The Beast of Busco

OSCAR 2

Editor’s note: The following story, “The Beast of Busco,” was published in the Indianapolis Star March 13, 1949. It was written — along with many accompanying and follow-up articles — by Victor Peterson, a reporter who spent a lot of time in Busco that year, covering the story of Oscar, the giant turtle spotted in Fulk Lake. The story was picked up by Associated Press and went worldwide, with some U.S. soldiers stationed overseas reporting that they read about the giant turtle in newspapers in other countries.)

By Victor Peterson

I SAW the Beast of Busco … I think.

Snowflakes rode out a cold wind as Gale Harris shoved the rowboat out on the choppy water of Fulk’s Lake which covers seven acres of his farm.

We were looking for a monster turtle said to be too wide to get through a door, 500 years old and weighing 500 pounds. There’s a story a second about the old mossback. It has this community of 1,100 on its collective ear more than the day Aunt Mary Jackson won a contest for naming the town after the Battle of Churubusco in the Mexican War.

Spectators, some grim-faced, others joking, lined the shore as Mr. Harris and I scanned the bottom of the lake with his homemade telescope … a downspout with a glass in the bottom, a soldered handle and a piece of red inner tube for an eyepiece.

* * *     * * *1958 Turtle Days Festival parade

A LOG JUTTED above the surface. This was the spot where Mr. Harris last saw his monster. He plunged the viewer into the water.

“There he is! Drifted off. Circle around.” We did. Now it was my turn. I saw muddy water or muddy lake bottom. Then thee was a definite pattern of  dark squares.

“Drifted off,” I said. “Circle around.” We did. I saw the pattern again and described it.

“That’s him,” Mr. Harris said stoutly. “Now you’ve seen the Beast of Churubusco.”

The mud road to the Harris farm is rutting rapidly from automobiles. He has appealed to Police Chief Perry Green for state police aid in directing traffic.

“Cars are stacking up a mile from the house. I can’t get out of the barnyard.” Mr. Harris moaned. The chief moaned too, and cupped his hands to his ears. He swore he’s going to stop answering the telephone.

* * *     * * *

“I DON’T want this fuss. I got farming to do,” Mr. Harris said. Then he went to see how construction is coming along on a new monster trap. It will be jawed like a steam shovel scoop to drop over and nsap up the snapper.

“We’ll have to winch him in,” said Lee Fowles, who testifies he saw the giant of the deep while fishing last summer. that was just about the time Mr. Harris pursued the Beast in a rowboat, snatched his tail and tried to flip him aboard. The turtle swam away with Mr. Harris in tow without his boat.

“Had to let go,” he said. “You know, the moss on his back is at least two inches thick. Can’t figure out how the story got around that some fellow’s name is carved there. Supposed to be a Richard Cavalier de LaSalle. In French too,” he said.

“And this business about this turtle eating cattle down around the lake. Nothing to it. Whoever heard of a turtle eating a cow?”

* * *     * * *

THE BEAST of Churubusco has been around for a long time. Oscar Fulk saw it a half century ago, but nobody got excited. More than a year ago it was seen by Charles Wilson, brother-in-law of Mr. Harris. He got excited. In time Mr. Harris got to seeing it. So did a lot of other people. I saw it too. I think.

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