“He who eats our children”

I was having lunch at the Valley Street Café in Scottsville a few weeks ago when a Video truck from the Cable Show “Monster Quest” parked out front and the crew came in to have lunch. The place was crowded—no open tables and as I was alone—I invited a couple of the crew to share my table. A videographer name Paul and a girl writer named Alise sat down and we were joined a few minutes after by an old friend—Café owner Freddy Blenheim. Freddie knew exactly why the “Monster Quest” crew was in town—he was one of the local folks who helped arrange for the show to send the crew. As we ate lunch Freddie and the two journalists told me an incredible story.

The situation was kept quiet for various political reasons but 4 or 5 months previously the wreckage of a bateau, the freight—mostly tea and farming tools—and body parts of the crew—were found floating in the James River near Martin’s landing about 80 miles upstream from Union Fork. Backcountry locals are reluctant to talk about it with outsiders but a legend passed down from the Coyucuk tribe—who still hunt and fish the back country—describe a monster crocodile close to thirty feet long living in the far interior. The oral tradition of the Coyucuk includes several references to one croc in particular the old people call Nachash Gonaqade’t which roughly means “he who eats our children.”

The old Coyucuk who hang around the trading post at Martin’s landing say the Nachash Gonaqade’t sleeps for a hundred years then wakes up to feast on the flesh of men. Once it has gorged itself on the bodies of at least 200 men he goes back to sleep for another century. Apparently Martin King–grandson of an old medicine man named Jackson Buffalo Wind–was visiting his grandfather when the wreckage was found. Martin’s grandfather told him Nachash Gonaqade’t had been due to wake up this year and it almost certainly was the monster who did it. The old medicine man told his grandson, Nachash Gonaqade’t has jaws big enough to cut a bateau in half with a single bite and can swallow two men at the same time. Martin, who works for an ad agency in Manhattan and whose wife is from Scottsville, discussed it with Freddie and it was decided to bring in the Monster Quest people.

I jokingly told Paul and Alise I was a writer and still photographer and if any of their crew was eaten I would be available if the price was right. As it happens the famous National Geographic photographer Boris Stieglitz—who monster quest had commissioned to shoot the hunt—was dragged from his tent screaming in the middle of the night. In terror the others in the camp climbed trees where they remained until morning at which time all that could be found of Boris was his Leica and half a bloody boot with half a foot in it.

Alise called me the day after the tragedy and said they needed a still photographer replacement ASAP and to be at Martin’s landing the next day. A local guide and hunter—Nathan Buffalo Wind—a son of Jackson Buffalo Wind—would meet me in Scottsville to take me by canoe to Martin’s Landing the next day.

With cameras and sleeping bag I waited at the boat ramp near Scottsville the next day all morning but no one came. I asked at James River outfitters and at the café but no one had heard anything.

After a week with no contact from the Monster Quest crew a search party was organized by Freddie with help from James River Outfitters. The camp was located and only wreckage and carnage could be found. I read an article in the local newspaper—an interview with Jackson Buffalo Wind–who sadly acknowledged his son had been among the victims of Nachash Gonaqade’t. The old medicine man had little to say other than the monster had only started eating and at least a hundred and fifty others would have to die before he would return to his hundred year sleep.

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