Harbor Man

It’s a sobering experience to watch someone speak about an encounter with Bigfoot. There’s a special light that ignites their face, and at times they can grow to have such a feverish intensity about them that it becomes difficult to look into their eyes. Harry’s was the first face I had seen with this look and he told me story after story, each one growing more and more bizarre and frightening. At various points, his eyes would become rimmed in red and at others, he would stop himself, take a breath, and bark out a hoarse “damnit” to reset before he continued.

At one point, he stopped himself and cursed, upset that he had said too much and scared me. I was scared—even in the comfort and light of my own home, the hair along my arms and neck stood up—but I told him I was fine because it was mesmerizing to listen to him talk, to see the intensity of his belief on his face and hear it in his voice and I didn’t want him to stop.

After that night, the evergreens seemed sinister; I could feel eyes watching me from behind the ferns and devil’s club and I fell into a type of Bigfoot agnosticism, constantly chiding myself for being illogical but feeling something completely opposite in my chest.

Harry told me about a night he spent at a dive bar in South Side Aberdeen, although calling it a bar is generous. The Northwest Passage is more of a dilapidated shack with peeling baby blue paint. The neon Bud Light signs that hang in the windows are dull under a heavy layer of grime and a whiteboard with interchangeable letters nailed to the side of the building has advertised the same Texas hold’em tournament for the past nine years.

The Northwest Passage does not attract outsiders or tourists. Instead, it’s occupied by ancient loggers who have found a sense of purpose by bragging about their glory years back when they cut down trees that were so large a king-size bed could fit comfortably on the stump.

In 2015, Harry walked into the bar for a few beers and a game of pool. At this point, he was already well known for his Bigfoot obsession, and the locals that swarmed the place were mostly old classmates and familiar faces.

People don’t care so much when tourists drive through Grays Harbor and disrupt the chatter at cafes and coffee stands with questions about where to find Bigfoot because it’s understood that someone who spends $300 on a North Face jacket is also stupid enough to believe in a fairy tale. A local, however, who has grown up in and around the forests, is not expected to fall to such levels of idiocy. By being vocal about his belief years prior, Harry had given himself over to the ridicule of the community, and that night in the Northwest Passage was the same as any other—filled with the teasing comments and laughs of men who hide their cruelty behind a joking smile.