Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods, With a Few Desert and Mountain Beasts

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Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods
FCLW pictagraph.svg
Pictograph as seen on title page (1910)
Author William T. Cox
Original title Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods, With a Few Desert and Mountain Beasts
Illustrator Coert Du Bois
Country United States
Language English
Genre Fantasy, Field guide, Bestiary
Publisher Judd & Detweiler, Inc.
Publication date
1910
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 47

Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods, With a Few Desert and Mountain Beasts is a 1910 fantasy field guide by William Thomas Cox (1878–1961), Minnesota’s first State Forester and Commissioner of Conservation, with illustrations by Coert du Bois (1881–1960; US Consul and forester) and Latin classifications by George Bishop Sudworth (1862–1927; Chief Dendrologist of the Forest Service.) [1] The text is a noteworthy resource on folklore, as a century after its initial publication Fearsome Creatures remains one of the principal sources on mythical animals of the United States and Canada.[2]

Summary[edit]

"The lumber regions are contracting. Stretches of forest that once seemed boundless are all but gone, and many a stream is quiet that once ran full of logs and echoed to the song of the river driver. Some say that the old type of logger himself is becoming extinct. It is my purpose in this little book to preserve at least a description and sketch of some of the interesting animals which he has originated."

William T. Cox, Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods

The book presents various sketches of fearsome critters from North American folklore, with descriptions by Cox preceded by full-page landscape illustrations by du Bois. Like in a traditional field guide, each animal is assigned a Latin classification (by Sudworth), afterward noting their habitat, physical makeup, and behavior. At the end of each account; however, there is usually a brief anecdote detailing an encounter with the creature. Fearsome Creatures may be classified as a work of metafiction.

The introduction acknowledges the varmints as, “animals which he [the lumberjack] has originated.” Although, given the books mixed field-guide narrative format it is uncertain whether the introduction is within or aside from the primary context. At times the storyteller (identified as Cox himself in the introduction) employs the more ambiguous woodsmen/loggers “tell of” or out comes the “rumor of,” but other times declares to the reader that there “ranges” or “is” such a creature.

Synopsis[edit]

The squonk as illustrated by Coert Du Bois.

Page 5 – Introduction: Cox imparts that lumberjack yarns were carried from camp to camp. Also that while much has been written concerning lumberjacks, little has been put down concerning the creatures of his imagination.

Page 9 – The Hugag: A large, herbivorous mammal of the northern woods having jointless legs that prevents it from lying down.

Page 11 – The Gumberoo: A nearly hairless, bear-like brute of the Pacific coast. The creature is purported to have a rubbery hide that bounces back anything thrown on it. Bullets will rebound in the direction they were fired. They can be killed when forest fires cause them to explode, leaving behind a rubbery smell.

Page 13 – The Roperite: A flightless bird of the Sierra Nevadas, that ropes in its prey with a lasso-like beak.

Page 15 – The Snoligoster: An enormous crocodilian monster of the southern cypress swamps. Being absent of any limbs the creature drives itself through the marsh aided by its propeller tipped tail. The snoligoster was spared from gun fire by a certain Inman F. Eldredge after it impaled a fugitive he had been tracking.

Page 17 – The Leprocaun: A North America genus of the Irish Leprechaun, renowned for terrorizing woodsmen in the vicinity of the great lakes.

Page 19 – The Funeral Mountain Terrashot: An animal with a casket-shaped structure that, after wandering down from the mountains, explodes upon contact with the searing sands of the desert.

Page 21 – The Slide-Rock Bolter: An appendageless leviathan, save for two claw-like hooks, that grapples itself atop Colorado slopes awaiting anything at the bottom. Where after the hungry creature skids down the incline with jaws wide open.

Page 23 – The Toteroad Shagamaw: A northeastern, bipedal beast with both hooves and paws that causes much confusion by swapping the two. While traveling it leaves behind tracks that abruptly switch from a moose, to a bear, and vice versa.

Page 25 – The Wapaloosie: A petite varmint of the northwest distinguished by its ability to scale substantial heights; an ability it retains even after being made into a pair of mittens.

Page 27 – The Cactus cat: A southwestern feline having a coat resembling thorns and a tail like branches; notorious for its fondness for fermented cactus juice (which it greedily gulps down.) The cat than becomes intoxicated and goes shrieking into the night.

Page 29 – The Hodag: A large animal ranging from Wisconsin to Minnesota having a spade-shaped bony growth at end of its nose. It uses this growth to level trees containing its natural prey, porcupine.

