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Hunting for Bigfoot in upstate New York
by Christine Bruun
We headed west on Highway 417 out of Painted Post, New York. We were on the track of a Bigfoot sighting. I had first heard about it from my hairdresser. Coincidentally, that same week, a fellow co-worker had also mentioned this same incident.
With two similar stories by two unrelated people, we knew we were on to something. At the very least we knew that the report had stuck in people's minds.
As we drove west we passed small towns and farmlands. The rolling hills were stark gray and leafless. As we passed a newly plowed field, a flock of Canadian geese rested on the soil laid bare by the plow. The fields were interspersed by wooded patches and the scenery dotted by farmland surrounded by dried cornstalks still visible in the fields.
The two lane country road ribboned through hills dotted with clapboard houses. Horses gazed on the rich grasses that marked the end of an Indian summer. A railroad track snaked its way across the valley floor. It was an ordinary day with ordinary people going about their ordinary lives.
A yellow street sign depicting a horse and buggy in the Amish style, warns of slow moving traffic. We were heading to a place near Rathbone on highway 119 in Steuben County. Deer crossing signs whizzed past as we passed a stand of sugar maples and a hand written sign that read "Maple Syrup for Sale".
Rathbone, on highway 21 was just 10 minutes from Painted Post New York where we were staying while on a temporary assignment. Rathbone is a cluster of houses that border a small river. It really isn't a town as we know it. The homes, set close to a snaking road, are all there is of Rathbone. I thought of the joke about blinking at the city limits and missing the whole town. Rathbone is very small and very quaint and very peaceful.
We continued to drive. Suddenly we were rising on a paved road that wound through Tracy Creek State Park. Tracy Creek State Forest is 569 acres of dense pine, fur and cedar interspersed with hardwoods. One thing I noticed was that despite its wildness, farms, nestled on private lands dotted the landscape. One other thing we discovered is that we had no idea where we were or where to look next.
We drove back down and back through Rathbone and took a different road that led us away from the area. We happened on a small country store and stopped to get something to drink. I figured that if anyone would know what was happening in the community, these people would, so I started asking questions of the clerk. At the mere mention of Bigfoot her eye lit up and she left her duties to a second clerk and brought out a phone book.
She told me that she had indeed heard the story and even knew the people involved. She continued to thumb through the phone book. Then she looked up and smiled. She told me the name of the farmer who had originally reported the incident and told me the name of the road he lived on. And, if I couldn't find that person, there was a neighbor who might know. By this time, a crowd had gathered and a middle age man with a broad smile and twinkling eyes broke into the conversation, validating that he too had heard the story, though it was from a friend of a friend of a friend.
After a bit of conversation and passing out our business cards, we headed out to find the road we were looking for. It was a very rural road that rose to the top of your typical New York mountain/hills. Most are no more than 1500 ft in elevation. They are heavily wooded. One thing that struck me is the giant cedars. Their branches dipped down to the ground in many places. At one point a small cave-like entrance was formed by the lower branches of the cedar, making a perfect place for someone, or something, to get in out of the weather. A perfect natural shelter. Cedars do not lose their leaves in winter. And, like the terrain at the Alpine Junction sighting that we investigated earlier, we found the area rich with both water and food sources.
To our surprise, the original witness no longer lived in the area. Nor did the neighbor. Our society is so mobile that hunting down witnesses involved in old cases can be a difficult task. After locating the local newspaper, we were again met by a wall when we tried to get the local newspaper to provide us with information. The one person who might be able to answer our questions was not working that day. We spent the rest of the day at the local library and did not find any articles from the local newspaper referring to this incident.
We stopped for lunch and again were met with a smile of skepticism by the waitress who remembers hearing about the incident but knew no particulars. As we drove back to Painted Post we knew that hunting down a witness who was no longer living there, and whose report was at least 5 years old, would be difficult.
We are still in the process of gathering information to complete our report. With as many people that know of the story, we are hopeful that we will accomplish the task in a short time.
*Note: This Roadside Research Project is still incomplete. We would appreciate any information that you might have to add to this report.
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