Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I saw a Hodag the other day...

Now listen up...

If you know me from my other speleo posts, you'll know that I'm a completely straightforward kinda guy, who is quite willing to share my linear knowledge with others, especially those cave folks, so they can improve their crooked situations. Well, what I'm about to tell you is the most straight-up bit of news you'll ever hear. You see, I saw a hodag the other day with my own two perfectly good working eyes and the site mortified me so bad that I've decided to turn over a new leaf.

If you don't know what a hodag is, to get a picture in your mind, imagine a wish bone at Thanksgiving dinner that's already been broke. That's right, one side is shorter than the other, and that's the way it is with hodags. Hunh? you ask. Yah well, that's probably a perfectly good question cuz you still can't visualize it quite right. Think about this: its an animal that walks on two legs, one shorter than the other, but it ain't a beast, or a wild animal, its more like a yeti or one of them 'bominable snowmen. If you caught one and you cleaned him up real good, you would probably get a WVU Mountaineer, but with one leg shorter than the other. That's a hodag.

They live in Appalachia, where I've lived all my life, and where the hillsides are so steep that it would make plenty of sense to have one leg shorter than the other so you could walk around those hills, rather than having to go up and down em, but until the other day, I had only heard tell of these hodag creatures. Most of those stories came from cavers who went to that Germany Valley cave called Schoolhouse, which I think has a funny name, cuz when I went in caves (avoid 'em now all costs), I was trying to get away from the Schoolhouse and the teachers. Anyoldwho, cavers were in some high-angled passage in Schoolhouse that had a slope from one side to the other like when they made that cave, they forgot to take out about half the dirt, except it weren't the top half, or side half, it was the top-side half and it sloped down just like an Appalachian hillside. So these cavers, to go forward they had to scrunch up one leg real tight up under 'em and the other would be at its normal length and they go walking through the passage like that.

Well it just so happened on one of their excursions in this sloped up passage, these cavers came upon a mountain-man looking creature standing right there in the passage with his short leg up the hill and his long leg down. The hodag, that's what it was, and the cavers took a good look at each other and both turned around in fear to skeddadle out of there, cuz neither of em liked the look of the other too much. But those cavers had barely got turned around and scrunched their up-hill leg up under em, had to switch scrunched-up legs you know cuz now they were going back out, and this took some time, but when they glanced over their shoulders that Hodag was already way down the cave passage and out of site. So eventually those cavers came of of the cave in their scrunch walk and went to the country store and told the proprietor about the hodag they had just seen and because everybody had to go to the country store on occasion, word spread rapidly about that Hodag in Schoolhouse Cave. Other folks, cavers too, claimed to have seen em also, so there's no doubt they existed, at least at some time ago.

And that was a long time ago and I ain't heard much from folks about hodags in a while. So I was beginning to think that the strip mining and road building that's been going on in Appalachia for the past hundred or so years was eliminating the need for em to have to one leg shorter than the other. Well, turns out there is still places out there where its a benefit to have legs like that, cuz I saw one, and that place is deep in the Cheat Canyon of northern West Virginia.

We were out looking for caves (I mean my pals were, I was along for the ride) and while I was waiting for em to check some limestone outcrop, I happened to look out across the hillside and there stood a big fuzzy looking creature with a short leg up the hill and the longer one down. He saw me too, and from the look on his face, he was a little more than worried. At first I didn't know why because I'm none too frightening in stature, at least not to a giant wild mountain hodag, but then I saw what his problem was: he was a left-leg shorty and he was facing me on the same contour. What this meant was that his route of escape was straight through me cuz if he turned around and ran the other way, his long leg would have been uphill and running like that ain't a hell you'd want to wish on anyone, hodag or not.

So anyway at that moment the two halves of my brain was having one of them "fight or flight" kinda arguments and they couldn't decide which way to go with it, so I took control and said, "Now listen up, Hodag. I ain't out to hurt you and I know you gotta come this way to git on about your business, so I'll tell you what I'm gonna do. Seeings how you have to stick to this contour on the hill, I'll be the one who moves off the contour. I'm gonna git out of your way by going up the hill a little ways. But in return, you gotta show me where the caves are around here. Deal?"

I thought this was a very reasonable proposition and was about to give myself a pat on the back for thinking of it when I looked up just in time to saw that Hodag skeddadling right toward me at a very high rate of speed. Those two halves of my brain that was arguing earlier got caught in another argument and this time I couldn't do nothing about it before that Hodag hit me like a truck in fifth gear. He knocked me straight on my back and kept right on striding around the hill like he owned the place and he'd done it a thousand times before. He was out of sight in a couple of long seconds and I was still on my back trying to figure out what was wrong with my proposal and why he hadn't accepted it. It dawned on me that he probably didn't speak English and that I should of used some other language, like Old English.

So anyway, I spent some time pondering this, during which I checked to make sure nothing was broken, nothing was, but I decided to rest a little longer just to make sure and just then along comes my pals who had missed the whole thing cuz they was still looking for them damned caves. "You guys missed out!" I told em. They just laughed and said that it must be nice to lay on the hillside and take a nap in the sun all day while they looked for caves. "No, I'm serious!" I tried to tell em. "I saw a Hodag! It knocked me down!" but they just kept on walking, not at all interested in hearing about it.

I stayed there for a few minutes more thinking about that Hodag turning down my proposition. I had already decided that it must have been a language barrier but I couldn't help wondering if maybe I had gone down the hill that he would have taken me up on the offer. I've been thinking about that ever since and I've decided to turn over a new leaf in how I do things from now on: everytime I see a Hodag out in the woods, I'm gonna go down the hill, not up, and then he'll definitely tell me where the caves are.

If you see me on the street tomorrow, you'll know I'm a new man.

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