Page 31 – The Squonk: A creature of the Pennsylvanian hemlock forests so ashamed of its upsetting countenance that it weeps constantly. J. P. Wentling once managed to catch one in a sack, but as he began to walk away he felt his load lighten. He opened the sack to find the squonk had dissolved completely into tears.

Page 33 – The Whirling Whimpus: A fiend of the Cumberland Mountains that spins so rapidly it becomes undetectable save for a buzzing sound. In this manner it awaits a victim. When the two come into contact, its prey is instantly becomes a syrup which the whimpus feeds upon.

The hugag as illustrated by Coert Du Bois.

Page 35 – The Argopelter: A creature of the Northwoods resentful of the intrusion of the lumberjack. The argopelter hurls branches at passersby striking them unconscious or resulting in death. A Big Ole Kittleson who was struck by the Argopelter, but hit by a rotted limb was able to catch a glimpse of the creature. Which he reported as having an ape-like countenance and arms like, "muscular whiplashes."

Page 37 – The Splinter Cat: A feline, who during thunderstorms, uses its rigid forehead to ram trees. These trees contain its primary sources of food (raccoons and honey).

Page 39 – The Snow Wasset: Awaiting its prey to cross along the snowy surface of the Boreal Zone. Just underneath the legless beast burrows, springs out from under, than pulls its victim in.

Page 41 – The Central American Whintosser: A fiend with three sets of legs, so to always land feet first.

Page 43 – Billdad: A varmint of Boundary pond, Maine noted for it jumping ability. Forbidden from human consumption due to the elastic effect it transposes. Bill Murphy, a tote-road swamper, was the last to eat one after which he shot up fifty yards into the air and sank in the lake.

Page 45 – Tripodero: A Californian beast native to the foothill forest. Its most prominent features are its extendable, tripod-like legs and blow gun like mouth. The latter it fills with balls of clay it uses to shoot out its game.

Page 47 – Hyampom Hog Bear: A bear with a voracious appetite for pork. At times taking whole chunks out of them while they squeal in pain. Eugene S. Bruce, of the Forest Service, captured one and took it to the National Zoo in Washington D.C..

Publication history[edit]

First published in 1910 by the Press of Judd & Detweiler, Inc., Fearsome Creatures wasn't reprinted until half a century later when the full manuscript was included as a bonus in Walker D. Wyman's Mythical Creatures of the North Country. (River Falls, Wis., River Falls State University Press, 1969.) It was published on its own again by Bishop Publishing Co. in 1984. Subsequently in 2006 two decades after its second publication it was recirculated online in a HTML version by Thrill Land TLA. and PDF by Google Books. The following year it was again put into hard-copy by Kessinger Publishing. The original edition is in 35 United States WorldCat libraries.[3]

Additionally, excerpts from Fearsome Creatures have been featured in a number of other publications, including:

  • Tryon, Henry Harrington. Fearsome Critters. (Idlewild Press, 1939.)
  • Botkin, B.A. (Ed.) A Treasury of American Folklore. (New York: Crown Publishers, 1955)
  • Borges, Jorge Luis. Manual de zoología fantástic (Book of Imaginary Beings). (Argentina, 1957.)
  • Dorson, Richard M. Man and Beast in American Comic Legend. (Bloomington, IN: Indiana Univ. Press, 1982.)
  • Underwood, Muriel. Fearsome Critters: Folktales from the Forest and Desert. (Chicago, Miscellaneous Graphics, 1990.)

Historical connections[edit]

Mr. Eugene S. Bruce and his bear.

In the tradition of American tall tales and folklore, not all of the narrations are complete fabrications. Instead they are highly embellished stories elaborated on personal experiences. In the narrative of Hyampom Hog Bear, a hog bear cub is found in Klamath River, California and taken by Eugene S. Bruce to the National Zoo in Washington D.C. This account is also recorded in The Land We Live In, The Book of Conservation by Overton W. Price in this version Bruce did in fact catch a cub with his bare hands while trekking through the California mountains; the accompanying image stating underneath, "It [the bear] is now in the Washington Zoo."[4] Albeit the animal pictured is presumably not a hog bear. Likewise, in the sketch of the snoligoster Inman F. Eldredge (1883–1963), a Gifford Pinchot Medal awardee, who while pursuing an escaped fugitive in the everglades, encounters the dreadful swamp-wyrm which afterward devours the criminal. An episode which is doubtlessly a fanciful idealization of Eldredge's background as a timber cruiser in Southern Florida.[5] Other persons referenced in Fearsome Creatures are John P. Wentling (1878-19XX; who was professor of forestry at both the Pennsylvania State Forest Academy and University of Minnesota),[6] A. B. Patterson (Forest Service), Big Ole Kittleson, Gus Demo, Bill Murphy, and John Gray.

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