Once upon a time several years ago there arose the perfect hoax. In my lifetime, I have never lived through a joke, prank or "gotcha" like I did back during my Webster County days while living in an area called Bergoo. Most of you fishermen know Bergoo for the Elk River, streams, wildlife and great four-wheelin' trails. However, when the Webster Echo came out one day many years ago, life changed for one short week in this utopia of the great outdoors.
The story was written by an older gentleman with far too much time on his hands. He and I bantered within our columns in the Echo for more than 10 years and played tit for tat on a weekly basis. He would tell blonde jokes (hey, I can take it), and I would reciprocate only to find out he'd made up a story about me and the girls in the paper office once again. But one week, he went too far, or so some would think.
Personally the article amused me probably more than anything in years. And honestly it has never been topped in my estimation. Though I would enjoy sharing this with you in its entirety and without the opening paragraph, most defiantly my publisher and editor would probably have the same reaction as the Echo editor and be ready to ring my proverbial neck.
So, here it is, as told by Jim Wilson, aka "Pops," to my kids and I: "The Abbagoochie."
What is an Abbagoochie? How did they get here ... and who brought them?
Costa Rican natives call Abbagoochies "dry land piranhas" because of their insatiable appetites. They are only about 3 feet long and weigh an average of 35 pounds as adults. But they are all teeth and muscle and can consume many times their own weight in one days feeding.
The elusive part of their makeup is rather than risk capture by human beings, Abbagoochies, if cornered, will spin and twirl like a Tasmanian Devil and consume themselves - as in poof, they're gone. Wildlife authorities in Pennsylvania, British Columbia and Canada, as well as West Virginia, have studied these creature's habits since 2001 and believe these mammals are highly intelligent and willing to sacrifice themselves in order to protect a secret society that was heretofore unknown to exist in Mammalia.
They were brought into West Virginia by wildlife officials in order to eradicate nuisance animals such as coyotes, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, lady bugs, locusts and a small wolf population.
Rumors exist, but are denied by wildlife personnel, that the Division of Natural Resources traded whitetail deer and turkey to western states for the coyotes, mountain lions and wolves. Later, they regretted these trades because the transplanted animals were decimating farmers' livestock to the point of oblivion and bankruptcy. Added to the fact was the DNR was paying out tens of thousands of dollars to farmers official claims of destroyed livestock.
Thus, the introduction of the Abbagoochie into West Virginia's wilds and the secrecy behind same.
But the best laid plans of man and Abbagoochies oft goes astray. Since their placement in 1999, the smallish monsters have consumed everything they were brought in to destroy - but also thrive on livestock and family pets. A Field & Stream editor asked WVDNR game biologist Jim Evans if the Abbagoochies attacked humans. Evans replied, "People are disappearing. Draw your own conclusion."
Now, to say that this article created a stir is an understatement. The fact that he used names and the DNR prompted many phone calls from them to the prankster asking him to "please not do that again." Especially because Jim was buddies with many of these guys and everyone knew he had created the classic hoax.
I assume the DNR phones rang off the hook that week as folks were literally sleeping in their barns to protect livestock and parents were walking their kids to school. Chuckle if you must, but know that if I had printed the article in its entirety, you would understand the people's perspective in believing such a lie. The details were amazing.
The next week, together with the Echo office, we "got him good." I wrote a poem exposing his deception and included a picture of the Abbagoochie with Jim's face in it. Folks still talk today about Jim's furry friend. He carried the creature around and took pictures along with a fun lovin' conservation officer and various individuals making up lie after lie - I mean story after story about the critter. It entertained many of us for a long time.
Since that time, the Abbagoochie has been in major magazines (no kidding), has its own Web site and is on e-Bay. The Abbagoochie was actually created by taxidermist David Vandevender of Bergoo. If you don't find humor in all this, I suppose, you just had to be there. I'd say a movie may just be in the makin'.
Below is the poem I wrote in order to expose the hoax and the writer:
The Ol' Man on the
There was an ole man who lived on a mountain,
Who told so many lies, we could not count them.
He scared little ladies with tales of beasts,
While he sat laughing and having a feast.
Soon his tales would come back to haunt him,
As plans were made by blondes to taunt him.
Shivering and frightened he cowered in fear,
That blondes with PMS would soon be near.
But when they arrived, their plot to unfold,
This is the tale that they were told.
A wild animal had come to their little man's house,
And opened the door as quiet as a mouse.
It climbed the stairs to where he was sleeping,
And what did he see - the little ole man was weeping.
He had come to the end of his life that day,
And what did the little old man have to say?
"I have treated blondes with cruelty and woe,
And now each and everyone is my foe."
I made up stories of friends far and wide,
Now Rich has had to go and hide.
He cannot help me, nor can my wife,
For the ferocious beast is taking my life.
The blondes who saw it, shook their heads in dismay,
For the little ole man would no longer be in the way.
His lies and deceit were spinning out of control,
As the little ole man ran to find himself a hole.
The creature pursued him with blondes a cheerin'.
They could not believe the words they were hearin'.
The little ole man was saying he was sorry,
To blondes and Rich, and those he'd offended,
With stories and jokes, the truth he had bended.
Now the Abbagoochie was laughing at the man's plight,
Then he went spinning until out of sight.
With sweat and tears the man awakened.
His body was trembling - his voice a quakin'.
It had been a dream during the night,
Though it seemed so real - his plight.
The twinkle returning to the little man's eye,
He would not tell a story, a lie or a joke . . .
Until at least he'd had his smoke.
He winked at the picture that stood by the lotion,
The one that had caused such a stir and commotion.
The Abbagoochie winked back then spoke a clear warning:
"Remember, Mr. Wilson to watch your words,
For sometimes your lies will not be heard.
You'll be like the little boy who cried 'Wolfe,'
And out will walk a blonde who has the last word."
(Kimberly Short Wolfe, MA, is a home school mom and the grief counselor/chaplain for Mountain Hospice. She can be reached by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 304-823-3922, ext. 136.)