Autumn is upon us, and so today we turn to the colourful forests of North America for our story of cetacean folklore. Land-locked Colorado is not the first place you think of when it comes to marine mammals. But in the early 20th century, American lumberjacks told all sorts of stories about “fearsome critters”, and one of them was the Slide-Rock Bolter, a terrifying mountain whale.
The tale of the Slide-Rock Bolter comes to us from William Thomas Cox, the State Forester of Minnesota who in 1910 published Fearsome Critters of the Lumberwoods, with a Few Desert and Mountain Beasts. In this collection of lumberjack tales from all over the United States, Cox detailed the various creatures that workers in the logging industry imagined late at night in their shanties. The Slide-Rock Bolter’s story is set in southwestern Colorado. Cox worked with forester Coert du Bois, who drew the illustrations, and botanist George Bishop Sudworth, whose Latin taxonomical names for the creatures added to the work’s tongue-in-cheek imitation of a field guide. Of the Slide-Rock Bolter, Cox writes: