|Johnny Blackmon with plaster bear track cast.|
Johnny Blackmon helped clear up a story earlier this week that has been making the rounds locally ever since talk of Bigfoot cranked up in our neck of the woods last summer.
Not long after The Courant began publishing accounts of recent Bigfoot sightings, several people told me that they vaguely remembered former Sheriff Edwin Booker riding around with what he called a “Bigfoot track” in the trunk of his patrol car. Supposedly, he took a plaster cast of this unusual track near Staples Bridge, where witnesses said they saw a Bigfoot-like creature last July, or so the story goes.
I started asking around about this story and Booker’s mysterious plaster track, but no one could seem to remember exactly when it happened. Some said it was in the late 70s, some said it happened in the 80s and others said it occurred sometime in the 90s. Others said they remember seeing Booker’s picture with the plaster track in the newspaper, but I looked through years and years of old papers at the library and could never find any reference to the incident or the photo.
I asked current Conecuh County Sheriff’s Investigator Tyrone Boykin, who worked for Booker for a number of years, if he’d ever heard the story or seen the track, and he said he hadn’t. He did say that if Booker had done that, he wouldn’t have done it as a joke or prank.
Fast-forward to earlier this week when I arranged to meet former Conecuh County Sheriff’s Deputy Johnny Blackmon in downtown Evergreen. Blackmon, 69, who lives near Castleberry, showed me a plaster cast of a large bear track that he made in 1985 when he worked for the Sheriff’s Department.
At the time, Leonard “Doodle” Daw tried to convince county officials that he had seen a large bear near Green’s Body Shop on the Joe Reeves Road, northwest of Castleberry. No one believed Daw, who died years ago in an automobile accident, so Blackmon and his youngest son, J.J., decided to investigate for themselves.
On June 4, 1985, Johnny and J.J. found a large bear track near a mulberry tree not far from the body shop and figured that the bear had been coming to that area to feed. Blackmon, who learned to make plaster casts while working in law enforcement, took a cast of the track, which he showed to game warden Glenn McDaniel.
McDaniel told the Blackmons that the track belonged to a large bear for this area. McDaniel estimated that the bear weighed somewhere between 300 and 400 pounds, Blackmon said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Blackmon showed me the plaster cast of the bear track and said that he thinks that over the years people have misremembered the event, confusing him and Booker since he worked for the Sheriff’s Department. When I closely examined the cast, I could clearly see the bear’s large claws. Scratched onto the flat back side of the cast you can see “6-4-85, J.J. and J. Blackmon.”
In the end, I appreciate Johnny Blackmon taking the time to meet me, show me the plaster cast and provide me with more details about this incident. He also noted that he’s skeptical when it comes to Bigfoot, but he does know one thing for sure: Large bears do live in and around Conecuh County.