Bigfoot's stomping grounds

There's more to Upper Fruitland than Northern Edge casino

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi Bureau

FARMINGTON, January 26, 2012

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(Courtesy photo - Brenda Harris)

TOP: Brenda Harris of Upper Fruitland, N.M., found this footprint, nearly 18 inches long, in her yard in 2008, starting her on a mission of tracking the elusive creature.

BOTTOM: This photo by Brenda Harris of Upper Fruitland, N.M., shows a figure she believes is a Bigfoot walking behind a cornfield near the San Juan River. Harris, who has investigated dozens of sightings and strange phenomena in her chapter, believes there is at least a family and possibly a whole colony of the creatures living in the mountains north of Fruitland.

Meet the Navajo Buffy.

She's not a pretty cheerleader, she's a pretty middle-aged mom. And she's not a vampire slayer, exactly ... she's more of a live-and-let-live type.

But if you live on the northern edge of the rez, and there's something strange in the neighborhood, who you gonna call? Brenda Harris.

Since finding an 18-inch long footprint in her yard in Upper Fruitland, Harris has investigated dozens of complaints from neighbors about strange livestock killings, hairy upright beings looking in windows, and odd giant footprints.

She has photographs and even hair and blood samples.

Her conclusion: Bigfoot is alive and well. In fact, there are almost certainly more than one of them living in the mountains north of the San Juan River, including some youngsters.

And that's not at all. There is something else out there.

According to Harris, a recent spate of sheep and goat killings in Upper Fruitland reveal a killer that punctures a tidy hole in the neck and sucks the blood, then neatly slices open the abdomen along one side.

Harris's obsession with monster tracking began in August 2008. Her son and nephew were up late, sitting out in the yard laughing and chatting.

"About 1 a.m. they came running in saying, 'We found something,'" Harris recalled.

She went out with them and was astonished to see a quasi-human-looking footprint 18 inches long and four inches wide. There were two of them, a left and a right, four feet apart.

"I thought, 'Anything with that wide a stance is really big,'" Harris said.

She shooed her family in for the night, but not before taking measurements and photos.

About a week went by before the next encounter. Harris's sister came by at about 10:30 p.m.

"I could hear the dogs going nuts, but not in the usual way when someone comes over," Harris recalled. "You can tell when something is really disturbing your dogs."

Harris and her sister went out to investigate.

"We could hear something ... heavy steps coming toward us," Harris said. "I said, 'Let's climb over the fence.'"

They heard the steps again, and then they saw a shape rise out of the gloom.

"Huge," said Harris. "Very, very hairy ... long dark hair and no neck. Kind of a pointy head. The chest was really wide, very muscular. It dropped down on all fours and started running that way. It was surprisingly fast."

Harris noticed the weeds, which grew almost above her 5-foot-2-inch frame, hit the creature at the waist. She estimated it was about 12 feet tall.

Telling the story to her neighbors, Harris found they had all seen the creature, but didn't want to talk about it.

"Among the Native people, we're told not to talk about things like that," she said. "You just leave it alone. But I was worried about my animals and my kids. I felt like we should be talking about it as a community."

So Harris went to a chapter meeting, told her story and announced that anyone who was experiencing strange phenomena could contact her and she would investigate.

"I was prepared for people to laugh and call me crazy," she said. "Instead, you wouldn't believe the number of people who came up afterward and thanked me."

Ever since then, Harris's life has gotten weirder and weirder.

She hasn't come up with any explanations for the things going on in Upper Fruitland, but she has documented a lot of things she can't explain - a 300-pound ram with its head literally torn from its body; eerie 3 a.m. howls that "definitely aren't a coyote"; precisely laid out corpses of sheep and goats with the blood sucked from their bodies and singed slits along their abdomens.

At one site, where a family's rabbit cage had been bent open in a way that suggested a human-type hand, Harris collected blood and coarse dark hair from what she believes is a Bigfoot.

Harris has connected with several other monster trackers around the county, including Farmington-based Crypto Four Corners and a lab back East that analyzes biological evidence. They're working on the blood and hair sample now.

Based on her investigations, Harris has learned quite a bit about Bigfoot, namely:

• The creatures seem to travel between the mountains north of Hogback - where Harris believes they live in caves - and the San Juan River, collecting corn and melons from fields in Upper Fruitland during harvest season.

• They smell like a combination of musk and rotting meat.

• Although they are usually reported between 2 and 3 in the morning, they have been spotted at all hours including broad daylight.

• There are at least three, including one apparent youngster, and possibly a whole colony.

• They are attracted to women, children and the sound of laughter.

• They may be beings that live between the physical and spiritual realms, based on reports of their tracks ending abruptly and sightings where they suddenly appeared and disappeared.

• They make a variety of sounds including a loud "roop" and what Harris's daughter Holly describes as "a very creepy, lonely-sounding scream." Sometimes they imitate other animals, but not very well.

How many Fruitland residents have seen the creature?

"All of us," Harris said confidently. "Most people just won't admit it."

But Harris does not blame Bigfoot for the neatly drained and dissected livestock she has seen on several occasions.

Based on giant hoof prints surrounding the kills and they way they abruptly appear and leave off, she believes the killer is something that flies, possibly a western version of the famed Jersey Devil.

So, how can a livestock owner protect his herd from a 12-foot-tall hominid or a winged attacker?

"Light," Harris said. "As far as I've been able to tell, both creatures are afraid of light."

She has put a large floodlight in her yard and hasn't been bothered since, she said.

But just in case they are some sort of spiritual phenomena, she had a pastor bless her home site.

While an elder neighbor who had lost much of her herd to the mysterious killings tearfully begged Harris to stalk the creature and kill it, Harris said she has no intention of doing that.

"What if it's a person in a costume?" she asked. "I'd feel terrible. And what if you miss and just make it mad?"

She also doesn't advise, as some people are doing, making peace with the creatures by putting food out for them.

"What if one weekend you're not home, and they've come to expect the food?" she asked. "You'd probably come home to a trashed yard