Creek in Victoria (map). Very little information existed about either place although they both seemed to be related to Yowie stories. I have to admit being ignorant of Yowies until just now. They appeared to be similar to the Bigfoot phenomenon and based upon legends passed down by Aborigines.
That’s enough hair for one day. I think I need a haircut.
The second part of my quick southern trip moved west. We began in St. Augustine, Florida a couple of days earlier and now it was time to move on to family on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. This transformed into an exercise in county counting. My completion map of Florida counties changed dramatically for the better as we proceeded farther west along Interstate 10.
Florida Counties Visited, produced using Mob Rule
I grabbed an entire northern tier of Florida counties crossed by I-10, capturing new ones from Baker to Okaloosa. This added a dozen to my list: Baker, Columbia Suwannee, Madison, Jefferson, Leon, Gadsden, Jackson, Washington, Holmes, Walton and Okaloosa. I’d also visited one additional Florida county a couple of days earlier. I got out of bed at 5 a.m. one morning and snagged Clay County since it was only about a thirty minute round-trip. I returned to the hotel before anyone else in the family even woke up. They were never the wiser. That made the complete collection of new counties a nice Lucky 13 for the trip.
The northern tier of Florida felt unlike any of my earlier Florida experiences. It was a lot more hilly than I expected; the hills weren’t large although the terrain had a definite roll. Also pine trees dominated the landscape instead of palm trees, and of course there were no ocean views. Few people lived along the route except for those near Tallahassee and Pensacola. I put the car on cruise control and piled on the miles. It took most of a day just to get out of Florida before hitting Alabama briefly and then crossing into Mississippi.
I’ve been to Southern Mississippi many times. The challenge of writing this article would be avoiding places I’ve discussed before, or at least finding a new angle.
John C. Stennis Space Center
Stennis Space Center
Anyone traveling through Mississippi on I-10 will drive right through the buffer zone of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) John C. Stennis Space Center. NASA designated 125,000 acres (195 square miles / 500 square kilometres) around the Center as a noise abatement area to dampen the deafening sounds of rocket engine testing. Private citizens still own land there and can have access to it although they cannot build homes upon it. The base itself is considerably smaller, 13,500 acres (21 mi2 / 55 km2). That space is tightly controlled and requires access through guarded gates.
I’ve watched the security evolve over the years. Anyone could drive onto the base and visit the StenniSphere, NASA’s visitor center, without any special permission prior to September 11, 2001. Of course the world changed after 9-11. NASA moved its visitor staging area to a nearby rest stop adjacent to Interstate 10. From there, tourists caught a shuttle bus which brought them onto the base and unloaded them at the StenniSphere. I guess that wasn’t secure enough or maybe it was simply an interim measure. Now, probably within the last few months, NASA opened a new visitor center next to the rest stop. It was completely outside of the base in a public area that they’ve named the INFINITY Science Center (map). Tourists can still hop on a shuttle bus for a driving tour of the large rocket testing platforms although they don’t have quite the level of freedom to roam around as before.
I’ve never been lucky enough to visit Stennis during an engine test. Testing is a bit random and isn’t announced ahead of time for security reasons. Nonetheless, the guides said any shuttle buses driving past the platforms at the right moment will stop at a safe spot to enjoy the show. Maybe next time.
Down the road a bit in Louisiana, we stopped at the Insta-Gator Ranch & Hatchery near Abita Springs (map). I’d never been there before so that was a new experience. They raise alligators commercially to be turned into handbags, wallets, boots, belts and other accessories. The entire industry was overseen by the State of Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Alligator Program.
Since the inception of the Department’s program in 1972, over 810,000 wild alligators have been harvested, over 6.5 million alligator eggs have been collected, and over 3.5 million farm raised alligators have been sold bringing in millions of dollars of revenue to landowners, trappers and farmers.
Alligators were an endangered species in Louisiana prior to the program. The population rebounded dramatically. Each commercial rancher continues to return a certain percentage of its adult alligators to the wild as a condition of the program. Four year old alligators are large enough to avoid predation so they have a very high survival rate, leading to more eggs and more alligators. Eggs are laid only once per year and they hatch in late August-ish. Ranchers from Insta-Gator fly ultralight aircraft over the marshes and swamps to spot the nests, mark them with a flag, and return to collect eggs. They then raise hatchlings to adulthood, some destined to become handbags and some destined for freedom. I’ll offer some advise for any alligators being raised commercially: get a nick or scar on your belly because that gives you an imperfection and you’ll probably be freed. Nobody wants a handbag with a blemish.
The ranch had several alligators much older and larger than the rest. Those were used for movies, television and advertisements. It burst my bubble just a bit when I learned that many of those "reality" TV shows set in swamps and bayous use farm-raised gators. The scenes are staged.
