Sports Afield Magazine, entitled “Long Hunter—Alaskan Style” by Russell Annabel. The story is about Tex Cobb, a mountain man who spent years trapping in Canada and Alaska. The last half of the article reported:
The Denna Indian people liked him, Tex Cobb.
No sentiment was wasted on either side, but he and the tribesmen had a live-and-let-live understanding that was rare in those days. He stayed off their trap lines, and they stayed off his.
If an Indian had salmon net in an eddy, Tex found another eddy, and vice versa. Due to the fact that the Indians trusted him, we became involved one autumn with what would be called, I suppose, an abominable snowman. I have since heard and read a great deal about the abominable snowman.
I have seen photographs of those tracks in the snow on a Tibetan mountain, and to me they are simply the tracks of a man with gunnysacking or some other cloth wrapped around his feet for protection from the cold, climbing slewfooted because the slope was steep and he had no crampons.
But when I was a youngster roaming the North with Tex, we had never heard much about Gilyuk, the shaggy cannibal giant sometimes called The-Big-Man-with-The-Little-Hat.
Our adventure with Gilyuk occurred while we were camped in a pretty spruce park on Yellowjacket Creek, south of Tyone Lake. We had spent the entire summer on this mountain-girt Nelchina Plateau, wandering and looking for fur sign.
Maybe we were. He always had to have an excuse for enjoying the country, a commercial excuse if he could think of one. Anyway, it was now late September, the beautiful time, no mosquitoes, the land ablaze with color, the fish and the meat animals summer-fat, the caribou horde gathering, and we were footloose and free as perhaps men can never be again.
This morning Tex was making coffee, and I was down at the creek cleaning a mess of grayling for breakfast, when six Indians filed in through the timber.
They stood a moment solemnly regarding our four horses. To them a horse was a rarity, a mysterious animal. They called them McKinley moose, because Mckinley was the only president they had ever heard of, and the horses were as big as moose. I followed them to camp.
“Have you eaten?” Tex asked them in Denna.
They said they had eaten. Chief Stickman was with them. I had seen him once before, at Eklutna Village. A squat, square-faced man, very dark, with long hair and quick-moving obsidian eyes, he was the Denna boss of the entire area, and his reputation was bad. But now he had trouble that he couldn’t handle.
He told us about it, balancing himself with the moccasined sole of the free foot against the knee of the supporting leg. I don’t know whether it was a bad habit or a medicine trick to ward off evil spirts, or both, but it was disconcerting.
He had come into this area two days ago, he said, with some of his people to kill and cache caribou for winter use. But they discovered that Gilyuk, the shaggy giant, was hanging around. They had found sign yesterday. And of course everybody knew that Gilyuk wasn’t interested in caribou. Gilyuk ate men.
“What kind of sign?” Tex asked.
“We will take you to see it,” Stickman said. “It is not far.”
After breakfast we followed the Indians upstream a couple of miles to a burned flat on which a nurse crop of aspen and birch had grown. In the center of the flat stood a ruined birch sapling.
It had been about four inches through and maybe ten feet tall. Something had twisted the sapling as a man would twist a match stick. The wood had separated into individual fibers, the bark hung in tatters.
Stickman and his hunters stood back, while Tex and I looked the site over. Moose often ride a sapling down to get at the tender upper twigs. So do caribou. But no moose or caribou had done this. This had been done by something with hands. It had happened yesterday, because the leaves of the sapling had not yet completely wilted.
It wasn’t the work of lightning—no burns. A freak whirlwind hadn’t done it, because trees and brush a few yards distant were undamaged. The hard ground showed no tracks. We found no snagged hair in the brush. Absolutely nothing except the incredibly twisted birch sapling. It was without question the eeriest sight I ever beheld in the wilds.
Stickman said, “It is Gilyuk’s mark. We have seen it before.”
I wish to make clear that to the Denna people Gilyuk was no legendary creature their grandfathers had told them about. He was reality, and they spoke of him as they spoke of the bears and wolves. They saw his sign, and they saw him. He was a shaggy giant who wore a little hat and ate men.
“We want to ask you to camp with us until we have killed our caribou,” Stickman said. “Gilyuk doesn’t molest white men. Perhaps he will not molest us if you are in camp.” Stickman had already told us that he bivouacked on the shore of a pothole lake two hours to the eastward.
Tex said all right, we would move to his camp in the morning. As he spoke, he was still looking at the twisted sapling, his green eyes narrowed in thought. I couldn’t take my gaze off it either.
Stickman said, “Thanks Kosaki,” a strange word of respect, held over from the old Russian Cossack, and we parted company with the Indians.
Next morning I brought the horses in at daybreak. We ate, broke camp and were putting on the packs, when here came the Indians, all of them—all, that is, except Stickman.
An old man told us that they were returning to their town on Tyone Lake. Stickman was dead, he said. Gilyuk had taken him. The chief had got up in the night and gone down to the lake, perhaps for water, but nobody knew. A squaw with a birch-bark torch found his red flannel underwear on the gravel beach.
It had been torn off him. There may have been tracks, but the entire hunting party had swarmed over the beach, and by daylight no tracker on earth could have made sense of the jumble.
Well, until the day of his own death last July, while on a sentimental journey to a fateful spot in Cook Inlet, Tex was convinced that the cannibal giant Gilyuk killed Stickman.
When asked if he believed in the existence of abominable snowmen, Tex would reply that he didn’t think there were any around Alaska nowadays, but that they had existed, at least one of them, a couple of decades back.
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