She hadn’t walked the east side of the golf course in Curtis for a couple of weeks — too cold, too much snow -- but something else had.
And earlier this month, when Sharon Jorgensen and her border collie reached the cart path that climbs through the trees from the third fairway, she found the tracks that the something else had left behind.
They were big. She dropped her glove alongside one and snapped a photo; the four-toed footprint was half again as large.
They were far between. She estimated the distance between them at nearly 6 feet, an Olympic-sprint stride.
They were alone. The snow surrounding them was untouched, unblemished.
“There were no other feet prints out there but mine and this big guy,” Jorgensen said. “The snow tells the story. What it is, I don’t know.”
In the two weeks since she found the footprints, she’s heard plenty of possible explanations. A mountain lion, hopping. An owl, flopping. A turkey.
Or a hoax.
But who would fake it way out there? On the edge of the rough nearly a half-mile from the clubhouse, in a small town south of North Platte, in the heart of winter?
“This isn’t a joke,” she said. “This is the middle of nowhere. If you were going to make a joke, you’d put them where someone was going to find them. This isn’t that place.”
She and Babe walk nearly every morning as soon as the sun rises, down the hill from home and into the nine-hole Arrowhead Meadows Golf Course along Medicine Creek.
Jorgensen is not the village crazy. She worked the farm with her husband, Richard, about 10 miles south of Curtis until a year ago, when they moved to town and their kids took over.
The 63-year-old has been a church leader, a school board member.
“I think I’ve served on every board in town, so I’m not a nut,” she said. “Everybody in town knows who I am.”
After finding the footprints that morning, she called Babe over to investigate. The dog wasn’t impressed or interested. The tracks seemed to emerge from the trees and then return to their cover, but Jorgensen wasn’t about to follow.
So she took pictures and called her daughter, and word soon got to golf course superintendent Eric Senff.
“I was actually home that morning when Sharon sent me the pictures,” he said. “I went out there and looked at them.”
The 30-year-old has run the golf course for a half-dozen years, but until he followed the tracks from the third to the fourth, he’d never encountered anything out of the ordinary.
“As big as they were and as long as the strides were, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
He showed them to a biologist, who said they could have been made by a jackrabbit, but Senff had never seen one on the course. He remembered a farmer nearby had reported seeing a black bear a year or so ago, but that didn’t fit. And he heard another farmer in the area raises emus, but he looked at pictures of their tracks online, and they weren’t quite right, either.
Senff doesn’t believe in bigfoot or sasquatch. He’s stumped.
“I just have no idea.”
Jorgensen talked with a Frontier County deputy and a Game and Parks employee, she said, but they offered no answers. She also heard from a Nebraska-based bigfoot investigator, who asked her to look for trees pulled down into arches or tipi-type shapes -- telltale signs of sasquatch.
Jorgensen walked the woods but didn’t find any.
The investigator suggested she keep her dog leashed for her safety, but Jorgensen walks Arrowhead Meadows so Babe can run free.
The investigator also told her to talk to whatever made the prints, and Jorgensen does. She says: I intend to leave you alone. So please, leave my dog alone.
And in the past two weeks, with the tracks disappearing in the snowmelt, she hasn’t felt threatened.
She hasn’t seen any more signs.
“But I’m not going to tell you I don’t watch the trees more than I used to. Because I do.”