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Whitman meets the Grassman by Robert E. Petra

The Hol-E Grail  Jan. 31

Whitman’s not my real name, but everyone has been calling me that since sophomore English when I plagiarized a poem from whom I had considered an obscure poet named Walt Whitman.  Reflecting upon my co-opting of “O Captain, My Captain,” my selection was not all that disastrous, especially when considering “Trees” by some man named Joyce was my second pick.  No, not James Joyce, Joyce Kilmer.

Since my second year of T-town High, I have tried to atone my plagiarizing ways and have become somewhat of a poet myself, my poems appearing in publications with the lifespan of free Mountain Dew at Wal-mart.

Now you see them; now you don’t.

Poetry doesn’t pay enough for a cup of coffee; so I tried to support myself through outdoor writing.  That field, too, pays enough so that I cannot afford a steady girlfriend, at least having one long enough so that I can do the dumping for a change. To pay the rent and to put fast food on the car seat, I perform the occasional odd job, all the while hoping that someday some pimply sophomore will return the compliment by plagiarizing an obscure poet named Bartholomew Klyde.  Yes, that’s my real name, but you can just call me Whitman.

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The Hol-E Grail Feb. 4

There are three holy grails of outdoor writing: the 23-pound largemouth bass, a 310- Boone and Crocket whitetail deer and the first authentic photo of Big Foot.

Time and genetics will eventually produce the fruition of the former two. With all the cell phones equipped with cameras these days and the millions—maybe billions—of people owning them, you would have thought someone should have by now through fate, sheer luck, diligence, whatever, stumbled through Big Foot’s secret passage to capture a clear high-definition image of the elusive man-beast.

Well, if anyone has, he or she may send one to this blog, photographs duly credited, of course.

Over and out, Whitman.

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A week had passed since the publication of his second blog.  It received 24 views, earning a total of two cents through Webmaster.  “These things take time, and I really haven’t blogged any of the juicy stuff yet,” Whitman told himself.

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The Hol-E Grail Feb. 12

Since I had first decided to become an outdoor writer, I always toted a camera wherever I went.  Back in the early days I carried a Minolta 35mm; these days a Sony digital plus my cell phone.  Big Foot or not, you never know what comes your way: a big buck, an albino black bear or a two-headed rattlesnake.

A photo itself is money and a story.  Big Foot, a UFO—you never know who is going to be the lucky one to stumble into the manifested arcane—Sir Percival, Indiana Jones or Boxcar Willie?  All I can say is that we as a scientific society have many things yet to discover.

Over and out, Whitman.

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Whitman’s blog had received enough hits to earn one dollar and the promise to collect more now that a beef jerky company placed an ad on a sidebar.  The following week he busied himself writing poetry.

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The Hol-E Grail Feb. 19

In my own region, Eastern Ohio, the local Sasquatch is called Grassman, I suspect originally by someone smoking too much homegrown.  Accounts suggest this six- to seven-foot malodorous primate’s name was conceived for its construction of nests from hay, cornstalks and twigs.  This monster is said to have the appearance of a gorilla though with a more erect posture and gait, its fur often red, brown, black and even green, and its footprints 15 to 24 inches long.

The only conclusion I can draw from all reports of Grassman sightings is that people who smoke dope are too stoned to operate a digital camera or a cell phone.

Over and out, Whitman.

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Forty-six clicks out of 1527 page impressions had earned Whitman $25.14, the blog business certainly proving more profitable than writing poetry.  He usually spent twice that much buying the small literary magazines that could barely afford to print, let alone distribute free copies to the authors.  More ads popped up in sidebars, ones for cell phones, digital cameras and the most reliable—beef jerky.  During the week through e-mail, he received two blurred pictures purporting to be images of UFOs and one alleged Grassman nest that appeared to Whitman no more than a beaver dam strewn with hay and cornstalks and one Miller Lite can.

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The Hol-E Grail Feb. 26

The camera doesn’t lie, at least, I thought it didn’t.

Several summers ago, I had reported eight different accounts about fishermen catching piranha within a five-mile stretch of the Ohio River.  I even published a large feature in a local newspaper with a circulation of 10,000.

The story did not sit so well with the wildlife and boating departments of Ohio and West Virginia, whose public relations departments did a great job of discrediting me, calling my photographs phonygraphs and deeming my story worthy of checkout-line tabloids.  They even dug back deep enough into my past to reveal I had been a phony since my sophomore year in high school, revealing that I had plagiarized Walt Whitman and even appropriated his name.

If you ask me, they did not do a good enough investigation.  Had they probed more deeply, they would have learned I claimed to have dated all the best looking girls in my class, including the head cheerleader and the homecoming queen.

Well, the PR departments did enough to discredit me so that I was ruined in  the outdoor-writing business.  But I have my blog, thanks to you, friends.  Keep those pics and comments coming.

Over and out, Whitman.

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On this blog Whitman had posted two dated pictures of piranhas caught from the Ohio River and the picture of the alleged Grassman nest, crediting it to Bill Luckman of Annapolis, Ohio.  He was now receiving more hits than a blackjack tournament while his earnings pushed over the 200-dollar mark from advertisers, now including those of binoculars, night vision optics, digital camera companies, the ever-present beef jerky company and a local mental hospital.  And he received a 50-dollar check in snail mail for first place in a poetry contest.

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With the local economy devastated by the demise of steel mills, the clay pipe industry and a dwindling population, the Jefferson County Office of Regional Development had tried several unique, if not dubious, ways of attracting tourists to the county.   It had once commissioned a local artist named Barzan to carve replicas of petroglyphs into giant sandstone boulders that the shifting landmasses from different eras had strewn onto a bottomland of the woods, an area called Three Forks, about a mile west of T-town.  The original petroglyphs, elsewhere known less scientifically as Indian rocks, had long been submerged from the construction of high-rise dams along the Ohio River or destroyed by dredging operations.  The Office of Development predicted the replicas of crude etchings of sand hill cranes, beavers, bears, wolves and other Algonquin hieroglyphics would become prime tourist attractions as part of their planned public park at Three Forks.

Few tourists, if any, expressed much interest in Indian Rocks, especially those carved like Picassos, and poor ones at that.  Wings emerged as though an eagle were taking a good bear shit in the woods.  Wolves had good reason to howl with a foot up their asses.

The only people attracted to Three Forks were under-aged drinkers and stoners.

Whitman’s increasing popularity and loyal following drew the attention of the Office of Development, and the executive director Sheryl Gross invited the blogger to her office.

“You have quite a following of weirdos and freaks,” Ms. Gross said at their meeting.

“I like to call them the curious and the open-minded,” Whitman replied.  “After all, there are many things in science we do not understand and many things yet to be discovered.”

“The only thing, Whitman, you need to understand is that we are willing to pay you good money to pique those weirdoes’ curiosity enough so that they want very much to come to this area for the Grassman experience.  After all, Point Pleasant has the Mothman, whose myth attracts thousands of visitors a year.  Roswell has the UFOs and even more freaks.  Loch Ness has Nessie.  Do you get my picture, Whitman?”

“You will get what you pay for,” Whitman replied.

An unexpected snow shower that dropped six inches on the area gave Whitman the inspiration of how to plant the seeds of rumor and speculation.  He motored his Jeep Wrangler south along Ohio Route 7 and veered toward the last exit of town, but pulled off the verge and parked near an old chain-linked entrance gate for the overgrown road leading to Three Forks.  Here Whitman hopped out his Jeep and then trudged west through ankle-deep snow for about 100 yards until he reached a shallow, rocky creek named Sloane’s Run.  He waded upstream for a quarter-mile, being careful not to leave tracks, stepping and skipping upon as many flat stones as safely as he could until he reached a smooth sloping bank.

Here he dropped his jeans and jockeys to his knees and leaned back, letting his bare ass press deeply into the virgin snow.  With his ass cheeks firmly pressed, he rocked his trunk and arms back and forth until he gathered enough momentum to stand erect in the creek without disturbing the snow. He repeated another ass print 16 inches and two feet left farther up the bank.

Seeing his ass prints embedded into the blue-white snow, Whitman grinned.  He had a mental picture of showing Ms. Gross his work, “There’s your Assman; I mean Grassman,” he would say.   Who would know except him?  Had he not known the two impressions were those of his ass cheeks, one would have sworn they came from the feet of a very large unidentified species.

Several digital snapshots of the bogus prints later, Whitman was hopscotching downstream, already composing his next blog in his head.

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The Hol-E Grail March 1

Yesterday, an anonymous hiker trekking the Kaul Wildlife Area north of T-town captured this photo displaying a pair of footprints he estimated were 18 inches long and equally as wide.  The hiker said that he could smell nearby an odor reminding him of a combination of a sweltering outhouse and crusty athletic socks.

More and more evidence is indicating that Eastern Ohio’s version of Big Foot, the Grassman, is once again making a nomadic visit to Jefferson County.  Prior to this high-resolution picture of the man-beast’s colossal footprints, the Grassman has left other visible evidence, including this nest, taken by Phil Luckman of Annapolis, Ohio two weeks ago.

Keep these pictures and reports coming.

Over and out, Whitman.