Laurel & Hardy
Laurel and Hardy in Hattiesburg, Mississippi
via Google Street View, July 2014
This one is a bit of a non sequitur. Does anyone remember back in 2013 when I featured intersecting streets that formed the names of Comedy Duos? Like, someone in
Washington , Kansas lives at the corner of Abbot & Costello? It’s not that important so don’t worry about it if you don’t.
Anyway, I spotted this road sign in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and didn’t have enough time to pull out my camera so I’ve borrowed a Google Street View image. It wasn’t quite a crossroads like in the earlier article. Laurel, in this case, was a nearby town. Hardy was one of the primary streets in Hattiesburg; it went directly past the University of Southern Mississippi. I still laughed a little when I saw the unintentional reference to Laurel & Hardy.
"I Before E Like in Milwaukie." If that phrase doesn’t grate on one’s nerves or otherwise sound completely wrong, it probably means the reader came from a location outside of the United States. Or came from Oregon. Because there is a Milwaukie in Oregon. I discovered that recently while examining the 12MC reader statistics. Someone visited the website from Milwaukie and it caught my eye because of its unusual spelling. The more standard variant, of course, would be Milwaukee with double-e as used in the large city of that name in Wisconsin.
Milwaukie Theater by Curtis Perry, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
There were two takeaways. First, anyone arriving on Twelve Mile Circle from an unusual location will always be fair game for a future article. Second, I felt compelled to learn whether Milwaukie and Milwaukee were somehow related to each other. That’s my nature and that’s always going to happen.
I’ll spoil the surprise right at the beginning. Yes there was a connection. Alright, everyone can go home now.
Wikimedia Commons in the public domain
Credit an early Western pioneer and entrepreneur, Lot Whitcomb, for the Oregon name. He founded the town in 1848 and without a doubt he named it for Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Milwaukie Historical Society of Milwaukie, Oregon issued a History of Milwaukie Oregon in 1965, basing it on an unfinished manuscript prepared as part of the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. The manuscript noted the etymology of Milwaukee, a "gathering place by the water" in various Algonquian languages such as Potawatomi and Ojibwe (Chippewa).
Milwaukee in Wisconsin was settled where three rivers converged, the Milwaukie, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic, forming a natural harbor immediately prior to entering Lake Michigan. Whitcomb admired the success of the Wisconsin city that he attributed in part to its favorable geographic placement and searched for a similarly-situated location in Oregon. He found such a spot along the Willamette river where "Kellogg Creek, Johnson Creek and many smaller branches fed by the multiplicity of springs in the vicinity" came together in a comparable fashion. Thus Whitcomb platted a new town and named it Milwaukee. Later the spelling changed to Milwaukie. The exact reason for the change was subject to various apocryphal tales. The History of Milwaukie Oregon concluded that the most likely explanation involved the Postal Service wanting to reduce postal mistakes. Less mail would be routed erroneously if the spellings differed.
Bing by mbgrigby, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Milwaukie’s primary claim to fame has been the Bing Cherry. That famous fruit also had a fascinating history.
Henderson Luelling traveled to Oregon with a wagon full of fruit tree seedlings and, in effect, delivered the tree fruit industry to the West. Henderson’s younger brother, Seth followed in 1850, settling in Milwaukie, Oregon, where he established a commercial tree fruit nursery (and curiously, changed the spelling of his name.)… Ah Bing was Seth Lewelling’s Manchurian foreman who oversaw 30 Chinese farm workers and helped run the nursery. Accounts differ as to whether it was Seth or Bing who developed the large black sweet cherry variety, but the Bing cherry was developed at the Lewelling nursery and named in honor of the Chinese foreman.
I never realized Bing cherries were actually named for a person. Also, why the fixation with spelling changes in that part of Oregon?
Finally I guess I should mention that Milwaukie is the home of Dark Horse Comics so nobody should feel a need to mention that in the comments.
Back to Milwaukee
I examined the Geographic Names Information System to see if there were other places named Milwaukee, Milwaukie or whatever other variations might be possible. There were very few and I found almost nothing more related to any of them. The Milwaukee in Pennsylvania, however, was featured in a YouTube video by a guy who randomly hit a map with a Sharpie while blindfolded and selected a tiny village near Scranton (map). He drove three hours to Milwaukee the next day to see a few homes and a pie shop.
Actually, the guy had an interesting premise called Here a Year, "to embody the three verbs (Live, Discover, Connect)." He let his readers select a state for him to live in for a year and the audience chose Pennsylvania. The Milwaukee video was one of many articles and videos he posted from March 2012 to March 2013 during his Pennsylvania year. I always find out about these wonderful ideas when it’s too late. I would have enjoyed following along with his adventures as they unfolded.
He selected another state afterwards, Nevada, and a few months later the trail ran cold. I have no idea what he’s up to now — probably got swallowed up in Vegas for all we know — and disappeared. I suppose I could fill-out the contact form on his website and see what happened although, well… that would entail effort. I’m sure he’s well.
Someday I’d love to undertake a year-long county counting journey. I’ll get right on that after I collect my lottery winnings.