By Ed Staskus
The Minerva Monster should have stayed in Minerva, Ohio, but he didn’t. When he didn’t, he got tangled up with Oliver the Unofficial Monster Hunter of Lake County. That was his second fateful step. His last step was dismissing Oliver as just another six-year-old. He should have punted and kept an eye out.
The monster’s name was Minnie and since he was always on the prowl for grub, and since he never had cash or a credit card, he was known as Minnie the Moocher even though he was willing to play his saxophone for his supper.
The first time Oliver saw the creature in the forest behind his house he was practicing scales. He was wearing a blue bandana wrapped around his head and dark sunglasses. He was as naked as the day he was born.
When Minnie was done practicing, he burst into “Take the A Train.” He played the Dave Brubeck Quartet version. He played it for his own satisfaction.
“Hurry, get on, now it’s coming, listen to those rails a-thrumming, all aboard, get on the A train, soon you will be on Sugar Hill.”
When he was finished and Oliver started clapping, Minnie almost jumped out of his furriness. He thought he was alone. He couldn’t see around the oak tree behind which Oliver was standing. When he roared Oliver didn’t jump out of his skin.
Minnie had been an outdoorsman for a long time, but the first time anybody ever caught sight of him was in Minerva more than forty years earlier. Herbert Cayton had dug a garbage pit behind his house. Everything went into it, including food scraps. When Minnie went rummaging in it the farm dogs went berserk, barking up a storm. Herbie and his mother Evelyn went to the pit to investigate. They got the surprise of their life.
“It just stood there. It didn’t move, but I almost broke my neck running back down the hill,” Evelyn said.
“What do you want?” Minnie bellowed at Oliver, who came out from behind the tree. When he saw who it was, Minnie almost laughed. It was a pipsqueak of a boy. He stood up on his hind legs making himself bigger and roared again even louder. He was roaring at the wrong boy.
When Dave White ran into the creature behind his Paris Township home near Minerva, and Minnie roared at him, he couldn’t lock himself in his house fast enough.
“It’s a blood chilling sound,” he said. “A curdling sound. It will scare the hell out of you.”
Oliver had been roared at by three-hundred-foot-tall monsters. A hairy ten-footer who scavenged garbage dumps wasn’t going to faze him. He strolled back home whistling the A Train song.
Back in Minerva when Deputy Sheriff Jim Shannon investigated a complaint about Minnie, he thought the simple explanation had to be food.
“Those folks heard something at the kitchen window, kind of clawing and pawing. I don’t think the creature, whatever the hell it was, was trying to get in as much as it was saying, ‘Hey, feed me!’”
The lawman hit it on the nose. Minnie the Moocher was always on the make for a ten-course meal. He could eat anything anywhere anytime.
Every time somebody spotted Minnie the papers radio TV made a big stink about it. Newspapermen and photographers started showing up in Minerva. They were followed by curiosity seekers and hunters. The orange vested hunters came armed with Bowie knives, handguns, shotguns, and rifles. Most of them had cases of beer in coolers in their pick-up trucks. When they started taking potshots at him was when he decided to move on. He was sick and tired of being the bad guy. He hit the open road.
“It was moving pretty good on two legs, pumping its arms like a track star. I got back in the car, rolled up the windows and locked the door,” said Herbert Burke, parked on the side of a country road.
When Minnie got to Lake County, he thought he had stumbled into paradise. There were farmers markets galore to steal food from and plenty of forest land to hide in. He broke into the Mentor, Painesville, and Willoughby markets. Before long the cops got plenty concerned about it. 911 was ringing off the hook.
The Lake County Visitors Bureau got concerned about it, too. Minnie had been spotted at campgrounds gleaning. He had been spotted at beaches scavenging and working on his tan, even though he was hairy as could be. He had been spotted in gardens foraging. Travelers and tourists were avoiding Lake County like the plague. The bureau knocked on Oliver’s door.
“i saw him a few weeks ago,” Oliver told them. “He plays a mean saxophone. He wasn’t friendly, but he wasn’t unfriendly either.”
“He’s scaring the tourists to death. Something has to be done,” they said.
Oliver and Emma put on their thinking caps. Even though Minnie wasn’t messing with people, people saw him as a menace. Even though he was Charlie Parker-like on the sax, nobody was coming to his shows. Every time he showed himself everybody ran the other way.
“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” Emma said.
‘What does that mean?” Oliver asked.
“I don’t know but grownups say it all the time, and since they’re in charge, it must mean something. Anyway, I think it means we have to find him a girlfriend who will become his wife, who will cook three square meals a day for him, and who will keep him at home.”
“You might be on to something,” Oliver said.
“Where have you been,” Emma asked. She had long thought she was the brains behind Oliver’s monster hunting. He did the hunting, and she did the thinking.
“What does that mean?”
“Oh, never mind,” she said.
They borrowed their mom’s laptop and found a dating service for Bigfeet. It was hard to tell who might be right for Minnie. All the Bigfeet girls looked the same, all of them hairy and about eight feet tall. When they found Bonnie the Bigfoot, who lived in the woods between Sudbury, Ontario, and the Lady Evelyn Smoothwater Provincial Park, both of them perked up.
“Bingo,” Emma said.
“How do we get him there?”
“Maybe Uncle Ed will drive him there. He’s from Sudbury.”
“Good idea,” Oliver said.
“What?” Uncle Ed said when they asked him. “You want me to drive a Bigfoot to Sudbury? Are you sure Sudbury wants him?”
“Not Sudbury exactly, more like the middle of nowhere,” Emma said.
“That sounds even worse,” Ed said.
In the end he and Aunt Vanessa agreed to do it. They could drop him off, stop at Lake Nipissing, stop in Toronto, and be back by Monday morning.
“How are we going to get him to go?” Ed asked.
“Leave that to us,” Oliver said.
Emma went to work. She made a scrambled egg breakfast. She made ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch. She made a pot roast for dinner. She made a strawberry and rhubarb pie for dessert. When Uber Eats delivered the food, Minnie ate all of it all at once. When he was done and picking his teeth, Oliver explained that he could have the same food every day. All he had to do was go to Canada and get married. Minnie had never heard of Canada or marriage, but he let loose a whopping burp. He soon agreed to go.
“Yeti or not, here I come,” he said.
Ed and Vanessa picked him up the next day in their SUV, lowered the back seats so he could stretch out, and left for the border. They drove with all the windows open because Minnie smelled so bad.
“When was the last time you took a shower?”
“Do you have a passport?”
Vanessa threw a blanket over him when they got to Buffalo. When they got to Sudbury, they turned right. They took Route 84 north and dropped Minnie off near a lake with no name. Bonnie was waiting and ran out to them, throwing her arms around Minnie.
“Aw shucks,” he bumbled and stumbled, and they disappeared into the woods holding hands.
Ed and Vanessa spent a few days swimming in Lake Nipissing, a few days sightseeing in Toronto, and after they got home to Lakewood, Ohio where they lived, they dropped their car off at the Meticulous Car Wash & Detailing Center.
“What was in this car?” the cleaning man asked putting a clothespin on his nose.
“You know how all pictures of Bigfoot are always blurry?”
“That’s what we had in the car. A blur.”
Ed Staskus posts feature stories on 147 Stanley Street http://www.147stanleystreet.com and Cleveland Daybook http://www.clevelandohiodaybook.com. To get the site’s monthly feature in your in-box click on “Follow.”