Bigfoot is (probably) real. And a tiger bit me.
Conclusion: 15 things you (maybe, probably) don’t know about me.
Not long ago, though it now seems like eons, someone suggested that I should introduce myself to the Columbia and Boone County audience, even though I’ve worked in these environs for 20 years now. Then I thought, “Is there anything that people don’t know about me?” I mean, that I wouldn’t mind sharing.
No need for all the skeletons to come tumbling out of the closet.
Before presenting the conclusion of this four-part series, here’s a quick recap that got us here. And you can find Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.
15 things you (maybe, probably) don’t know about me.
- I never earned a degree.
- I don’t smoke, drink (alcohol or coffee) or swear (much)
- Baseball is my religion.
- I’m kinda afraid of kites and ladders.
- I wanted to be a herpetologist. (A snake guy.)
- I hit two grand slams in one game, in the same inning, one from each side of the plate.
- I love music. But not country music or Springsteen.
- I’ve never seen or read Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Game of Thrones.
- I used to raise sheep.
- I was almost on the Judge Judy show.
- I’m an ordained pastor.
- I want to euthanize raisins, zucchini, and peas.
- I probably believe in ghosts and Bigfoot
- I’ve been bitten by a Bengal tiger (and a bunch of other critters)
- I collect oddly wonderful stuff and the best neckties ever
13 – I’m 51 percent sure Bigfoot is real.
I’m also fascinated with Nessie, chupacabras and Moth Man (probably not real), and other cryptids, but just about any incarnation of Mo Mo, Bigfoot, Yeti, the Beaman Monster (Pettis County’s bigfoot), or Sasquatch gets me excited. I love looking for the grains of truth that blossomed into century-old legends about these fantastical creatures. And even though my faith considers it folly—I should only believe in the Holy Ghost—I’m pretty sure ghosts are real. Or they’re “something.”
Always open to discussion.
Just so you know, I brought a ghost to work with me at COMO Magazine. Not kidding.
Someday I’ll fill you in about my ghost, Mariah. Once upon a time I listed Mariah on ebay and she sold for $29.99. The nymphic apparition came with the music snow globe that often played without winding. Before I even had time to box up Mariah and the music snow globe, the buyer messaged me to say he wanted to cancel the order, because he just reread the listing and saw that it was a “haunted object.”
He was buying the snow globe for his mother, who was a devout Catholic and not amenable to having any sort of haunting or haunted objects in her home. When I told the buyer I hadn’t yet shipped his ghostly treasure and I would issue a refund, he replied that if the package had already been shipped, he’d keep the snow globe but throw the photograph away.
I’m sure glad that didn’t happen. A landfill is no place for an impish little ghost girl.
14 – 91 different creatures have bitten (or gummed) me.
I’ve been bitten, stung, pierced, pinched, or gnawed on by 91 different creatures. Number one on the list is the only one that left a scar: A squirrel. I’m still disappointed that the Bengal tiger had drawn blood and left a gnarly scar.
The bitten-by or stung-by list includes the typical suspects: wasp, honeybee, cat, dog, farm animal (all of them), snake (about six or so different kinds), blue jay, crawdad, mosquito, rat, goose, centipede. There’s also a menagerie of not-so-typical critters: raccoon, trout, catfish (yes, fish bite if you let them), camel, red kangaroo, wolf spider, white-tailed deer, fox, clam (they can clamp, ok?), llama, alpaca, iguana, box turtle, emu, ostrich, giraffe. And I think I mentioned something about a Bengal tiger?
Some readers will remember Mutual of Ohama’s Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins, the great conservationist, and naturalist with the St. Louis Zoo. His sidekick—the one getting the most facetime with the animals—was Jim Fowler. The TV show would go to a commercial with Marlin saying, “While Jim wrestles that anaconda, let’s see what our friends at Mutual of Omaha have to say about life insurance.”
