Thursday, February 23, 2012
When I was a kid spending summers at Cass Lake, the grownups liked to tell a story about a North Woods beast called the Pagook. The Pagook was described as large and formless, with a mossy hide that provided it with perfect camouflage. At dusk, the creature supposedly lurked by the forest trails, waiting for someone to pass. If you were walking alone, or the last in a line, you were thought to be especially vulnerable. While no one claimed to have a witnessed a Pagook attack, it was speculated that the Pagook used an ambush method, dropping silently from the tree tops, smothering and then consuming its victims.
Given my early onset agnosticism (and the fact that I was the youngest of a brood of four and therefore routinely disabused of naïve notions by my siblings), I am not sure I ever entirely believed in the Pagook. That said, I didn’t care to be last in line on a dark walk through the woods until I was well past childhood. But in more recent times, I have to admit that I didn’t give much thought to the Pagook and its place in the field of North American crypto-zoology.
This changed on a visit to Cass Lake on Presidents Day weekend. It was lovely day with brilliant blue skies, so Jen and I decided to take a hike. The untrammeled coating of snow on the frozen lake glittered like sugar. As we were walking in the vicinity of Yellowhead, we noticed the dog rolling in an anomalous dark spot on the ice.
Trudging over, we discovered an enormous mound of deer hair. It was fluffy enough that the breeze sent tufts tumbling across the ice, inducing a mighty rumpus in the dog. Inspecting the hair pile more closely, we noticed something peculiar. There was absolutely nothing at this kill site but deer hair. There were no bones, no trace of viscera, no gristle, not even a single smear of blood-stained snow. There weren’t any tracks, either.
Would a wolf not leave tracks? Would the other known hunters and scavengers of the North Woods really suck every single drop of blood from the snow? Based on the evidence, I am afraid I have no choice but to conclude that the Pagook is real, it has returned, and it is feeding on large animals. By appearances, it doesn’t care for the taste of deer hair -- an ill omen for any hairless apes that venture into its domain.
I understand this disclosure will cause distress to some of my fellow Islanders. No doubt, there will be adverse impacts on property values. Evening walks in the woods will become a more worrisome undertaking. But I saw the movie Jaws as a small boy and it imparted an important lesson that sticks with me still: In this life, you are better off as a Chief Brody than a Mayor Vaughn.