The Jersey Devil has its pine barrens. The Loch Ness Monster has its Scottish aquatic tourism. And Fangy Pitchtail claims the weedy, second-tier, far-back of my residential yard.
Like ol' Nessie and Bigfoot, there is some reason to question our friend Fangy's existence. But where they have grainy non-credible portraiture, I have but one fleeting eyewitness moment to back it up.
I had always suspected there was something back there. When I first bought the property, the Way-Back of my tiny personal kingdom was a lush jungle of prickles, vines and National Geographic photographers.
So with the blind, zealous ambition of a new homeowner, I gathered machete and gloves and well-informed native guides and went about reforestation. The Nat Geo folks moved three backyards over to examine the fascinating suburban ecosystem of lawn bowling balls, bottle trees and other creative recycling. Things were looking up.
Soon, I had seven bags of creepers and stabbers and stick-to-your-socksers. But new information caused the glittering joy of a job-well-done to quickly lose its luster.
I could not stop focusing on a strange spherical hole, the size of a golfball, dug deep, deep, deep into the dirt.
It looked like something was living there. Something roughly the diameter of a very thick jungle vine.
Suddenly, I wondered if I was truly alone. And I wished I could go back to the days of solitude and a 75% less chance of slithering subterrainean guests.
Well, from then on I kept the place clear in only a half-hearted way. Just often enough so I wouldn't be labeled the local kook, the crazy lady with the Addams Family film set for her backyard.
When I did weed, I weeded while peering over my shoulder, questioning every rustle in the brush, every vine I grabbed...
A surprise grand entrance of a local cat lost me about three lives of my own, as my ragged nerves exploded in a personal landmine of limbs and heart palpitations.
Then there was the day a friend and I were chatting in the kitchen, and happened to peer out the back window into the yard.
It was only a moment, as these things tend to be. One second in time with no independent verification, no solid proof. But we both stopped dead in conversation as something large, long, sleek and black was spotted, just slipping over the top of the five-foot back fence.
"Er, maybe it was a cat," my friend told me, lying on cue as good friends tend to do in situations of discomforting backyard anaconda. "A black cat's tail. That's all. Just a cat."
"Sure," I agreed, knowing full-well a cat's tail does not taper like that. If that was a cat, it was a scaly mutant cat. That lived in a golf-ball-hole.
And that made the image of Fangy Pitchtail all the more, um, colorful.
So Spring is here, and the Way-Back yard needs to be weeded again. I know the probability is that my cold-blooded squatter is probably just a simple black snake, completely harmless and likely more afraid of the shrieking, edgy creature above than she is of it.
And perhaps Fangy isn't even there anymore. Perhaps he's relocated to the yard with the National Geographic photographers, helping document the local fauna and why anyone needs a wall artistically-constructed out of 100 empty Chlorox bottles.
But like those who doggedly pursue the fabled, the impossible, the mythic, I can't help but feel Fangy is still out there and waiting. Biding his time for that one big meeting. His ultimate chance to pose for a blurry shot on film.
The stuff of which kitschy souvenir t-shirts are made. I mean, a scaly mutant cat that lives in a golf-ball-hole could really make a killing.
Er, maybe I should rephrase.