Chapter 9:     Magic Words


The first few years, after all the legal problems were taken care
of, were probably like raising any family.  Over the years, Elaine 
and I took turns earning money, although at first she went to work 
every day while I worked on the Hacienda and took care of Adam, 
who was actually pretty self reliant.

There was usually one observer or another from IPR or some other
research group around to baby sit, so I could go off to string
fences, fix the barn.  We had a couple of horses, some chickens, 
several cats and some dogs.  It became a real farm/ranch, although 
as far as the actual ranching went, Elaine was the brains and I 
was the brawn.  She had grown up on a ranch in Montana and I was 
a city boy, so she knew what needed to be done to make it all 
function.

I learned it too, of course and we shared the practical housewife
stuff.  I cooked a lot in the early days, Elaine was the baker, 
we even got Adam to help clean up the house; he was surprisingly 
neat and tidy, which seemed odd for a little wild guy from the 
woods.  But he did hate to wash dishes, because it got his hairy 
hands all soggy.

Eventually I went back to teaching and got a job at Monroe High
School.  But that was later, first I should finish telling about 
our life while Adam was still a child.

It was evident early on that Adam had a talent for remembering any
sound, any word, or groups of words and repeating them verbatim.
Once he started speaking he progressed rapidly.  Not that he spoke
like an adult immediately, his concepts were childlike, but his 
vocabulary was large: equal to every word Elaine and I had ever 
spoken aloud within his hearing--as well as all those scientists, 
doctors, anthropologists, journalists, etc.


We became extremely enthusiastic about that at first, Elaine
started to read children's stories out loud for Adam, I tried to 
teach him 10 new words a day, but when he was only a 3 year-old 
kid with no experience of our world he couldn't understand the 
stories yet and he could care less about the academics of 
learning new words.  So he learned at his own rate.

Discipline could have become a problem when he was getting so big 
and strong so fast, for after all, he was a pretty normal child in
a lot of ways, he could be as much a brat as any other kid.  But 
we never hit him, we certainly didn't want to teach him that as an 
acceptable form of negotiation; in a few years he would be much 
bigger than anyone around him...including us.  But he responded 
well to being loved and he was an easy kid to love, with an 
innate sense of fair play.  Our greatest source of wisdom for 
raising such a kid was probably Ma & Pa Kent.

We read lots of books on child psychology, trying not to make the
usual mistakes that parents make, but we were never exactly sure 
how different Adam was from a human child.  We discussed it often
with our best friends Doug and Sally and compared Adam's 
behavior to Melly's.

Doug Wielson once said, "Got to look at the Big Picture: many 
parents think of their kids as cute little twerps whom they can 
push around and fool into believing whatever they tell them.  
They forget to think 10-20 years ahead, when they'll have to deal
with the adult that kid will become...and who's probably going to 
remember everything!"  

His daughter Melly was certainly being raised as another free-
thinker, no subject or word was taboo, she was outspoken and 
outrageous.  Adam was much more timid and cautious about what he
said and did.  Since they were closest childhood friends, it was
amusing to see their chemistry at work.  

Adam was gentle, despite his prodigious strength.  He was also
fond of the cats and dogs, all animals in fact and played with
them constantly.  But he was also bursting with a colossal energy 
that defied reason.  He could run and jump and climb all day long,
often with Melly riding his back like a wild Indian.  Or he would 
help me with hard physical work on the farm, almost as strong as 
me (at age 4, remember!) and at night he would still be dancing 
and hopping.  Sometimes it was too much, like having a really big 
puppy.  He could already outrun me in speed and if it came to any 
distance it was goodbye, his endurance seemed limitless.


