A bigfoot tracker makes a little girl’s birthday

By Jayson Jacoby June 14, 2013 08:03 am

I have in the past expressed some doubt as to whether “Finding Bigfoot,” the cable TV program, is wholly devoted to scientific rigor in its pursuit of the hirsute beast.

The four hosts of the Animal Planet show, which is supposed to start its fourth season this fall, seem to know an awful lot about a creature whose very existence has not been confirmed.

From here on, though, my skepticism will be tempered by a personal bias in favor of one of the show’s stars, Cliff Barackman.

He gave my daughter, Olivia, a gift I expect she will always cherish.

The occasion was Olivia’s 6th birthday, on June 1.

She brought in quite a haul even before we sprang Cliff’s surprise on her.

There was a Barbie and a portable, battery-powered Lite Bright and watercolor paintbrushes that don’t require water and a diary with a cunning little padlock and much else besides.

But it was Cliff’s gift that all of us, Olivia’s parents and grandparents and siblings and aunts, uncles and cousins, were most eager to unveil.

First, though, the back story.

My secondhand acquaintance with Barackman, who lives in Portland, came about through my dad, Alan.

In 1994 he, along with my brother, Michael, my brother-in-law, Bill Pennick, and a family friend made a plaster cast of a curiously large footprint, one of several that Bill found near his grandparents’ property in the Douglas-fir foothills of the Cascades east of Salem.

A few years ago, before “Finding Bigfoot” premiered, Barackman, having learned about the cast from another researcher whom my dad had emailed, got in touch with my dad.

(Barackman had been searching for Bigfoot for close to 20 years before Animal Planet came calling.)

Barackman ended up visiting my parents at their home in Salem. He interviewed my dad for a documentary (it’s called “Bigfoot Road Trip”) and borrowed the cast, which he made a mold from so that multiple copies of the cast can be produced.

Olivia, saddled with not only a father but multiple male relatives who are interested in the bigfoot phenomenon, could hardly avoid becoming a fan of “Finding Bigfoot.”

I don’t recall that Olivia has missed an episode; and Sunday evenings at 7 o’clock, when the show airs, is a major milestone on her schedule.

I daresay there are few 6-year-olds who can converse at any length about “wood knocks,” nor many who lament that her parents do not own a night-vision scope.

And so it was that my dad, understanding Olivia’s affinity for the subject, sent Barackman an email about her pending birthday.

Barackman’s response was to record a personal video birthday card to Olivia.

To say that this went over well with her would be akin to describing The Beatles as popular among teenage girls in 1964.

Olivia watched the video so many times we had to banish Barackman from the computer’s desktop to a less accessible crevice in the hard drive.

Now I understand that Barackman, however big he might be in bigfooting circles, is hardly a national celebrity, protected from his fans by a well-paid (and well-muscled) entourage.

But he’s a pretty busy guy, based on the volume of stuff he posts on his two websites (www.northamericanbigfoot.com and cliffbarackman.com).

Moreover, he didn’t have to even acknowledge a little girl’s birthday, much less record a video for her — a video which, even to an adult’s jaded eye, seems utterly lacking in pretension or the sense that it was made grudgingly.

I’ve never met Barackman but anybody who would do that for my daughter — for any 6-year-old, come to that — is a good guy in my estimation.

I’m sure I’ll continue to wince when Barackman proclaims some specific trait of bigfoot as though a specimen were present at every zoo.

But my annoyance will be fleeting, lasting only so long as it takes me to glance at Olivia and see her smile as she watches her favorite bigfooter.

. . .

Multnomah County, which has the dubious distinction of being the smallest of Oregon’s 36 counties in size, but by far the state’s largest, in terms of population, is concerned about gender-neutral bathrooms in buildings the county owns or leases.

Apparently those budget shortfalls that keep getting into the news have been vanquished, which ought to be a relief to the county’s taxpayers.

I understand why someone who is either in the process of switching genders through medical means, or who wants to do so, might be less than satisfied with the customary practice of labeling restrooms as being for either men or women.

Except there are other restrooms — including, no doubt, many of  Multnomah County’s buildings — which are designed to accommodate only one person at a time.

These, obviously, are the preferred choice for anyone who’s uncomfortable visiting a bathroom equipped with multiple commodes (although not multiple genders).

Yet Multnomah County officials feel compelled to install signs identifying the single-user restrooms as “gender neutral.” 

As is typical with policies ostensibly intended to thwart discrimination, the Multnomah County edict on the labeling of restrooms strikes me as mildly condescending.

It’s as if officials figure that people who have had, well, issues with their gender must be mentally afflicted as well, and so incapable of recognizing their best options with regard to the bodily functions which we all share.

It makes sense to identify single-user restrooms, of course — these are attractive to all sorts of people, including a parent accompanied by a toddler.

But I can’t think of any legitimate reason to distinguish these facilities as “gender neutral” — no reason, that is, save for giving a county a way to tout its tolerance.

Jayson Jacoby is editor 
of the Baker City Herald.