OMNIBUS MONSTRICARIUM: Fearsome Critters of The American Frontier
America: Land of the Free, Home of the Babes. A place where you are free to worship how you wanna worship (sort of), shoot what you wanna shoot (kind of), and vape where you wanna vape (from my COLD DEAD HANDS I say). But it wasn’t always that way, no siree.
See, hundreds of years ago when the English fled England to escape the English, the America they arrived in was not the easy, breezy mecca of cultural bipolarism that it is today. It was a primal, untamed place fraught with unimaginable new dangers. Sure they had escaped the constant threat of black nights, wicked witches and various Sheriffs of Nottingham. But this place was something else. Rattlesnakes! Grizzly bears! And like, millions of people already living here who were like, “Hey, could you be cool?” Truly terrifying. Hell, you couldn’t go a day in frontier times without an eagle swooping down to snatch up your baby, then, while you were fighting off that eagle, a second eagle coming in and carrying off your husband. Yeesh! Eagles!
Nevertheless, these people pushed westward, discovering new lands and animals as they went and, because every “new” nation needs a new mythology, inventing a few along the way. Tall tales of fearsome critters meant to caution children and poke fun at tenderfoots. Most of them so gloriously batshit insane that we here at Werewolf Radar simply had to sit down and share with you a few of our favorites. So join me, dear reader, on a wonderful weird-West safari, as we dive into this, the first ever WEREWOLF RADAR OMNIBUS MONSTRICARIUM: Fearsome Critters of the American Frontier edition.
Hoop Snake (Fig. 1)
The Hoop Snake is exactly what it sounds like: A hot new dance craze sweeping EDM clubs the nation over! No, not really, but that IS what it sounds like. However it also sounds like a snake that can bite its own tail in its mouth and roll along the ground like a wheel. According to frontier mythology the snake would chase after people and prey in this fashion, reaching incredible speeds, until catching up and delivering a venomous sting with the fang imbedded in its tail. Apparently the best way to escape this rollicking critter was to dive behind a rock, or a tree, or a horse which would then take the bite, which was apparently potent enough to kill said horse, tree or … well, the rock was probably fine. Now, I know what you are thinking: Doesn’t that seem like an awful lot of work for a snake to go through just to snag a mouse or an unsuspecting pilgrim hiney? Also, wouldn’t the snake get all dizzy and barfy rolling around like that all the time? Further, would it be possible to affix two of the snakes to some kind of frame and fashion a snake cycle of sorts? The answer, at least from this cryptozoologist, is a triple yes.
Squonk (Fig. 2)
Next up we have the pitiful squonk. The squonk was described by frontier yarn-spinners as a creature so ugly and shameful that it spends most of its time hiding and weeping about how dang ugly and shameful it is. Characterized by its ill-fitting, wart-covered skin, the squonk has been known to dissolve into a puddle of tears when cornered or captured by those who would want to bag this utter ray of sunshine for whatever reason. What are you gonna do with it once you catch it? Sit around listening to Elliot Smith and smoking clove cigarettes with it? No. I’ll tell you what you are gonna do if you ever catch a squonk. Makeover, baby! We need to work on that self-esteem, girl! A coat of rouge, a push-up bra and a few seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race oughta do the trick. And before you know it, everyone’ll be melting into a puddle when the squonk walks down the street, if you know what I mean. Yeah, I’m not sure either.
Cactus Cat (Fig. 3)
Okay, imagine a cactus. Got it? Now imagine a cat. Now put the two together. NO! Not like that! Oh God, that poor cat! That poor cactus! Well, that didn’t go great. Anyway, the cactus cat is easily one of the best critters on this list. Not just because it was said to be a wildcat-like creature covered in cactus needles, but because it was also said to use its forked, spiny tail to slash open cactuses, wait a couple of weeks, and then return to get drunk on the fermented cactus water. Notoriously cantankerous, they ate scorpions and lived inside hollowed out cactuses.
During mating season, the male cats were said to crack open their best boozy cactus and wait for the smell to attract a female, at which point the two would get drunk and produce a litter of cactus kittens. Why is the cactus cat a Werewolf Radar favorite? Well, if you can’t find the joy in an angry, drunk needle cat, stumbling around the desert, trying to get laid with scorpions on its breath, then you just don’t get what we here at Werewolf Radar are all about. Because it’s that. Exactly that, is what we’re about. Next!
Jackalope (Fig. 4)
Odds are if you grew up in any of the more “rootin’ tootin’” states you have probably heard about the Jackalope. The legendary hybrid offspring of a jackrabbit and an antelope, resulting in the antlered critter whose taxidermied heads festoon the walls of our favorite steakhouses from Denver to Phoenix. Hell, you may have even been sent off to chase after one by a particularly “fun” uncle who just sat by the fire drinking beer and giggling while you were off getting covered in ticks and poison oak, chasing after an animal that hasn’t been seen in the wild since, well, ever. Lying to children isn’t fun, Jerry.
However! Unlike many of the crazy critters on this list, there may actually be some scientific basis for tales of the Jackalope. No, seriously. See, jackrabbits have been known to carry the Shope papilloma virus, a rabbits-only affliction that can cause the critters to sprout large, woody looking warts that some have speculated, could grow large enough to resemble antlers on the animal’s head. Like how unicorns are just horses that got ice cream cones stuck to their heads, or how Willem Dafoe is just Julia Roberts when viewed in full sunlight.
While many of the animals on this list draw the line at “mild nuisance,” the Dungavenhooter will: Mess. You. Up. Described as an alligator with a clubbed tail and a pair of enormous nostrils instead of a mouth, the lumber workers of the North Woods lived in fear that they would stumble across a Dungavenhooter while walking near a stream or river. The creature would then trip the unfortunate lumberjack or Jill and use its heavy tail to POUND THEM INTO A GODDAMN GAS, which it would then inhale through its oversized nostrils. WHAT THE HELL? I mean, there are a lot of embarrassing ways for a lumberjack to go out: Having their head hollowed out by a woodpecker. Being carried off in the night and built into a dam by beavers. Or even something as simple as doing whatever it takes to break that world flapjack-eating record. But this has gotta be a tough one to explain to the family of the victim. “I know this must be very difficult for you Mr. and Mrs. Lumberparents. But the gas that the Dungavenhooter made out of your son is rich in protein and has a fresh, piney scent. If you could just sign these release forms we can get right to work on preparing an aerosol version of your son for distribution in grocery stores nationwide.”
I could go on for days here, faithful monstronauts: the wampus cat, the Agropelter, the sidehill gouger. Seriously. According to the average frontiersman, it was like a goddamn game of Yu-Gi-Oh! out there. But hopefully, armed with this new knowledge, you will feel a little safer the next time you venture out into that big, weird wilderness we call the American frontier. Heck, maybe you could even be the next to discover some strange, new animal! What about some kind of turtle with a basketball instead of a shell? Or a raccoon with human hands that just slaps the shit out of people? OOH! What about just a great big dog that you could ride on, and it has pretty hair, and it eats hay and … I just invented a horse, didn’t I?
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It’s a big, weird world. Don’t be scared. Be Prepared.