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I ask that you keep in mind that some of what I am about to tell you is conjecture, but I must also warn those of you who are squeamish of heart that some of what I say is based on fact. As to which of these words is fact or speculation, well, I leave that up to you to decide but you are well-advised to heed my forewarnings lest you suffer the consequences.

There are reports, though they may be sketchy at best, that a great beast of Ozark lore has been seen in this area, this Ozark region of Southwest Missouri which we call home. This monster who is reported to be at least eight feet tall finds the densely wooded mountains of the Ozarks to be a perfect habitat and place to hunt. Those who call Miller County, Arkansas, home know this beast as "The Fouke Monster."

The Fouke monster was first seen in the Fouke, Ark., area. Several of the 867 residents reported seeing the creature in the dense woods and near small bodies of water -- small ponds, creeks and the like. Witnesses claim that the monster emits a chilling, blood-curdling scream which causes even the boldest of character to take flight.

The so-called Fouke Monster, or "Boggy Creek Monster," was first seen in the year 1953. The enormous creature with reddish-brown hair was come upon by a boy of only 14 years. Skeptics laughed at the boy's account of the encounter and brushed off the existence of the monster as merely the sighting of an unusually rose-colored black bear.

In 1971, Elizabeth Ford's sleep was interrupted by a noise. As she rubbed the sleep from her eyes, the noise once again broke the silence of the cool dark night. Ford turned her head in the direction of the sound and there breaking through the window screen was the hand of a creature never before seen by the startled woman.

A scream brought Elizabeth's husband and his brother into the room. Armed with a firearm, the husband fired at the intruder, chasing it from the house and away from the surrounding property.

When the much-welcomed sun made its appearance the following day, local, and very skeptical authorities scoured the property for signs of the intruder. Some thought that if there was anything at all to Ford's story the culprit must have been a curious and hungry black bear, but then something was discovered that changed everyone's mind.

Not far from the window and torn screen was a patch of dirt that contained evidence which nobody could explain. There in the soft dirt was a footprint, a deep impression in the soil made by a heavy and large animal with three, yes three, toes.

Ford's story was to receive a bit of corroboration later that year when Mrs. R.H. Sedgass, Wilma Woods and D.C. Woods Jr. claimed that they witnessed a creature resembling an ape cross Highway 71. The threesome said they knew what black bears looked like and the animal they saw was no bear.

The ensuing 20-odd years passed and reports of the monster's presence, as well as discoveries of footprints, continued to, although sporadically, find their way to the attention of local authorities. There were some 40 or so reported sightings in 1997 alone. There was something out there, but what was it?

There have been rumors; innuendos have spread of late that frighten those who had no reason to fear the woods. It has been said that the 8-foot monster that once called the area surrounding Fouke, Ark., home has traveled north, north to Missouri and north to McDonald County.

But what might have led to this migration? A slight change in the climate? Maybe a quarter of a degree warmer or colder or possibly a slight change in the amount of rainfall? Possibly the reason for the northward migration can be attributed to a change in the habitat, the over-harvesting of timber, a souring of water in a stream or small lake. Who can say for certain why the creature may now be in McDonald County, but some contend that the monster is undeniably here.

Might he be seen quenching his thirst as he drinks water from Little Sugar Creek, Butler Creek or the Elk River? Might the gigantic animal be found searching for a meal in the woods that cover the hills to the south of the Noel to Pineville Road? Is it possible that on darkened moonless nights, he sleeps in the Cummings Cemetery or possibly under the old Powell Bridge? Who knows for certain? And who among us is brave enough to find out?

Who can say what might provoke such a creature -- the sound of children playing, the bark of a dog or an accidental and sudden encounter after a careless or unplanned walk along a not-before-taken path? What did the monster want when his hand broke Elizabeth Ford's window screen? Was it her scream that drove the monster away or was it the shots fired from her husband's gun? What might have happened had Ford not awoken from her sleep? We may never know and maybe we can sleep a little better not knowing.

Some may find the content of this tale to be little more than gibberish; however, I implore you, mothers and fathers, I beg that each of you heed my words. Grandmothers keep your young and innocent charges close to the hem of your apron. Don't let your children stray too close to the pond's edge. If your children should hear something thrashing about in the woods, tell them to scamper; beseech them to run for their lives. And by all means, don't allow your children to stray about at night. Keep your small and innocent loved ones close, for out there in the darkest of places, lives a terrible monstrous beast, "The Fouke Monster."

Stan Fine is a retired police officer and Verizon Security Department investigator who, after retiring in 2006, moved from Tampa, Fla., to Noel, Mo. Stan's connection to Noel can be traced back to his grandparents who lived most of their lives there. Stan began writing after the passing of his wife Robin in 2013. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 10/17/2019

Print Headline: Keep Your Children Close

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