Harbor Man

A couple of hours into the night, Harry went outside for a smoke and was followed by one of his former classmates, William. Rather than meeting him with an onslaught of Bigfoot taunts, he approached Harry sober and scared. When I imagine this, I see William standing there, pale and sweaty and bouncing on the balls of his feet, consumed in such a nervous energy that the cracks in the parking lot seem small compared to the cracks in his voice.

He told Harry about a night during their senior year when a Bigfoot crossed the road in front of his pickup. He had been driving back to his house in the early hours of the morning when he pulled up to a stop sign, and as he pressed on the brake, an eerie feeling hit him and the hairs along his arms stood up. As he looked forward, he watched his headlights hit something freakishly human and hairy as it walked across the road only 40 feet before him.

Over 20 years after the incident, Harry was the first person William had told. But when they walked back into the bar, he rejoined his friends and continued pestering Harry like nothing had happened.

I don’t know how many people in Grays Harbor believe in Bigfoot; I don’t even know if it’s a small sliver or a significant chunk. I only know Harry does and he’s the only one I’ve met who’s willing to talk about it. And sometimes, he inspires others to come forward with their secret, but only to him.

There’s an inherent fear of being ostracized by one’s community. And in a community in which almost no one discusses the things they see in the woods, no one feels empowered to come forward and admit their belief in a fictionalized monster. So they keep their stories secret, no matter how much it eats away at them, because loggers aren’t supposed to be scared of the trees and the things they harbor; loggers aren’t supposed to be scared of anything.

The forests of Grays Harbor are crisscrossed with a never-ending maze of logging roads that are open to the public. The roads have multiple purposes: they provide access to mushroom and blackberry patches, hunting veins, and firewood; they’re used by teenagers for bonfires and underage drinking; they’re an escape for adults who want to momentarily forget about life in the Harbor; they’re a constant source of money for pickers who harvest ferns, salal, and cascara with or without a forest products permit; they’re access points to hiking trails and camping spots; and, in hard times, they’re a place to sleep for anyone who’s desperate.