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Bobo and a Bigfoot Skeptic, Over Drinks

A Commentary By Froma Harrop

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Forgive me, Bobo, but I do not believe in Bigfoot. Nevertheless, it was a delight spending a Saturday afternoon with you -- the sasquatch hunter from Animal Planet's "Finding Bigfoot" -- in, of all places, a midtown Manhattan bar. Most pleasant was your welcoming embrace of one rejecting the existence of the apelike hominid you say inhabits the forests of North America.

What a refreshing change from a campaign season heavy with creationists condemning subscribers to the theory of evolution for not accepting the strict Biblical interpretation of humanity's origins. What relief from the pseudo-scientists denying the existence of global warming -- or humankind's role in it -- and accusing climatologists of making up stuff to get more funding for their labs.

In Bobo's good-natured world, Bigfoot skeptics are a necessary presence. An essential member of the "Finding Bigfoot" team is Ranae Holland, a field biologist and Bigfoot doubter. She adds gravitas by demanding evidence.

Bobo plays another role. A hulking 6 feet, 7 inches with long uncombed hair and a voice that could wake the Amazon, Bobo would seem the most -- how shall we put this? -- "simpatico" with Bigfoot, should the hominid stroll before the camera in broad daylight.

"Bigfoot," I ask Bobo over a bloody mary, "isn't he supposed to be somewhere in the Pacific Northwest?" Bobo immediately corrects me. It's not "he," it's "they."

"There are a lot of them there," he confirms.

"Manhattan?" I ask.

No, not in Manhattan. But he notes, "There are woods outside the city."

I first met James "Bobo" Fay about 10 years ago through his uncle, a friend. Bobo was living in a tiny cabin near Arcata, Calif., making some money as a commercial fisherman, paddling ocean canoes -- he circled Maui -- and "squatching," as aficionados of the activity like to call it.

Uncle Frank took both of us to dinner at a nice restaurant, where Bobo kept talking about Bigfoot. (Bobo's father in Manhattan Beach, Calif., was reportedly hoping that his boy would get off the Bigfoot thing.)

Bobo is now a star. He was in New York to make a commercial for Wendy's and "doing print media with MSNBC or CNBC."

Bobo said a group of Army guys had just stopped him on Lexington Avenue to have their pictures taken together. That sort of thing happens a lot.

"They want to put it on their Facebook page," he explained. (I promptly took a photo for my Facebook page.)

People keep asking Bobo the same questions: Have you found him yet? Do you really think they're real? Are they really from UFOs?

I order another bloody mary and again ask: Do you really, really believe in Bigfoot?

"Well, I saw one in 2002," Bobo patiently answers. "A buddy and I watched for 22 minutes."

He explains the biology: There's probably no human tree with straight descending evolutionary lines. "There are like five hominids that all overlapped and were breeding together."

Bigfoot hunters talk about DNA from hair samples found in the woods. They use fancy infrared cameras to "record" humanoid creatures moving at night. And they cite eyewitness reports: Their sources tend to be -- not your average suburbanite on a hike -- but "hillbillies," aborigines and serious believers.

I'm obviously not converted, but that's fine with Bobo. He doesn't accuse me of blasphemy, and I happily listen to his fabulous stories of primal nature and the beings who inhabit it.

I hadn't thought this much about Bigfoot since being scared out of my wits long ago by tales around the campfire. How good to recall a time when I imagined that he -- I mean they -- would emerge from the dark woods at any moment. I was imagining, right?

COPYRIGHT 2012 THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL CO.

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