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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Skunk-Ape... my new bar-buddy.



I happened to come across an "Everglades Skunk-Ape Research Field Guide" last time I visited my friend up in Marco Island. We had both gotten a bit restless after loitering around the house all morning and she had suggested that we go for a drive on out to the Skunk-Ape Research Center on the Tamiami Trail.

The research center is operated by some guy who has spent his entire life in the Everglades and whose family history can be traced all the way back to 1891. He claims to have spent the last thirty years investigating Skunk-Ape sightings, collecting data, and researching that elusive creature.

The center even has its own website... www.skunkape.info , if you still happen to have an interest in knowing more about this creature.

The field guide is but a sixteen page pamphlet and describes the Skunk-Ape in quite some detail insofar as its appearance and living habits. It also includes invaluable information on how best to plan a sighting expedition. Also included is a comprehensive expedition check list of things to do and not do and of items to bring along for the expedition.

Included in that check list is a pound of dry Lima beans to be used as bait which can be purchased at the Research Center.

Well I gotta tell you... all that information in that field guide seemed a bit too made up for my liking and had me thinking that it was all a load of crap.

Yeah... I'd seen this rodeo before. It seemed like a ploy to convince tourists to shell out some hard earned cash for a swamp expedition that had zero chance of sighting the so-called Skunk-Ape.

The whole concept of the Skunk-Ape had me thinking about the "Chupa-Cabra" back when I was living in Puerto Rico. That's all one ever heard about for months on end on that island. Every other day, a goat would be reported to have been found dead in the island countryside after having had all its blood sucked out of it.

Common sense somehow had me thinking that those dead goats had to be the result of a "Santeria" ritual.

In any event, I'm outside the Skunk-Ape Research Center waiting on my dear friend to get back from what I thought was the ladies room and finish whatever women do in there for hours on end. But instead she had been heavily engrossed in conversation with Dave Shealy who is world reknowned as the most knowledgable Skunk-Ape expert in the world.

Mr. Shealy was so convincing in describing the elusive Skunk-Ape that he even persuaded her to purchase all kinds of contraptions at inflated prices so that she could conduct her own search expedition.

All this while, I'm patiently waiting outside and find myself looking out over a nearby pond for alligators while sipping on a cold beer that I had pulled out of my ice-cooler.

It then happens that I'm suddenly smelling a gawd-awful stench coming up from behind me but before I can turn around to see where that stench might be coming from, some ape-like creature has gently placed his hand on my shoulder.

I've turned completely around now and find myself looking straight up into that creature's face. He's now motioning to my cooler and I'm so frightened that I don't hesitate to reach into that cooler for not just one, but two cold beers which I then promptly hand over to him.

With that the creature cradles both beers in one hand and stealthily ambles back into the swampy water. It's a shame that I was too scared to have the presence of mind to take a picture of the creature with my cell-phone camera before it had waded out of sight into the thick brush and trees.

I later told my friend of my encounter with what surely was a Skunk-Ape after I had helped her load up her SUV with the expedition gear that she had purchased at inflated prices.

Somehow I don't think that she quite believed me and that I was perhaps mocking all that gear that she had just purchased. She just kind of looked at me funny and asked whether there were any beers left in the cooler.

Like I mentioned earlier...it's a shame that I didn't happen to take a picture of that thirsty creature. Surprisingly all it took was a couple of beers to lure that elusive Skunk-Ape out of its swampy habitat.

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