The Mysterious Big Bird of the Valley
December 8, 2014
“IT WAS A PTERODACTYL. I swear to God it was. They had it on videotape and I just got the chance to view it. It was a fluke, but I watched that videotape several times. I made it a point to tune into the news, just so I could watch it.” Charlie Sheldon emphasized to his friend Mick.
“Surely not, Charlie. Pterodons have been extinct for millions of years. You have had enough geology courses to know that. I was in one of them with you at T.C.U., remember?”
“Weren’t those grand old days? I think we had Dr. Jarvis for all of them.
He was quite a character. Remember how he repeated the last syllable of each word of the end of his sentences. Rock mass became rock mass, ass ass, ass, until he thought of what the start of his new sentence would be?”
Mick replied, “Yeah, that was something. Highly-elevated arête became highly-elevated arête, ete, ete, ete…. I wonder what kind of condition causes that? At any rate he knew his stuff, and I clearly remember that pterodactyls are extinct, along with dinosaurs. They were all fascinating creatures, though.”
“Remember the coelacanth? Dr. Jarvis spent a week on that extinct fish and they are pulling coelacanths out of the water to this very day. We saw plenty of fossils in those geology courses. And we saw plenty of reconstructions of what they would have looked like, living. Remember that little crest the pterodactyl has on the top of its head? Remember the unique shape of the wing, almost bat-like, the comparative size and shape of the beak? Those characteristics are unique and unavoidable to confuse. There is nothing exactly like them in the bird kingdom, and nothing as large, for sure.”
“When did you see this videotape?”
“I can’t remember exactly, but it was in 1976. I was visiting my parents near Dallas, and at first there were eyewitness reports of this huge giant bird in the Texas Valley, swooping down and frightening people. It was so huge it could easily pick up a small child in its talons and carry it away. The residents were on alert and keeping their children and pets indoors. People were speculating that it had flown up from some remote interior jungle of Mexico or South America. Scientists were baffled. Even my no-nonsense parents were flabbergasted by this videotape they kept playing.”
“It’s odd that I don’t remember all of the hubbub. It seems like I should have seen those news stories myself. Let’s see, 1976, I was living in San Antone at the time.”
“Reports kept coming in about people that were swooped down on by this big bird,” Charlie continued. “It appeared ready to attack a few of them, and it created a reign of terror. Then, the most amazing thing happened.”
“A local news station in Harlingen or McAllen got actual videotape of the beast—in flight. That was a game-changer. They could no longer attribute these eyewitness reports to drunks or nuts. They ran the videotape frequently on the news and I saw it several times. Mark my word, it was a pterodactyl—huge. It appeared to have a wingspan of at least twelve feet. It had all of the physical characteristics of a pterodon. I waited and waited for the news reports, just so I could watch the videotape again.”
“Have you searched for this videotape online? I would love to view this myself.”
“Yes, I have. I had totally forgotten about the Big Bird, as they called it, then for some reason, it popped back into my head about four years ago. I have made an extensive search for the exact news station videotape that I viewed. I have not found it. It occurred to me that someone at the station must have thrown it out—some flunky that thought they were cleaning the place up—or maybe some employee swiped it to hold out for money to the highest bidder at a future date. Then that person died or something and no one knows about its existence. Maybe the person’s family even threw it out, not knowing.”
“A deeper mystery. What happened to the news station’s videotape, eh?” Mick asked.
“Oh it has driven me nuts. There are many videos of big birds. Some videos are of the bird in question, they claim, but I have viewed them over and over and they are not even close to that news station video I saw—it is flying, unmistakably a pterosaur. I wait a few months, then I view them all again. I have researched the names of TV stations in the area and tried to pin it down that way. At times, research on the videotape has consumed me. It did exist. It is now gone. I have tried to accept it. The videotape I viewed in 1976 is gone forever or is in hiding. If I ever find it you will be the first to know.”
Mick was worried about his friend. He wanted to believe him. When he got home he did some research on the computer, himself, about the mysterious Big Bird. The bird in question stood over five feet tall. It had a lengthy beak. Three young girls in Harlingen were the first to spot it on January 1, 1976. Their parents did not believe their report. On January 8, Alverico Guajardo reported seeing it near Brownsville. He said it had an otherworldly appearance, with huge eyes and a beak several feet in length. There were reports of cattle mutilations in the area at the same time. Guajardo reported that a terrifying noise came from its throat. Police officers Arturo Padilla and Homero Galvan made separate reports. They had each seen the bird in flight and it had a wingspan of fifteen feet. Three-toed footprints were found in the mud. News stations played videotapes of these twelve-inch-long footprints. Then, the actual attacks began. Armando Grimaldo was found screaming and shaking in his back yard. His jacket was torn. He claimed a huge bird swooped down and attacked him. A man from Eagle Pass was attacked by the bird. He had claw marks on his shoulders.
Johnny Carson gave the Big Bird national attention when he cracked a joke about it on the Tonight Show. A Valley radio station offered a one thousand dollar reward for the capture of the bird. An area official for the Texas Wildlife and Game Commission also emphasized that there would be a five thousand dollar fine for killing a protected bird—and no one knew what kind of creature it was—protected or not. Some scientists weighed in. Keith Arnold, a Texas A & M ornithologist believed it to be a Central American stork, also known as a jabiru, out of its territorial range. When a group of farm workers came upon what they thought was the Big Bird—it just stared at them and didn’t move—a curator at the Brownsville zoo proclaimed that what they had seen was a great blue heron. Many did not buy this answer.
The bird continued to stare at people, make loud noises and attack people, and make its presence known. The huge creature that had appeared, awed and terrorized the residents of the Texas Valley for at least three weeks, then disappeared and never returned.
“This all did happen,” Mick said to himself. “Now I am more than curious. I am becoming obsessed, myself.” He spent several of his days off going through the same videos his friend Charlie had probably gone through for hours. He wanted to find the news station video of a pterodactyl-like thing as badly as Charlie did.
The Big Bird of the Valley is still a mystery.
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