Jim McClarin: The Formative Years

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on July 10th, 2013

I’m being interviewed via email for a publication concerning early researchers of the Bigfoot/Sasquatch phenomenon. I spent nine years wholly absorbed in the subject, interviewing many people who reported sightings or footprints. It’s not especially appropriate but I wanted to share my email response concerning my formative experiences because they also touch on my present adventure in Ecuador. I’ve amended it in a few places:

“I was born in January ’46 in Buffalo NY while my parents stayed with my paternal grandparents. After that it was Fort Worth TX, then East Lansing MI where my dad attended Michigan State University majoring in animal husbandry and also taught an equestrianship course (he had served in the cavalry the last few years of its existence). I attended a University nursery school where one of my “teachers” marveled at how fascinated I was with wildlife. It was in Michigan at age five that I first heard of the Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas. The family returned to Buffalo where I attended first grade. I still have jungle pictures full of wildlife I drew then and I remember wanting to become “a scientist,” which at the time to me meant only one thing: go find undiscovered animals in the jungle. Go figure!

“After first grade we traveled cross-country to stay with my maternal grandmother in Tuscon AZ, stopping and camping at various national and other parks along the way. I remember catching a multicolored horned toad at Bryce Canyon and marveling at the larger wildlife at Yellowstone. After a few months my dad landed an admistrative job with an aerospace company at Holloman AFB near Alamogordo NM. We lived in “Alamo” in a new flat-roofed stucco house in a housing development at the edge of a tract of desert that was full of lizards, cactus wrens, and other fascinating wildlife.

After third grade we moved 12 miles north to Tularosa NM we we rented an adobe house on a half-block of property that was loaded with fruit and nut trees, currant bushes, and other trees, shrubs, and flowers. It was like a jungle in the middle of the desert. We kept lots of animals: horses, donkey, dog, cats, Bantam chickens, Guinea pigs, and I forget what all else. With my friends and/or my sisters I went for lots of hikes out into the desert, always finding wildlife to observe if not catch. An army canteen of water and a few wieners to roast over a desert willow fire in an arroyo was typical. There was a lot more freedom to go off on adventures for kids in those days despite the stories about “bad people” that would circulate.

Paid vacation meant just one thing to my dad: camping in the mountains. We camped at various lakes and campgrounds but my dad always sought out the most isolated camping spots and typically we were alone with nature. We often fished but my favorite adventure was looking to see what I could find under logs and bark and rocks or along the edge of creeks and lakes. The early and continual exposure to wild and domestic animals over the years certainly influenced me and my sisters (not my brothers strangely), one of whom, Terry Jenkins, went on to become a zookeeper.

I think it was on one of our weekend family outings to the nearby White Sands National Monument that I first heard my dad talk about Bigfoot around the campfire. I recall no connection being made to real reports of sightings so it was pretty much mythical to me (just a campfire story) till years later.

Tularosa was a town of just a few thousand people, about half of whom were Spanish speaking. I began to pick up some Spanish there, both from my parents, who had each taken Spanish in school, and from my Hispanic friends. Over the years I slowly picked up more and more Spanish, including a couple of quarters in college, a very handy thing for my late-life adventures.

At the end of eighth grade the family, now six kids and a dog, moved to the Sacramento CA area where my dad had taken another administrative job at an aerospace company. We eventually settled on five acres in rural Orangevale. Here there were ponds and creeks and oak woods teeming with fish, frogs, turtles, and other wildlife and I developed a passion for reptiles that continued till age 20 when I left home to attend a four-year school (Humboldt State College, now University).

After high school I attended American River Junior College where in the first week, browsing through the zoology section of the campus library, I discovered a book that would have a profound impact on my life: Ivan T. Sanderson’s “Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life.” It was the first I realized that Bigfoot was more than a campfire story. After devouring the book I began to make plans and to correspond with Sanderson and Canadian John Green, both of whom gave me entre to others in the budding field of Bigfoot/Sasquatch research, including Roger Patterson. My choice of Humboldt State to continue my zoology major was not unreasonable since it had a well respected marine biology program, but the truth is that its campus in the redwoods lay close to the Bluff Creek area from which so many of the early reports had issued, and that was the basis for my decision to go there.

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

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