Adam had a special relationship to words. Besides learning them rapidly, he had to know their precise meanings and then rank their importance. The word "promise", for example, he regarded as one of the most significant: he never broke a promise. Later we ascertained that he simply couldn't break a promise. Nor could he lie. Not even when a little white lie would save the day and avoid lots of trouble. However, he did learn to say, "I don't want to tell you, so I won't." An attempt to break through that wall of secrecy could result in, "Then I promise not to tell you," and well, that was that. Adam's adherence to a promise bordered on compulsive-obsessive, he HAD to keep his word. It didn't seem to be a matter of honor, but an instinctive behavior. Perhaps genetic, who knows? As Adam's responsible father figure, traditionally I should have been the one to coach him in the virtues of honesty and trust- worthiness, but that was totally unnecessary. However, I did find myself sometimes coaching him in how to GET OUT of the foolish promises he made, teach him how to deal with a dishonest world, or he would be exploited. For example, when he was six years old, one night Elaine wanted him to go to bed, but he wanted to watch Friends, the TV series, which ended at 10:00 in the evening. So Elaine said, "Oh, all right, if you promise to go to bed right after Friends." "Oh," he quibbled, "but I don't want to promise that." "Then off to bed." He really wanted to see it. "Okay...I promise to go to bed right after Friends." From then on he went to bed right after Friends EVERY time. We didn't think much about that until one evening a year later. We were having a Thanksgiving party, Doug and Sally were there as well as some friends we knew from Naked Lake. The kids watched Friends together, afterward Adam went directly up to bed. Melly came over to us and asked, "Why does Adam have to go to bed already?" Elaine answered, "Huh? He doesn't have to." "Well, he says he does and he's up there crying now." Elaine went up. Sure enough, Adam lay in bed, crying softly. "Addy, what's wrong?" Elaine asked, suddenly worried that he was sick for the first time ever. "It's not fair, I don't want to go to bed when everyone else is still here having fun." "Well, you don't have to. Come on back downstairs, Melly and the other kids are waiting for you." "But I can't! I promised to go to bed right after Friends." Elaine looked confused. "You did? What for?" "You TOLD me to...don't you remember?" It took a while for Elaine to pinpoint the incident Adam was referring to and then she was somewhat shocked. "Addy, that was a year ago! And just for that one night." "Oh...but I'd promised for ALWAYS." It ended up that Doug and Sally and Melly and I all came up and sat on the bed, trying to reason with Adam that his promise had been met once he HAD gone to bed that night a year ago and it was therefore now null and void. But Adam couldn't accept that a promise could end. "Well, we release you from that promise now," I tried. Adam looked at me as if I was being stupid, "YOU can't release me from MY promise," he said. "Can't you just forget that silly promise and come on downstairs?" Melly asked. "Apparently not," Adam said. "Apparently" was one of his new words and he used it whenever possible. "Well, we'd all like for you to come down now," Sally said, nuzzling Adam's cheek, "we'll play music together and have fun. And there's pie and ice cream." "But I can't!" Adam bawled, crying again. Doug gave a sign which meant Everybody stand back, genius taking over now. "Adam, my man, whenever you promise something, anything, you always keep your word no matter what--but do you know why?" Adam thought about that awhile. "Well, words mean stuff, they're kind of...Significant." "Like Holy or Sacred?" Doug asked. "Maybe, I dunno. More like Magic." "You know Addy, I'll bet you have a sasquatch's instinctive regard for Words of Power--many ancient cultures do--what you need to learn now is how to beat the system....to think like a lawyer!" Doug was in a party mood, had had a few drinks and was feeling pretty clever that evening. "So let's analyze the structure of the promise itself: You promised to go to bed. You ARE in bed now. Therefore you HAVE KEPT your promise. Right?" Adam nodded. "Now...taa daa!" Doug made a grand flourish, "you are thus free to do whatever you want, because you did NOT promise to STAY in bed!" That worked, Adam got up--gave Doug a big hug--and ran downstairs to join the party once more.
That was a good party. We were three couples and three kids gathered for turkey dinner with the works. It was raining and cold outside and we had a fire in the fireplace, hot buttered rums, classical music in the background, the discussion was animated and lofty, ranging from science to politics and we were all still young and beautiful. Sally was professionally beautiful, she'd just finished filming another movie, with a pretty good supporting role--although she did get done in by the psychopath halfway through the story. She was amusing us with her version of life in Hollywood, "...well, I had to do some nudity to get the part, but all of us at Naked Lake know I'm hardly shy about that. But boy, there's some people in the film business with a whole other concept of what nudity means. Reminded them of my Playboy spread years ago, I guess. Suddenly I was getting all these offers to do porno films!" "What's a porno film, Mommy?" Little Melly with big ears coming up from behind. Everyone went silent for a second, mostly in amusement, there was no one there too prudish to explain. But that gave Adam time to answer. "Porno films are sexually explicit movies," Adam explained to Melly with great sophistication. We all looked at each other in awe, Wow, this kid is 7 years old? "What does sechsully split mean?" Melly asked him. Adam had to shrug. "Uh...well, I dunno." We all laughed pretty hard about that one. Even Adam, once he saw that he had delivered such a good joke. Although the next day he did ask me for a precise definition of "sexually explicit", since he didn't especially like being laughed at.
But the next time he saw Friends he went right to bed after. Couldn't help it. This went on for another year and then he stopped watching the show so that he could stay up. That solved the problem. But all that had also made us aware of the actual problem: Adam must not make stupid promises. They could ruin his life if he did. So we taught him how to think through the consequences of any promise before he made it. How to ensure escape clauses, conditions, expiration spans. As Doug had said, to think like a lawyer.
Adam enjoyed being read stories in bed. Even after we did get electricity to the house we chose to do without a television because we knew how easy it was to become enslaved by it and we didn't want to do that to Adam too early. We finally got one when he was seven years old, but even after that we read books to him and he loved it. I read him The Hobbit and Watership Down. When I would ask him where we left off the night before, he would quote the exact line. His memory for spoken words included huge blocks of them. I read him about 20 Mother Goose rhymes one night and he rattled them off to me verbatim. Weeks later I asked him how much he could still remember and he remembered all of them perfectly. (I asked him again years later and it was the same.) He especially enjoyed the book Tarzan of the Apes once I pointed out that it was almost the polar opposite of his own story: Tarzan was a baby from civilization raised in the wilderness and Adam was a baby from the wilderness raised by city folk. He liked that concept. Also when I told him what his name meant he went around calling himself Adam, King of the Forest. There was a scene from the Tarzan book that seemed to evoke a memory of his earlier life among the sasquatches: when I read him the chapter about the Dum-Dum, the orgiastic dance of the hairy anthropoids under the full moon, he suddenly sat up, eyes wide, and said, "I remember that! I've been there!" It was a fleeting déjà vu, he couldn't remember more, but it was one of the few memories he ever did recall from his sasquatch childhood. He tried to learn to swing through the trees because of Tarzan. Not that he ever did very well in our fir and hemlock and alder forest, but he could really spin around the big old cottonwood tree by the barn. Until he got too heavy; he had the strength, but the trees didn't. We regarded him as a rather handsome boy. He had the wide nose and low-browed hairline of his mother, but was quite human looking otherwise. Of course, we were accustomed to him. Racially, his face resembled a Eurasian, a blending of Caucasian and Asian. Adam and I had a pretty good father-son relationship, perhaps because we really weren't. But Elaine really was Mommy. She cuddled and cooed him a lot and fixed him treats to eat. Discipline was always up to me because I was "biggest". Once I had to take the cookies away from him because we was eating them all and wouldn't stop and he wrestled me for them. In the middle of that event I realized that I really wasn't stronger than him, but got him into a Full Nelson and held him down until he gave up. So I won, but that was when he was only 5 years old, by the next year I couldn't have. He weighed over 170 pounds at age 6. We warned him repeatedly that he would have to be careful of his strength, that he was like Tarzan: physically superior to almost everyone and that he must always be fair because such strength was authority. We also mentioned, as casually as possible, that society was probably not completely sure of him and since he would probably grow to be pretty big, he must not give people any reason to fear him. I tried to teach him to