The Mayhaw Man: The Legend of Bearhead Creek
by Johnny Smith
As I flip through the channels on my television, I am amazed at all of the programs where people are looking for big hairy monsters. They have Mountain Monsters, Mothman, Finding Bigfoot, Swamp Creature, Trail of the Skunk Ape, Messing with Bigfoot… the list goes on. Shucks, I could tell them where he’s at. He’s down on Bearhead Creek, eating mayhaws. Everyone in our neck of the woods knows the legend. Small children are taught at an early age where they can go and where not to go. Strange occurrences have been attributed to the great hairy ape-man for years. Just the other day, my wife Deb looked up from under a hanging limb in the mayhaw patch and said, “Who drank my coke, I just set it down here?” I looked around with a wide-eyed, fearful, but knowing expression and whispered, “the Mayhaw Man!” Deb didn’t seem too impressed with this well thought out and highly educated guess, but then she wasn’t raised around Bearhead swamp, either.
Artist’s interpretation of the “Legend of Bearhead Creek”
And so the story goes….
and for the life of me, I can’t understand why Miss Verdie Mae Daftwert would be out in the swamp alone picking mayhaws in her condition. Miss Verdie Mae suffered from a condition known as strabismus. Besides that, she was as cross-eyed as a bat and danged-near as near-sighted as one to boot. Often, Miss Verdie would be looking right at you and speaking to you, when all the time you thought she was talking to the fellow across the road. You couldn’t look Miss Verdie in the eye and tell a lie. It just wasn’t possible. At any rate, that’s what she was doing, picking mayhaws, all alone in “the mayhaw flat” along the edge of Bearhead Swamp that fateful Saturday morning.
That Saturday, Elvie “Bud” Jerkins was celebrating the promotion he’d received at the Bug Tussle Saw Mill the day before. Bud was a big bear of a man, with dark, forbidding bushy brows and, generally looking, pretty much forbidding and bushy all over. For all of his dark, fierce countenance, Bud Elvie, as he was affectionately called, had a heart of gold. That morning he had hitched a ride to the big town of DeQuincy and bought himself a brand new pair of overalls at the Nichols Dry Goods store. These were genuine OshKosh B’gosh overalls and Bud Elvie was hurrying home to impress his wife, Miss Haddie with them. Bud had just stopped near the mayhaw flat along Bearhead and began changing behind a convenient bushy shrub. He later recalled having an uneasy feeling come over him, as if he was not alone. He had shrugged off the feeling as he shucked his brogans and old duds and raised up near the shrub. That’s when it happened. He felt the piercing claw of the beast grab his backside, causing him to scream in pain and fear.
Miss Verdie said she had just straightened up from picking mayhaws and was holding the small of her back wondering what that horrible skunk-like smell was. That’s when it happened! A blood-curdling scream emanated from the right of her, shattering the stillness of the calm Spring morning and sending icy shivers of terror up her spine. Not wanting to, but forcing herself anyway, she looked to where the sound came from. An apparition far exceeding her worst nightmares met her view. A great, towering, dark and hairy creature standing upright thrashed and bellowed in rage not fifty feet from her. The creature she described later was obviously one and the same as the creature we know today as Bigfoot. However, in those days, folks didn’t know a lot of scientific names like we do now. The creatures were simply referred to as Wild Men, or sometimes Booger Man. Apparently, some study of the creatures was made by the locals for them to know that they often picked their noses. However, after this dreadful day, whispers of “The Mayhaw Man” would bring chills to the bravest hearts and change the behavior of wayward young’uns for generations to come. “Better be good or the Mayhawman’ll getcha.”
Anyway, back to Miss Verdie. She stated she screamed at this point, flinging her berries in the air as she raised her arms, crying out, “Mayhaw Man!” She then fled for her life, hearing thrashing, splashing and heavy breathing closing in on her as the beast took chase. She later stated, “I thought I was a goner for sure” because her brogans soon filled with mud and water, tiring her to exhaustion, as if she had lead weights attached to her ankles. She recalled that she didn’t see the bluff bank of Bearhead Creek until it was too late, tripping over a root and going headlong into the muddy creek ten feet below. At this point she knew it was over and just prayed for a quick ending. Then, to her amazement, the beast flew past overhead, clearing the twenty foot span between the bluff banks like it was a nothing. She later said she was truly blessed by falling in the creek without the creature seeing her. It obviously thought she had continued on and ran for some distance in that direction before realizing it had lost her trail. Miss Verdie dragged herself in her muddy, ankle-length skirt out of the creek and made a respectable dash in the opposite direction to a neighbor’s house at the top of the hill to sound the alarm. Soon, menfolk from the surrounding community were summoned and a hunting party headed up by the famous old woodsman, Clam Sweatly, was formed to comb the woods for the creature.
Bud later testified to the fact that the creature had attacked him from behind with its piercing claws and even offered to show the marks, but no one seemed to want to view this critical forensic evidence. He stated, as the creature attacked him from behind, causing him to howl in pain, he saw Miss Verdie over there looking with horror at something above and behind him over his left shoulder. He stated he could only imagine, from her expression, the terrible beast which was about to devour him. He said he ran in the direction Miss Verdie took, thinking he could surely outrun her when he realized she must have turned off somewhere. He stated he was too terrified to look back, but just crossed the creek as fast as he could and headed home as fast as his legs would carry him. Bud’s wife, Miss Haddie, didn’t let Bud go off by himself for years afterwards.
Although the hunters searched far and wide, nothing was ever found but a few fifteen inch bare footprints left by the creature, some new overalls hanging on a mayhaw limb and one Nichols Dry Goods receipt for $7.43. The old woodsman, Clam Sweatly, expertly proclaimed the beast must stand well over eight feet tall, as its stride was measured at 21 feet. This explained the ease with which the creature cleared Bearhead Creek. The creature was never found, but mayhaw picking along Bearhead has never been quite the same. Even today, pickers tend to straighten up, grab their lower backs, sniff the air and look around with the uneasy feeling that they are being watched!
Johnny Smith is the Mayhaw Man and grows mayhaws in Singer, LA, a community in Beauregard Parish. Here is his website: http://www.themayhawman.com/