Mountain Men

Mountain Men at Cahulga Park in Heflin. Seventy-four 7th-grade boys participated in the fourth annual Mountain Men, which is a character and self-esteem building expedition. Cleburne County Schools Superintendent speaks to the kids.  (Bill Wilson/ The Anniston Star)

HEFLIN — The spacious acres of Cahulga Creek Park reverberated with a chorus of wild yells and howling Thursday as seventh-grade boys took turns trying to call for an alleged Bigfoot with every ounce of energy they had.

Seventy-four Cleburne County middle school boys converged on the scenic park for the fourth annual Mountain Man expedition, a set of exercises and character-building scenarios to get them ready for high school. The students participated in various activities, including archery, disc golf and a search for Bigfoot. They also heard from inspirational speakers.

Jennifer Swafford, counselor at the middle school, said the annual event is a great day off-campus.

“It’s devoted entirely to them. To let them know as they transition into high school they have a whole village of adults who care for them,” Swafford said.

She said the adults want them to know “any choices that come their way or troubles that they have they have people they can talk to.”

Swafford said the theme of the day is separating myth from legend; it’s better to become a legend than a mere myth, she said. The day culminated with a “Bigfoot hunt” to answer the question if the tale of a large, hairy humanoid is a myth or legend. According to Swafford, the students found the “Bigfoot” by following a trail of intentionally dropped items serving as clues to his direction.



Smoke billowed from a large grill containing “mountain meals,” a concoction of hamburger meat, onions, corn and potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil. Also known as a hobo meal, the hearty fare was being served by volunteers including Zane Farr, a 10th-grader from the high school who attended a previous a previous Mountain Men expedition a few years ago.

“It’s a really cool experience — it’s fun to be out here and see how stuff changed over time,” Farr said. “I enjoy it even more now, just seeing the kids.”

Farr said he loved the experience of the outdoors when he participated. On Thursday he had a chance to share that experience with the kids he was chaperoning.  

After lunch the group broke into three sections. Kenny Echols took his group to the disc golf course and asked the group if they had ever thrown a disc.

“Sure, I’ve thrown a Frisbee before,” said a few.

Some of discs thrown by the kids were like speeding bullets landing close to the target; others looked like warped pie tins falling into nearby trees.

Heflin police Officer Danny Turner came out to represent law enforcement and said he enjoyed seeing the camaraderie of the students.

“A lot of them don’t play sports and they get to come out here and do something as a group. I think that’s a big thing in society today, being a part of something,” Turner said.

Cleburne County School Superintendent Chad Young talked to the group about values, commitment and standing by one’s principles.

“You are the person that you are waiting on — nobody else is going to show up,” Young said under one of the pavilions by the water.

All eyes were on Young as he said, “Character is what you are when nobody's watching. Reputation is what other people think of you.”

Young said that Cleburne County is the best place in the state of Alabama.

“You need to love this place, embrace this place. The grass isn't greener on the other side — this as green as it gets,” Young said.

​Staff writer Bill Wilson: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @kfiscus_star.