read early, but failed. Later, from ages 5 to 8, I tried again. It seemed to be of no use. Nor did he ever learn to read or write when he got older. He seemed to have a form of dyslexia; whether as a racial trait of his people or not, I had no way of knowing, but doubted that any sasquatch had ever learned to read before. However, he could memorize entire books word for exact word if it was read out loud to him, so I read him many books on many subjects, some of which I can no longer remember, but from which Adam can recite scripture. Well, the ones he paid attention to, anyway. Anthropologists and linguists have determined that there is a correlation between literacy and memory for the spoken word. In cultures without written languages there are those famous oral traditions of history and stories passed down intact through innumerable generations and people of those cultures have a more highly developed ability for remembering more words in less time than we do, since we tend to write things down and then forget them. However, I had always assumed this to be a cultural rather than genetic phenomenon. Doug Wielson was not the only researcher interested in this, so sometimes we took Adam into the UW language labs for testing. He liked comic books, since he could "read" them via the pictures. He was amused by the caricatures of ducks and mice, as most kids are, but he especially liked superhero comics like Spider-Man and X-Men, because they were full of special beings--like himself-- with unique looks and super powers. And he did have super powers. Not just his strength, all of his senses and abilities were better than human. He could move through the thickest brush and never get scratched due to his glossy fur. Neither heat nor cold weather seemed to affect him especially and he could sleep comfortably anywhere, hard wet or cold. He could assume a squat and stay there for hours without moving--as he often did when he got older and more pensive--and when he did so in the forest he became almost invisible, you simply didn't see him. His own vision was better than ours (a lot better than mine, but then I wear glasses), he saw much farther, especially in the dark. Once I was with him hiking up the side of a mountain, looking down at the panorama of rivers and trees below the Cascade Mountain Range and he pointed out a car driving on a road several miles away, almost off on the horizon. It was just a moving dot. "Hey look, it's Melly and Sally," he said. And it was. Adam's sense of smell was so developed that he could smell water at a distance, identify people or our horses or each dog long before he saw them. He could also track like a bloodhound, sniffing out the spoor of whatever scent he had identified. It was also remarkable how he could smell people's emotional odors: he said that "people stink when they tell lies". But Adam's most highly developed sense was his hearing. Not only the hearing itself, but the ability to vocalize and repeat sounds that he heard. Adam's interest in music and his uncanny memory for words were part and parcel with that ability. He could hear a complicated piece of music only once and then repeat it, making orchestrated sounds in his mouth; horns, percussions, strings. His voice was higher when he was young and he could imitate violins to an uncanny degree, although he lost that ability when his voice changed to a mellow bass and he had to settle for a cello tone. He could imitate an organ rather well, but a piano was beyond him. Experiments at the University revealed that even at a very early age Adam could listen to a chord played on any instrument and repeat back the individual notes within that chord, even complicated 13ths or diminished chords. But for all that, he was still just a child, not a superhero. Adam had a recurring nightmare over his early years and I would wake him because he'd be shouting something unclear in his sleep-- perhaps sasquatch words. He held on to me and told me he had heard these strange voices calling him to follow them away into a thick scary fog. It happened often enough to seem significant. I won't say he was an easy child to raise, but then I don't think any child is. Many people ask and wonder why we did it. They could understand us saving it from the woods, poor orphaned baby sasquatch, but not why we formed a family life around him instead of raising human children, nor why we subjugated ourselves to the expense and bother of raising this weird child when we could easily have foisted him off on one group or another. There are many reasons I could list: humanitarian concern that the child be raised in a home instead of an institution; scientific curiosity about what a sasquatch really was; but there's only one True Reason; we were hooked, right from the start, by this cute little baby bigfoot who trusted us. We simply loved him, that's why.

Chapter 10

Adam out of Eden