Fearsome Critters

HidebehindThere’s a sort of mythos attributed to early lumberjacks. Everything about them lends itself to admiration. Their work was dangerous and physically demanding. Lumberjacks pretty much lived outdoors, working in forests and sleeping in logging camps. Strength, freedom, determination: they’re like the embodiment of manliness and American individualism wrapped in a flannel shirt and a beard. Lumberjacks have been elevated through story and legend to the point where they are larger than life. However, they were just as human as the rest of us. Some of those plaid-clad axe swingers would break into a cold sweat if they heard a rustling in the trees. They probably thought it was one of many fearsome critters.

Lumberjacks couldn’t run to a Redbox if they were bored; they had to find other means of entertainment. Storytelling was and still is a great way to pass the time. After a long day of laboring, lumberjacks would gather at logging camps and exchange stories. They would tell stories about the mythical creatures that they, or their friend, or their friend’s mom’s neighbor had seen.

They had their own set of folklore and legends about different beasts and creatures that supposedly roamed the American frontier. Stories about fearsome critters would often be used purely for entertainment or to haze new members at a camp. One lumberjack would start the story and an accomplice logger would jump in to corroborate it.

Sometimes fearsome critters would be a way to explain the inexplicable. The treesqueek was a fearsome critter responsible for strange noises that came from the trees while the hidebehind was responsible for the disappearance of loggers who didn’t return to camp. A good thing to know about the hidebehind is that alcohol is suppose to be a good and sufficient repellant. Here are some other examples of fearsome critters.

  • Axehandle hound – This little guy roams Minnesota and Wisconsin and is easily identifiable by long narrow body and bit shaped head. Never leave your axe unattended because his diet consists solely of axe handles.
  • Cactus cat – This fearsome creature is covered in thorns and has an affinity for booze. It would slash cacti and wait for the juice to ferment. It would later return to get drunk off the juice and cry through the night.
  • Hodag – Wisconsin is home for the Hodag which is described as having, “the head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end”.
  • Jackalope – Maybe the most famous of all the fearsome critters thanks to taxidermists. Wyoming is where this fellow calls home. This is a species of “killer rabbit” but its milk can be used for medicinal purposes.
  • Skunk Ape – These can be found in North Carolina and Arkansas, but they prefer the swamps of Florida. They are ape shaped but much more stinky.
  • Wampus cat – The wampus cat can be found in folklore outside of the lumberjack’s. It’s sometimes viewed as half-woman and half-cat, and sometimes viewed as the spirit of death itself. If you hear the wampus cat cry, expect someone to die in 3 days.

Share some of what you’ve learned about fearsome critters at your next campfire.

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