Editor’s Note: Former fire chief Chuck Jacobs has taken on the job of investigating reported sightings of the Mogollon Monster for a television series that recently held a filming session in Payson. We asked him to dip into the cases he’s investigated and found evidence to support claims. Since people remain leery of publicly talking about their experiences, he wrote this story as a “re-creation” based on actual events, with the names of the witnesses changed at their request.
by Chuck Jacobs, Special to the Roundup
RJ (not his real name) is a cowboy, and has been his whole adult life.
It’s not a very glamorous career, and he’s never made much money at it, but he likes working outside and the lifestyle suits him.
For the past 20 years, he has worked on a ranch owned by a pioneer family who has run cattle on this land since the mid-1890s. It is not a big ranch and most of the range is actually on surrounding national forest land, where the family has held the grazing rights for as long as RJ can remember.
Today, RJ has to check cattle on the northern part of the range up on the mountain. It’s early Autumn and the weather is cooling off. The fall roundup will begin in a couple of weeks, so they need to locate the cattle. RJ saddles his horse and loads him into the trailer for the 20-mile trip.
The roads are dirt and plenty rough and it takes RJ about an hour to get to the north range. He unloads his horse and climbs into the saddle, just as he has done 1,000 times before.
The elevation is higher up here, the leaves are just starting to turn and he can see both his and his horse’s breath. It must have been pretty chilly this morning, but the sun is up now and it’s warming up fast.
RJ crosses a small drainage and rides up the ridge to the east, following a faint game trail. He knows that there is a large, open meadow on the other side, and last time he was up here quite a few of his cattle were over in that meadow.
Topping the ridge line, RJ skirts a dense thicket of young pine trees and finds a spot where he has a clear view of the meadow below. The cattle are there alright, but some of them have apparently been scared by something and are running to the north.
Off to his right, RJ sees more of the cattle running in the other direction.
He moves his horse around some trees to get a better view of what has spooked them and is frozen in his tracks by what he sees. Moving across the meadow, only 50 yards or so away, is a tall hair-covered creature with a very muscular build, walking upright on two feet. It is moving in a line directly away from him, taking big steps but not running.
Its shoulders are very broad, and its body tapers to the waist. It has long arms that swing as it walks. Its head looks to be somewhat pointed and sits very low, with no apparent neck. The hair is a dark brown, and the morning sun gives it an almost reddish tint. It reaches the tree line in a few steps and disappears into the dense vegetation.
The sighting lasted maybe 10 seconds, max.
RJ sits stunned, glad that his now-nervous horse hadn’t spooked and throw him.
He can’t believe what he has just seen, but he knows what it was. It was a Bigfoot, and a large one at that. He had heard stories, but he never believed that they were real. Now he has seen one.
Waiting a few minutes to let his horse calm down and to get his head around what he has just experienced, RJ rides down into the meadow to where the creature crossed. The grass is not very tall, thanks to the cattle who have spent much of the summer here and it is crushed down, but there are no clear tracks. At the tree line, there is a deep layer of pine needles and other forest “duff.” No clear tracks there either.
RJ wonders how something that big can possibly not leave tracks. As he sits on his horse by a tree where the creature left the meadow, he suddenly realizes the creature’s size in comparison with the tree. It was almost as tall as he is ... sitting on his horse — maybe nine feet tall and must have weighed 700 pounds.
He knows that he must be wrong. After all, he only saw it for a few seconds. It couldn’t have been that big. He plays it over and over in his mind, but there is no doubt. He saw what he saw.
RJ makes the rest of his rounds that day, haunted by what he has experienced.
Back at the ranch house that evening, he tells the ranch owner about it. The owner, an old cowboy himself who has known RJ since he was a kid, laughs and tells him that he must have been mistaken. He jokingly asks RJ “what he has been smoking,” and says that it must have just been a bear.
Although he feels deeply insulted that the boss doesn’t believe him, RJ doesn’t say anything more, and he vows to never tell another soul about the incident.
He knows what he saw. He saw a Bigfoot. He has worked this range for many years, and will likely work it for many more, but he will never look at it the same way again.