Spaceship. The best-known Texas hoax occurred in April of 1897
when several people reported seeing a strange cigar-shaped airship
gliding over North
and North Central Texas. The aircraft was big, about 50 feet
long, and shaped like a cigar with propellers on each end, large
wings and floodlights. One of the people who testified publicly
about what he saw was a railroad conductor known as "Truthful Skully,"
who said he saw a very small man repairing the airship in Wood County.
According to a story written by S.E. Haydon for the Dallas Morning
News, the airship crashed into a windmill in Aurora,
destroying not only the windmill but a flower garden belonging to
a Judge Proctor. The pilot, Haydon reported, was "not of this world."
A funeral was to be held for the unfortunate aviator, who was probably
from Mars, according to an "authority on Astronomy" that Haydon
either found or created.
Haydon was the Morning News' correspondent for Aurora,
a town in the midst of a slow but steady decline. Long-time Aurora
resident Etta Peques told Time magazine in 1997, after the popular
press rediscovered the story, that Haydon made the whole thing up
in an effort to bring people to the town before it died.
It's a fine hoax, with a civic-minded motivation behind it, but
we have to wonder why the story stopped there. The original story
noted that a funeral was going to be held for the Martian the next
day. Haydon should have covered it for the paper, or at least claimed
a cover-up if the funeral was not held. Somebody must have decided
the story was too good to verify. All they had to do was talk to
Judge Proctor about his windmill.
Dickie Don and Rickie Ron Yewbet. This one has an
all-star cast of sportswriters behind it. Dan Jenkins, Bud Shrake,
Gary Cartwright and Dick Hitt, all on the staff of the Dallas Times
Herald in the early 1960s, started slipping stories about twin halfbacks
Dickie Don and Rickie Ron Yewbet of the Corbet Comets into the paper's
coverage of state high school football. It proved to be a welcome
diversion from writing about players and teams that actually existed.
Free from the tyranny of facts, the writers let their imaginations
run as wild as Dickie Don and Rickie Ron on Friday night.
The quartet of ink-stained wretches took turns writing about the
gridiron exploits of the Yewbet boys, who ran for hundreds of yards
but could never quite make it into the-zone with the ball. The Comets
always won 3-0 on a last second-field goal by Rickie Ron Yewbet.
And another thing: The Fighting Comet Band featured the world's
The week of the state finals, Rickie Ron passed away from mumps.
Dickie Don rallied his grief-stricken teammates and scored eight
touchdowns in a 48-0 victory, surely the human interest story of
the year. But no one ever caught on. The hoax was never revealed
until the writers, one by one, 'fessed up in later years. The scribes
were a bit disappointed. As Cartwright wrote, "What's the fun of
being irreverent if the reverent take no offense?"
Bigfoot lives - in Texas! Or maybe
not. There have been about as many sightings
of a Bigfoot, or some kind of Sasquatch-type creature, in Texas
as there has anywhere else, including the Northwest, which is generally
presented as Bigfoot's home turf.
This is nothing new. Sightings of man-ape creatures in Texas go
way back, at least to the Tonkawa and Comanches, who reported having
seen such creatures. The "Wild
Woman of the Navidad" is an enduring Texas legend that features
a gender twist to the old tale. The sightings continue to this day,
and the creature goes by a lot of names, some of which sound like
high-end fishing lures: Night Screamer, Hawley Him, Haskell Rascal,
Wooly Bugger and Caddo Critter.
In 2012, a man named Rick Dyer, who once predicted he would go down
in history as the greatest Bigfoot tracker of all time, claimed
to have killed a Bigfoot-type creature in Texas. Dyer named him
Hank. He claimed that an unspecified university had done a DNA test
on Hank and declared it to be of "an unknown species." Dyer planned
to Hank on tour and charge people to see him. Or it. Or whatever.
The tour never got going. Venues willing to show off Hank to the
public were almost as hard find as a verifiable Bigfoot, and Dyer's
refusal to release the DNA results didn't help matters. Earlier
this year, Dyer admitted - on Facebook - that he concocted the whole
story, along with another similar hoax in 2008.
As it turned out, Dyer had his Bigfoot constructed by a company
in Washington, which he insisted sign a non-disclosure agreement.
For the record, the company got paid for its role as an unwitting
dupe in the deception, which technically, I suppose, keeps the hoax
from crossing over into fraud.
"Coming clean about everything is necessary for a new start," Dyer
wrote in his Facebook confession. "From this moment own (sic), I
will speak the truth! No more lies, tall tales or wild goose chases
to mess with the haters!"
Aw, c'mon Rick. Where's the fun in that?
© Clay Coppedge
February 1, 2015 Column
More "Letters from Central Texas"