In 1997, Jim Fowler was in Jefferson City to promote conservation and habitat preservation. He gave presentations at the Runge Conservation Nature Center and at some of the schools. I caught up with him at the Runge Center and had a few minutes to interview him. He was holding a baby Bengal tiger, a cub that weighed about 30 pounds. The big kitty purred loudly. Mr. Fowler wore a wide smile.
I asked my boyhood idol the question that had been nagging me for years: “How much of Wild Kingdom was scripted?” Mr. Fowler, bedecked in his white safari outfit and standing about half a foot taller than me, immediately lost his smile.
“Just how well do you think anacondas can read?” he replied, apparently reading my mind for the next question about wrestling an anaconda. I was rattled and another reporter wanted to interview my animal kingdom hero on camera. Mr. Fowler asked, “Would you hold my tiger?” My heart leapt as he directed me to sit on a long bench, when he began lowering the tiger into my waiting arms. He was about half-stoop when he stopped and warned, “Don’t touch its head.”
The tiger cub’s bottom rested on the crook of my right arm; my left arm cradled its front section. The oversized, oh-so-soft, black-and-orange-striped kitty contentedly purred, obviously pleased with my tiger-handling ability. I gently pet its side and back with my right hand, which effectively turned up the purring volume and intensity. It was a soothing, rumbling sensation I’d never experienced.
As I stroked the tiger cub’s back, the tips of its ears and the even softer fur on its head lured me to disregard Jim Fowler’s caution. The split-second I touched the back of its head, the little beasts’s mouth clamped down on my left arm. It was more jarring than painful, though when I tried to move my arm, the tiger bit harder. Rather than go into panic mode, I saw those sharp little baby tiger teeth against my skin and hoped, more than anything I’d ever hoped for, that there’d be blood and, later, a wonderful tiger bite scar.
Then I looked up and Jim Fowler, hovering above me with hands on his hips—and now appearing about 8 feet tall—frowned down.
“You just had to touch its head, didn’t you?”
I think I almost cried, disappointing Jim Fowler—Jim Heavenly Days Fowler!—like I did. He reached down, gently flicked the cub’s nose to release the vice grip of teeth and hoisted the little animal into his arms. As he turned to walk away, he looked right into my eyes and said, “My tiger.”
The next day I went to an elementary school where he was talking about wildlife conservation and habitat preservation, with the wee tiger in his arms. He held the microphone to the cub’s side to amplify the ongoing purr. I was standing nearby, and I caught his eye. He quickly turned sideways and mouthed, “My tiger.” I’d like to say he smiled after that, sort of how you playfully tease your good friends. But I don’t think he smiled.
I don’t think we were good friends.
Makes me almost want to cry all over again.
91 x bitten: The list.
Here’s the list of creatures, fowl, fish, reptiles, insects, farm animals, and other critters that have bitten me. Note that birds, snakes, and fish are listed by species; there are multiple representatives of each of those. Although I’ve been bitten by multiple breeds of horses, dogs, cats, cows, sheep, ducks, and geese, I’ve listed those without breaking out the varieties. For instance, I’ve been bitten by an array of horses: Quarter horse, American Saddlebred, Appaloosa, and Paint, as well as different kinds of cows, dogs, sheep, ducks, goats, rabbits, chickens—well, you get the point.
I did list “feral cat” and “house cat” separately because while any cat bite can be galactically painful, a feral cat biting into the soft area between your thumb and forefinger will make you see and feel the flames of hell. It hurts. A lot. The feral cat to which I refer later became a domestic house cat named Sweet Pea. I rescued her from beneath a hay wagon besieged by flood water that had already claimed the life of its mother and littermates.
Sweet Pea lived about 20 years or so. She had at least 20 lives.
On par with that fiery bite from the netherworld was being bitten through the fingernail by a raccoon, an experience probably not unlike being tazed in the naughty bits. Almost having a thumb removed from my hand by a juvenile ostrich was also especially unpleasant. (Somewhere there’s a video of the ostrich-eating-thumb incident.)
