There was a time in the county when the name Nick Travis meant something. He once was a big deal as a cattle rancher and was respected by the folks in the county as somebody who you didn’t cross.
But those days were gone and now Nick spent his days napping on one of his son’s front porch. He was pushing eighty, and while he still sported the rawhide tough body of a cowboy, arthritis made him unable to stand up straight and he moved slowly with his pain. But his mind was still sharp, and he still remembered things clearly.
He woke suddenly one Sunday morning from his nap when his grandson Jed let the screen door slam as he left the ranch house. “Sorry, grandpa, I didn’t know you were out here. I’ll be more careful next time.”
“Sure, Jed,” Nick mumbled, wiping some spittle from the side of his mouth. “Where ya headed, anyway?”
Jed was dressed warmly and was carrying a shotgun as he stopped, moved closer to the old man and replied, “Brett and I are going up to the old reservoir to hunt birds, grandpa. Hiking the old fire road, you know. We’ll get back in time to have some for dinner. You like game birds, don’t ya?”
The old man nodded and tried to get out his chair saying, “Here, I’ll go with ya, Jed. There’s something up there you got to be careful of. “
“Whoa, old timer, you’re not going anywhere today, okay?” Jed chuckled as he patted Nick on his shoulder and settled him back down in his deck chair. “You just sit there and rest until we get back. We’ll be safe up there. Don’t worry none.”
Nick gathered some strength and protested, “No, no, you don’t understand, boy. It’s dangerous up there. I know. I never told anybody just how dangerous it can be.”
Exhausted and in pain, he slumped back down in his chair, his head lolling a bit. He could tell that Jed was still standing there watching him to make sure he was doing okay. He had never told anybody about the old reservoir because nobody would believe it. And especially now, given his condition, they’d just think he was a crazy old man.
“Jed, boy, come close,” Nick managed, wincing in pain, and deciding now was the time to tell somebody. “I have something I need to tell you. Come, boy. It’s important,” Nick managed to utter as he motioned his grandson over with a weak wave of his hand.
Jed propped his shotgun against the house, moved closer and knelt down next to the old man. “Sure, I’m listening, grandpa. What’s up?”
Breathing heavier now, and struggling to get out each word, Nick whispered, “It’s ‘Bigfoot’, boy. I shot him up there forty-seven years ago, but he got away. He’s still up there, Jed. He’s still got my bullet in him and he’s madder than hell.”
Jed smiled and patted his grandfather on the knee saying, “Don’t worry, gramps. We’ll be safe, Bigfoot or not.”
“No, no you won’t, boy. I went up there every year to finish the job until I was seventy and couldn’t go no more. He’s mean, kid, real mean and vicious. And he’s smart, too. He almost got me several times ,” Nick warned Jed.
Jed shook his head and tried to settle the old man down. “I believe you think there’s a ‘Bigfoot’ up there, grandpa, I really do. But hunters go up there all the time and never reported any sign of one. And no stock’s gone missing. So, you just go back to sleep and Brett and I’ll be back before you know it.”
Nick knew that his smell was on Jed and that the beast would get his revenge on the boy even if he couldn’t get Nick himself. He had to convince the boy that he was not just a crazy old man . “Here, boy, help me out of this chair, will ya? Just for a second. I got something to show you. Then you can go,” Nick pleaded.
“Well. okay, grandpa,” Jed replied. “Here, I’ll stand here and you grab my hands and I’ll pull you up,” Jed explained, moving around to face Nick, and putting out his hands. Nick rose slowly from his chair as Jed pulled him onto his feet. The old man was wobbly as he stood stooped over, almost unable to look at Jed’s face.
“Good. Now, boy, help me get my shirt off, will ya?” Nick asked.
Jed had never seen his grandfather like this before. The old man had a grit to his voice that meant business. “Sure, sure, grandpa. Just pull it out of your pants for me and unbutton it and I’ll get behind you and help you take it off,” Jed replied, unsure of what the old man was up to.
Jed stood behind Nick as the old man unbuttoned it and then told him he could go ahead and take the shirt off. Slowly slipping the shirt from Nick’s shoulder, and pulling it back towards him, Jed gasped, “Oh, Jesus!” as he saw the terrible ragged scars all over Nick’s back.
“Put it back on, son. Quick so nobody else knows!” Nick ordered gruffly.
Jed did as he was instructed and helped the old man get his shirt buttoned and tucked back in. Then, in the reverse of what they’d done earlier, Jed helped Nick to settle back down into the chair again.
“I’m sorry, grandpa,” Jed apologized. “I didn’t know. Nobody knew. And all this talk about ‘Bigfoot’ this morning I just figured was . . . well, I just thought . . . “ he said, trailing off.
The old man smiled weakly and looking up at his grandson he asked, “So, are we clear now about the danger up there, boy?”
Jed nodded slowly; the image of his grandpa’s scars seared into his mind forever.
“Good, good. Now let me tell you why you can’t never go hunting over up by the old mine, neither, boy,” Nick grunted, motioning Jed to get closer.
Still stunned by what he’s seen on his grandpa’s back, Jed hesitantly knelt down again close to his grandpa and listened as the old man’s lips came close to his ear.
“Look at my neck, boy. Tell me what you see.”
Jed pulled back enough to see the area of Nick’s neck that was revealed as the old man held down his shirt collar.
“Oh, my Lord!” Jed gasped again as he saw what were plainly two dark bite marks, one on each side of the old man’s jugular vein.