Been a long time gone.
Meanwhile, deep in the swamp . . .
“Stay off the track to Hattie’s shack, in the back of the Black Bayou.”
Lyrics from Swamp Witch, Jim Stafford, 1974.
Check out the entire recording matched with some cool artwork on Youtube.
Photo by Dark Oak Creations.
Another Bat Dropping from the sketchbook.
Looks like a barrel of fun.
I had been cooped up all week, sculpting a tabletop-sized figure in clay.
Working small always tests my work ethic. Some sculptors can work in miniature and love it. Me, I love to sculpt, but my style and nature wants big, expansive gestures. So when, after four days of being diligent, good boy sculptor, my wife announces she’s working from home on Friday, there was only one thing to do.
Wilderness Photo Shoot.
After taking my wife to lunch (I’m not stupid), I loaded the props up and set out for the woods.
It was 63 degrees Friday afternoon. In Missouri, in mid-February, the first thing I see as I step into the field is a snake. A freaking little stripped snake slithering out of my path. I chose to take this as a good omen instead of worrying about Global Warming.
Field work always takes much more time than I think it will. I did not get to all the locations I had in-mind. I did manage to get some “shooting” accomplished. Enjoy.
Sometimes, I get the urge to leave some of my less expensive props on site, or even stage them at some particular location (not where auto traffic could see it, though. Don’t want accidents). I’m sure I am not the first prop artist to feel this impish impulse.
Perhaps, one day, one evening, when the sun is dying on the horizon and the purple dusk creeps from the shadowed wood, I will give in to that sibilant whisper. Yes, perhaps the whispering imp will seduce me, and I leave a Horrible peeking from behind a tree in the park.
Above: Mothman concept art by Tim Bertelink, Wikimedia Commons, 2016
However, growing up in the country, spending many nights in the woods camping or hunting, and knowing how deceptive eyes can trick the mind, I remained skeptical. I’ve seen countless owls of different varieties, including a few abrupt, up-close-and-personal encounters. A great horned owl winters-over in the Osage grove behind my house. One night, I saw it on the ground in the moonlight. It looked twice the size I knew it to be. That would make it roughly six feet tall.Once I worked out the distance to the giant, it shrunk back to normal owl height. Sadly, I feel I must debunk The Mothman as an owl or some other large bird freaking people out in the dark.
The Unintentional Monster.
Still, living in the country and being an outdoors man most of my life, I have seen things that fooled me, and a few I cannot explain.
I have been an avid kayaker since I was eleven-years-old. At that age, once out of sight of parental supervision on Florida’s Myakka River, I saw myself exploring the Amazon in search of the Lost City of Gold or The Creature from the Black Lagoon . That flight of fancy was easy to imagine as real on that black water river.
There were ‘gators, air plant infested palms, Spanish moss and cottonmouths hanging from the low branches of live oak trees. Sometimes, I would think I saw something, just back in the dark, tangled brush, watching me.
Besides having an encounter with Momo (The Missouri Monster) while hauling hay late one night (this remains unexplained and is fodder for a future blog post), another encounter will always be semi-real to me.
I was twenty-nine, and had launched my kayak early one morning on Florida’s St. Mary’s River. I was paddling upstream against a gentle current, the morning mist heavy and fog-like in places, when I rounded a bend and saw a monster; a really big one.
This multi-headed beast rose fifteen feet above the foggy shoreline sixty feet away. My first thought was my god, the Hydra exists! My second thought was to call bullshit on the first. I stopped paddling, telling myself there must be a reasonable explanation. As the monster did not attack, I began to paddle forward again, thinking this is where the doubter in every freaking monster movie gets eaten. As I closed the distance, the mist shifting around the beast made it difficult to tell if it was moving or not. It appeared to be watching me, which was unnerving. If you’ve ever been in a kayak, you know it is a tight fit and leg movement is very restricted. I began to feel like a Snack Pack.* Still, I paddled toward it. At twenty feet, when I was just about to decide discretion is the better part of valor, the mist diminished and I saw the monster’s true identity.
The hydra was a massive, washed out, flood slain tree. What I took for the heads of the hydra was a root mass. This was facing me, a half a dozen of its larger roots twisted and broken off about 6-7 feet from the center trunk. The fog and mist had simply hidden all the other details from me. But, at 30 feet and drawing closer, I was near to becoming a devote believer in monster hydras.
Picture the above scene in dim light and fog, bereft of context, with the details hidden and just the large branches having form. Those conditions can confuse anyone’s mind. So, when I hear about monster sightings and encounters, I run them past the Hydra Test. Most of them do not hold up–most of them.
*Snack Pack, trademark of CONAGRA FOODS RDM, INC
. . . sprang from a doodle sketch, a bat dropping. The more I looked at the beast, the more I wanted to bring it to life. I kept thinking what a fearsome creature this would be, all those sharp legs and claws ripping at you, the teeth snapping at your face and throat.
Someone said he would hate to be in my head. That’s okay; it’s pretty crowded in there already.
I will leave another dropping. Perhaps one day, this creature will “live” as well.
Gee, Uncle Dark Oak, why don’t you ever make something for us?
Two little nieces, both deserving to be spoiled to the limit and who know more about horror
movies than this old man, asked for some “horribles.”
Halloween was shuffling at a deceptively fast pace toward me. I grabbed some sticks and glue and got busy.
I managed to snap these shots before sending the creations off to the girls.
These were fun to make. Perhaps one day I will have time to indulge myself and make more of these little wall-hangers.
God, I love Halloween.