On several occasions while traveling around and talking to people I saw some amazing things. On the Salmon River area north of Warren Idaho I stopped to speak to an older couple placering along the river. Being the hospitable folk they were I was invited inside for a cup of coffee. The claim had been in the family for a long time and the cabin was pretty rustic. Above the fireplace mantle going from side wall to side wall was an old alligator skin. It was falling to pieces but still obviously a big alligator.
When I commented on the hide, the couple laughed and said, "That's the Salmon River Devil", and "there's a lot of stories that go with that old girl".
Seems back in the days when the placers started to convert to hard rock mines, a second son of some British Mining Investors came out as a Manager. Of course his children had a tutor and when they were old enough were sent East to make the Grand Tour, go to a good Finishing school and pick up Society polish. His two sons went the Society circuit to the new hot spots in Florida, the Hot Springs, and Race Tracks etc.
On returning to Idaho they brought with them a Menagerie of a monkey, beagle, parrot, assorted snakes and a baby alligator. The snakes and monkey did not survive the first winter, but the beagle and gator developed a friendship of a sort. As time went on the young men could be seen walking their pets on leashes through town on promenade. For a while it became a Saturday night highlight as locals in the know enjoyed the confusion and disbelief of visiting miners, freight men and cowboys.
This worked quite well for a few years, with the gator at first in a box, then a pen and then on a chain to the pot-bellied stove in the kitchen. As time went on the beagle stopped growing but the gator did not.
And then the day came when the parrot disappeared, and then the beagle disappeared. It became very difficult for the family to keep any kind of kitchen help.
One warm spring day the alligator was spotted walking through town on its own, towing the potbelly stove on its chain leash. The gator vanished from view, and was not caught even after the whole population spent several days searching, especially when outdoor pets of any kind also began to vanish. Several mysterious break ins involved fresh venison and stored hams, dried fish etc.
Then one day the town pets appeared to be safe, and the gator seemed to have moved on. Besides winter would take care of the cold blooded critter. No longer being close to a warm stove. And for a few years no trace of the gator was seen.
Then the crew of the gold dredge in Ruby Meadows started to tell stories of a black water demon, in fact three of the crew quit and the new guys worked for two weeks, picked up their pay, stood before the busiest bar in Warren and publicly signed the Temperance Pledge. On and off through the season until freeze up the dredge and the workers were plagued by strange noises, and would swear that something big and evil was in the water.
. One of the men cutting brush in front of the dredge vanished without a trace. The dredge closed up early that year as soon as the first ice formed. But when the miners started up again in the spring, it seemed the "Devil" had moved on.
It had as freight rafts navigating the west bound Salmon River began to report the sighting of a river monster so big both head and tail could be seen from the ends of the boat as it passed under in the water. Certain areas near warm springs became devoid of fish and wild life. But eventually the tales were discounted, attributed to prohibition bath tub gin or exaggeration from boredom and the stories sparser.
The couple on the Salmon river mine claim had no story about how the skin of the Alligator got on the wall, although they speculated that Great Grandpa must have got the drop on the critter snoozing on the bank of the Salmon near his "diggin's" for that day. The couple did say that Great Grandpa had left a metal box somewhere with all kinds of strange items that were "found" about the time the gator went to the "Great swamp in the sky". They offered to dig it out for me, but I had to leave to get to my next stop on time and never did get back to visit them again.