By now you’re wondering, “Why?” The fact is that my kindergarten report card has the answer: “Jodie can’t keep his hands to himself.” Plus, I know that animals I encounter simply want to be petted, caressed, captured, or closely inspected. The sign that said, “Burros will bite,” was a warning to everyone else. Not me. (Okay, well, yes it was for me, too, as I discovered.)
Here’s the list of 91 things I’ve been bitten, chomped, gummed, stung, or pinched by, topped by the six most painful bites, then listed in alphabetical order. Each of these has a story, of course, though some are rather ho-hum. And if you don’t agree that bluegill or grubs bite, just dangle your legs off a dock and let the little fish pull at your leg hair. (Yeah. See?) Or handle a grub worm long enough—maybe just put your pinky on those pincers—and you’ll be a believer.
The list has been growing since bite No. 1, a squirrel that chomped 6-year-old Jodie’s wrist. It’s the only bite that left a scar.
Top 6 most painful
Unimaginable pain: Feral cat, raccoon, fire ant, ostrich, blue wasp, Abby the Goldendoodle (representing all dogs; it was a fear response from being awakened amid a terrible dream).
The rest of the list
The rest: Alpaca, American robin, barn swallow, beetle, Bengal tiger, bluegill, blue jay, broadhead skink, burro, camel, centipede, channel catfish, chicken, chigger, common starling, cow, freshwater mussel.
Crappie, crawdad, donkey, duck, Eastern box turtle, Eastern fence lizard, Eastern garter snake, Eastern hog-nosed snake, Eastern yellow-bellied racer, emu, ferret.
Five-lined skink, flea, fox, freshwater drum, gerbil, giraffe, goat, goose, green fly, green stink bug, grub worm, guinea fowl, guinea pig, hamster, honeybee, horse, horse fly.
House cat, house sparrow, house spider (unidentified), human, iguana, kangaroo, ladybug, largemouth bass, llama, macaw, mole, mosquito, mouse, mule, Northern cardinal, Northern water snake, Northern hogsucker fish.
Parakeet, parrot, pig, pigeon, praying mantis, rabbit, rainbow trout, rat, red-sided garter snake, sheep, Shetland pony, shrew, six-lined racerunner lizard, speckled king snake, spotted salamander, squirrel.
Tick, turkey, vole, Western rat (black) snake, white-tailed deer, wolf spider, zebra.
15 – I collect Giant Microbes, COVID masks, and cool, themed neckties.
I also border on hoarding when it comes to books.
Giant Microbes are plush thing—some might call them “toys,” but I’m a big ol’ grownup. So, yeah, they are toys that I collect to show my odd interest in viruses and bacteria. In the COMO Magazine office, they come in handy for coworkers to throw at each other if someone is wearing earbuds and you need to get their attention.
There’s nothing quite like lobbing a plush, one-million-time magnification of the tuberculosis bacteria or Black Death at someone to say, “Hey!”
My other collectibles include old medical texts (books and manuals, for surgery and stuff); just about anything to do with sloths, owls, and manatees; and Wade’s Whimsies. In my attic is a chest marked “Jodie’s Museum of Natural History,” which safeguards the course booklets from the Northwestern School of Taxidermy (circa 1974) and the squirrel pelt I tanned; the microscope I got for Christmas in 1973, opening a wonderful new world for Ten (my alter ego, so named for 10-year-old me); opossum, raccoon, and canine skulls; and an assortment of what are probably deer rib bones, collected from Indian Ford Cave near Viena in 1990.
I’m going to say the bones are of “unknown origin,” because it’s the same cave where, some years earlier, a couple of guys found some bones, reported it to the sheriff’s office, and a forensic pathologist determined the bones were of human origin, dating back to the Woodland Indian era, roughly 10,000 years ago. My box of bones is marked, “Human Skeletal Remains,” though I can’t say that’s a fact.
And now that I’ve outed myself for taking and possessing bones from a wild cave, am I in trouble? I’m willing to part with that part of my collection if there’s someone whose interest and authority is greater than mine.
Ready to spill the beans about the stuff people (maybe, probably) don’t know about you? Give me a list! Holler at me here – [email protected]