There they are above: Larry, Curly, Shemp, and Moe. The Four Stooges. They don’t trade slaps or poke each other’s eyes out—but they love to go stumbling through the woods at night in clownish costumes and black-and-white (or black-and-green) shades of color, making whoops and hollers as they go, stopping occasionally to smack inoffensive trees.
Now in its eighth season, Finding Bigfoot is a monument to the insanity of doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. Of course, our stooges must be laughing all the way to the bank, like the original black-and-white buffoons. The real question, then, is why idiots like me continue to watch the routine. I grew out of taking delight in Curly’s “nyah nyah nyah” taunting when I was about seven years old. What’s my excuse now that I’m old enough to be the grandfather of the boy that I was then?
In my defense, I will quickly add that I don’t, in fact, sit through the whole routine any longer. I fast-forward through about half of it. Particularly annoying are the in-transit pow-wows as the “team” rockets along to a new site in a minivan, Matt Moneymaker’s wide-eyed soliloquies that feel like something you’d have heard in the Berlin Sports Palace during the Thirties, and the actual screeching and howling and wailing into dark nights across North America.
On the other hand, I do enjoy seeing different parts of the country. I also like hearing the eye-witness testimony of down-to-earth people—country folk, usually, who know a beaver from a muskrat, don’t live on their smartphones, and aren’t especially eager to be on camera. Unfortunately, their narratives are almost always marred by a digital artist’s “recreation” of the incident, featuring a creature that Godzilla’s daughter apparently bore to Yogi Bear.
I’ve lived around intellectuals all my life (for my sins), and I’m therefore always leery of propositions that excite a lot of academic scoffing. Academe is an echo chamber. There’s little true curiosity about anything there. It’s also a gas chamber, of the Auschwitz sort. Any conceptual echo that doesn’t harmonize with the surrounding chatter is quickly suffocated. So when simple people line up to say, “I saw it,” and academics guffaw, “You pathetic simpletons!”… I incline to the former side.
Anyone who has actually left the city on a drive or a flight knows that the hinterlands are increasingly depopulated. Mexican drug cartels have been peacefully growing weed in our national parks for at least a decade now. Even those stalwarts who still live on the farm have less and less direct contact with the land (you can buy air-conditioned tractors nowadays); and if they should indeed chance to see or hear something odd, they would be much less likely than their robust ancestors to register the oddity.
I could easily pass a lifetime in the East Texas Piney Woods or the North Georgia Appalachian foothills if only I had a few survival skills, and no one would ever know I was there.
Of course, the Stooges all assume that the Sasquatch—if it exists—must be a bipedal gorilla: a lingering descendant of Gigantopithecus. In other words, he can’t possibly be a smart as they are. Though his senses are vastly keener, and though he may even have more of them (such as night vision and a shark-like ability to detect electricity), he can’t possibly know how to employ these senses so as to evade their clever snares.
Were that so, then you’d think that maybe eight years would have sufficed to disprove his existence. Whatever the explanation of the “team’s” protracted failure for nearly a decade, it certainly can’t be that Bigfoot hears and smells humans when they’re still well out of sight, or that he instantly identifies a human caricature of his howl as a fraud. Or perhaps he is supposed to come running for a closer look, even after catching the smell or identifying the fraud: a behavior which, if legitimate, would completely justify the skeptical argument, “We would have seen them all over the place by now if they existed.” If Bigfoot does exist, he must want very much to escape detection by humans, and he must be amazingly proficient at doing so (perhaps to the point of burying his dead carefully); but if this is his m.o., then why do the Stooges, year after year, keep declaring their presence in “hot spots” as quickly and raucously as they can?
The first thing that most “educated” humans do when faced with the unknown is to assume their intelligence wholly adequate to plumbing the mystery. That’s why we so seldom make any real progress… and, as often as not, shift into reverse.