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The Hol-E Grail looked like a pinball machine the way it w as taking hits.  Whitman received e-correspondence from individuals and organizations alike, all seekers of the arcane with monikers such as the Goonies Again, the Loonies, the Indiana Jones Chapter of Ohio and the T-town Cutters.  Meanwhile the curious, as the snow melted and evaporated, combed the woods north and northwest of town. Whitman received steady reports from Gross how much these tourists were spending on food, lodging, fuel and alcohol.  No one reported sighting the Grassman although a few claimed to have smelled something rancid and smelling like gym socks in the vicinity of Trucker’s Tavern.  The sheriff’s department reported arresting three tourists for trespassing and another for shooting a Holstein cow.

The following day, Whitman hiked up Sloane’s Run, following a trail until he reached Three Forks.  There, sitting lotus style upon a desk-sized black sandstone in the middle of the megalith was a 60-year-old hippie, whom T-towners called Poco, stoned amongst the stones.

A red bandana covered Poco’s long gray guru hair.  His 1960’s Army jacket was dotted with embroidered patches of peace signs, marijuana plants and smiley faces.  He somewhat resembled Dennis Hopper—a Dennis Hopper whom life had kicked in the balls a few times.

As Whitman approached him, Poco proffered a smoldering joint, “Have some of the luxury, brother.”

Whitman took the joint and inhaled deeply, immediately feeling as though filled with electric helium.  “That’s some good shit.”

“The luxury, “ Poco replied.

They passed the communal marijuana back and forth, saying only stoner small talk, like “wow, far out, heavy, dude, right on, sock it to me and groovy,” until Whitman finally uttered, “I am searching for Big Foot.”

“You mean Sasquatcherooni?”

“Yep, Sasquatch.”

“That is so far out, dude,” Poco said.  “Things exist, my man.  The power is the power.”

“How so?”

“Like, dude, I once read this book The Power Power by the head librarian for the Popester.  Dude, he found the power.  But the Popester excommunicated him.  He wrote—“ Poco stared into the canopy of bare tree branches, trance like–“’What it is because it already is.’  He called it like the power because all thoughts and ideas are from the same source because they already exist.”  Poco slapped Whitman’s knee.  “At some far-out planet, some far-out time, some far-out dimension—“  He spread his arms wide, making semi-arcs.  “The universe is like huge, dude, far, far out.”  He closed his arms until his fingers interlocked. “ It is like, man, whole universes from different dimensions can fit inside my fists.  Bazillions of them.

“Superman, Batman, the Lone Ranger, Ole Yeller, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Popeye and Olive Oyl is and are real somewhere because of the power, dude.  The power is the power.”

He cracked his fists open and machine-gunned a laugh.  “I just saw Popeye balling Minnie Mouse.”

Whitman explained to Poco about his search for the Grassman, how nobody has actually captured a picture of him although several alleged sighting of him were reported from the small universe called Eastern Ohio the last several years.

“He has is-ness, dude,” Poco said while pulling another joint from his army jacket.  He lit it with a Bic lighter and inhaled as though trying to break the world’s record for a lung capacity test.  As if through the squeezed lips of a ventriloquist whose Fruit of the Looms was too tight, he uttered, “This is Poco’s power.  When smoking the power, you got to close your eyes to see.”

Whitman took the joint and puffed long and hard until he felt as though his lungs had developed seams, and they were bulging and ready to burst.  Then suddenly he saw the Grassman, feet padded the shape of butt cheeks and body length fur the color of alfalfa browning from a mid-summer draught, and then the Grassman was red, gold and auburn like a late October forest, moments later these colors bleeding as though bleached and then the Grassman became winter, white as virgin snow in the Appalachian Mountains, glistening under a cold blue sun.  The image disappeared slowly as if it were frost evaporating upon a windshield.

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The Hol-E Grail March 5

The Grassman is real. He is a chameleon.  He changes his color with the hues of the forest and its seasons, appearing to only those sensitive to the environment—an environment that we have destroyed collectively as Homo sapiens as our collective subconscious plods us toward progress—a progress that leveled forests, set fires to rivers, blotted out skies and has approved passively the genocides of entire indigenous cultures.  This is the very same progress that will surely lead us to our own self-inflicted genocide if we continue pushing forward in our ignorance.  Perhaps occasional appearances of the Grassman and his Northwest relative Sasquatch are manifestations of purpose, to emerge from their invisibility in the briefest of flickers to admonish us, the few witnesses, the believing prophets, that our existence as we know it can be only the merest flickers of light.

I have seen the Grassman.

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A few days later, Whitman returned to Three Forks.  Poco was absent, but Whitman did espy freshly carved into a sandstone a beige etching of the Grassman’s image, the likeness of all seasons and time, exactly as Whitman pictured him.

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Petras is a graduate of West Liberty University.  His most recently published short stories have appeared in NAUGHTY GIRLX, HOWLS AND PUSHYCATS and YESTERYEAR FICTION.

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