Terry Tessmer used a chainsaw and other tools to create a 9-foot-tall Bigfoot that will decorate an old tavern in a historic building in Kerby. Bob Pennell / Mail Tribune photo - Bob Pennell

Bigfoot carving towers at 9 feet

Bigfoot is about to make tracks for the historic town of Kerby.

And the nearly 9-foot-tall creature doesn't look like a happy camper, judging from his scowl.

"Doc didn't want him happy at all — he wanted something that would get people's attention," observed Terry Tessmer, 60, the veteran woodcarver who created the roughly 3,000- pound Sasquatch bound for an old tavern that Bigfoot believer Doc Bashford and his business partner Sharon Satmar are reopening in Kerby.

The business will be called Bigfoot's Cavern Bar & Grill.

"I wouldn't want to meet something like this in the woods," Tessmer said of his creation. "Not unless I had a lot of his favorite food to give him — and I wasn't it."

For nearly a month, Bigfoot has been looming over patrons near the parking lot of the Southern Oregon Nursery in Medford, where Tessmer has been carving and showing his work for the past 18 months.

A former timber faller, Tessmer turned out the project in three weeks, using a variety of power tools.

"I don't use a chainsaw that much," he said. "I got electric grinders and cutters of different types that I use."

Bigfoot is expected to be transported this week to the old tavern known to many locals as the "Stonyfront" for its river rock facade just inside the front door.

The tavern is a historic fixture in Kerby, a town that once was the Josephine County seat. It was built by Ralph "Shorty" Phillips, who arrived in the late 1920s from Pennsylvania, according to his nephew, Cliff Phillips, 59, a 1969 graduate of Illinois Valley High School. Phillips, who was reared in Kerby, said his uncle used a masonry method he learned in Pennsylvania and stones from the nearby Illinois River for the facade.

Shorty Phillips worked on the building in the evenings after spending the days helping build Highway 199 from Grants Pass to the coast, his nephew said.

"He had it up and running around 1932 or so. He called it the Ritz Tavern," Cliff Phillips said.

Bashford figures the old community, founded in the 1850s near the rugged Siskiyou Mountains, and the building with its stone front and double fireplace is an ideal spot for Bigfoot's lair.

"I've seen five of these creatures," said Bashford who describes himself as a cryptozoologist — one who studies the evidence that tends to support the existence of species whose existence remains unproven.

"I hunt and track species," he explained. "Been doing it about 25 years. My first sighting was in Ohio when I was 17. They're out there.

"I've never seen one in this area," he said, "but not a day goes by that people don't want to talk to me about Bigfoot. It's something that interests a lot of people."

He plans to decorate the interior of the tavern with Bigfoot material, including foot casts he has made of tracks.

"I also want to put a computer screen on the wall that will include a map to mark Bigfoot sightings for people to see," he said.

He said the tavern will open sometime this spring, after he receives approval for the required county permits.

"We'll probably have to hoist Bigfoot to get him in, probably have to lay him down," he said. "I had a hard time finding someone who would carve it. But Terry did a fantastic job. It's a real work of art."

Tessmer patterned the wooden Bigfoot after drawings and information supplied by Bashford.

Bigfoot's big feet are about two feet long. He is attached to a stabilizing platform by six long lag bolts drilled into his legs and feet, and held in place, of course, by Gorilla Glue.

"Everybody seems to agree this is about the size he appears to be," Tessmer said. "As for his red eyes, a lot of people say he has red eyes."

The carver, whose three decades of work includes two 12-foot Bigfoots, couldn't say whether the real thing lurks out there.

"Is it possible? Anything is possible," he said. "I can't say, 'No, absolutely not.' We were talking the other day, and someone said you gotta be crazy to believe in something like that.

"Well, the other guy slapped him on the back and said, 'Do you believe in God?' " he said.

The point, he noted, is that not everything has to be seen to be believed.

The carving looked real enough for passersby Mary Roberts and Lorraine Ferrell of Phoenix.

"He looks intelligent, and that's a little frightening," Roberts said. "Who wants something that big to be that smart?"

"He looks like he is lost, and about to say, 'Could you give me directions?' " Ferrell said.

Looking for directions to Kerby, no doubt.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at

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