It’s as if Commissioner Gordon has put out the “Answer Man” beacon in the midnight sky to summon me to find the story behind the Sasquatch lurking on West Farm Road 182.
I’ve left the Springfield News-Leader for my new job at the Springfield Daily Citizen and we’re not 100 percent sure it is appropriate for us to call this column The Answer Man, although I’m told there will be no replacement at the paper.
Nevertheless, several people, including my pastor the Rev. Phil Snider, have enlisted my help to demystify the intrigue surrounding the Sasquatch carved from the remnants of a fallen hickory tree.
It’s on West Farm Road 182, west of South Farm Road 141 and Gray Elementary School — on the north side of 182.
In addition, a different friend posted a photo of Sasquatch on Facebook and, sure enough, the creature then appeared online on Nextdoor.
At that point I sprang into action, not knowing when this story would be posted on our website or Facebook page.
The lesson here is that if you carve a tree into the shape of an 8- to 9-foot-tall Sasquatch, the good people of Springfield will notice.
I drove out to take a photo and on my way back to my car, which I had parked on a nearby side street, a woman exited her vehicle with camera in hand.
After reading this story, if you’re interested in taking your own photo, let me offer some advice: park on a side street.
If you simply stop on West Farm Road 182, you’re asking for trouble. That’s because if you’re heading west on 182, you go down a dip in the road and there he is, on your right.
But that is a dangerous place to stop a car because other drivers can’t see you until the last minute because of the hill.
This very thing happened once and it made Josh Vermillion nervous.
Vermillion, 50, is the person carving Sasquatch. It’s his tree and his property. Vermillion’s house is just beyond the wooded area where Sasquatch appears to be headed into the trees.
I talked to him and his wife Krissy on Oct. 26 at their home.
The story of Sasquatch starts years ago with something that some homeowners can relate to regarding the power company. Crews came to trim Vermillion’s trees near the power line, and they cut with more abandon than precision.
“They took a big branch off that tree and weakened it,” Vermillion says. Then, a year or two later, a storm blew off the top.
So Vermillion, with chainsaw in hand, made firewood of the part of the tree that had been blown to the ground.
That’s when it happened. His artistic muse spoke to him: “Josh, what do you think about carving a Sasquatch out of what’s left of this tree?”
That’s not what my artistic muse would have said to me. Instead, it would have said: “Steve, what do you think about writing a story about how power companies should take more care when trimming trees?”
But, you see, different muses for different people.
Vermillion once worked for Bass Pro, where he did wood carving, often of wildlife figures.
He left Bass Pro in 2016 and now works as a supervisor at Paragon Fabrications, 2855 S. Kansas Expressway.
But that doesn’t mean he hung up his chainsaw. As recently as this spring, he carved an eagle for Bass Pro.
“It’s at one of the golf courses,” he says.
In this instance: Why a Sasquatch?
“Sasquatches are popular,” he says.
“Initially, I thought it would be fun to have him coming out of the woods,” he says. But that’s not the direction of the slant of the remaining tree trunk.
So that’s why Sasquatch is heading into the woods, with his back to passersby.
If he did it the other way, it seems to me, it would look as if Sasquatch was doing the limbo.
To me, having him heading into the safety of the trees makes perfect sense. Sasquatch wants to be alone.
In a perfect Sasquatch-wood-carving world, the circumference of the trunk would have been a bit bigger.
Vermillion says his 18-year-old son has offered the critique that one of the arms doesn’t look quite right.
“The tree is too narrow; so I don’t disagree,” he says.
He estimates he has put 20 hours of work into Sasquatch, with another 10 to 15 to go.
I ask if he used any photos or depictions of the elusive Sasquatch to guide his work.
A couple, he says.
I ask: “These were photos of the real Sasquatch, right?”
When the carving is done he will paint the figure.
His wife Krissy suggests green.
Nope. “It will be grizzly-bear brown,” he says.
The paint will help preserve what’s left of the hickory tree – and thus will help preserve Sasquatch. The wood is rotting in places.
The couple has been surprised by how many neighbors and motorists have shown interest in the artwork.
“I thought it would be just enough to catch the eye of people as they drive by to do a double-take,” he says.