Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Mystery of the Loch Ness Monster

I grew up in a small logging town in the Oregon Cascade mountains. Men were tough and worked the forest service roads there. I remember seeing these loggers at baseball games and in the grocery store, covered in grease and dirty overalls, their faces beneath bent and battered ball caps burnt from the sun smelling of tar and oil. I feared them in a way, watching their voices go hoarse in the football stands or stomping and smoking behind the backstop, pulling up in rigs, hooting and hollering after big wins and breaking beers bottles in the trash and cursing after loses. I feared the boys that went home to those men too, knowing they would grow up to be just like their fathers.
I also feared those men because they knew things I did not. How to lace up the blades of a chain saw or fall an evergreen tall as a house. They pulled green chain in the mills and spit Kodiac tobacco and cursed with certainty in ways I was not yet familiar. But most of all, because they knew the secrets of the forest. You see, I also grew up in Bigfoot territory.
Yes, I know, to most people even the notion of Bigfoot conjures men in hairy ape suits running though backyard trees on home video footage. Maybe even they’ve read about Yetis or Chupacabras and equate them to something as hoaxy and conspiracy laden as Transylvania or Area 51. But to me, growing up in those woods, hearing the eye witnesses of loggers who’d “seen the beast with their own two eyes,” and “followed them footprints halfway up goat mountain…” I just went ahead and believed with them.
So when I got to Scotland and began driving along the massive northern highlands, and especially past the massive sprawling Loch Ness, I couldn’t help wondering… is Nessie really, really, really for real?
The first recorded contact with the Loch Ness Monster came in the 6th century when the Irish Saint, St. Columbia, ordered one of his hapless monks to swim across the loch and in the middle came eyeball to eyeball with the beast. From the shore St. Columbia screamed, “Go no further. Go Back!” And to everyone’s surprise, Nessie obeyed.
The first photograph, and the most famous, of the beast occurred in 1933 which shows the long neck and head emerging from the water, causing a stir in London in the Daily Mail.
In one of the great moves in Nessie lore, the circus owner Bertran Mills offered two million pounds for anyone who captured the beast and put it in his traveling show. This caused great tourism to flood the area and the villages along the loch to prosper
In 1951, Lachian Stuart, a lumberman managed to photograph three humps in the water before his camera shutter jammed. Still, it caused further proof that something is lurking beneath the surface. Even recently there have been sightings, and certainly no shortage of wanderers and trekkers I met along the way out for a “Nessie sighting stroll,” bounding with earnest enthusiasm with their cameras loaded and tripods at the ready.
It’s curious, isn’t it? Loch Ness is the deepest Loch in Scotland at 740 feet, contains more water that all the other lakes in Scotland, England, and Wales combined, and is over 22 miles long. Oh…and if you think that’s peculiar, how about this… the water has never been known to freeze. Sounds like something fishy IS going on in there.
But nothing… no amount of scientific proof or water conditions or firsthand sightings run as deep as man’s imagination. We stare into Loch Ness in the same way as children we stared at the darkness of men and wondered what secrets lie in the depths of their soul. What lurks at the bottom of the earth is the same power that draws men deep into the forest’s heart. The proof that our fears are nothing. That’s why Nessie still lives.  We believe in her because our best fears always have names

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