Todd Hartley: I’m with Stupid |

Todd Hartley: I’m with Stupid

Todd Hartley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

I imagine by now you’ve all heard about the Montana man who was hit and killed by two cars while supposedly impersonating Bigfoot last week, right? If not, let me sum up the tragic tale: Randy Lee Tenley, 44, of Kalispell, Mont., was standing in the middle of the road at 10:30 at night wearing a Ghillie suit – a type of army camouflage made of strips of fabric that is supposed to resemble heavy foliage – when he was struck by one car and run over by another, suffering fatal injuries.

Now, in the four-plus years I’ve been writing this column, I’ve made it a rule not to write about people who’ve been killed, no matter how absurd the circumstances of their demises. Death, I find, is rarely a funny subject. And I’m sure Tenley was probably a good man who will be dearly missed by his family and friends. He may have been whip-smart most of the time, too, but he just happened to be dumb right then; as one Montana state trooper noted, alcohol “may have been a factor” in the incident. (I think we can probably assume that’s the case.)

That being said, there was no way I could ignore this story. I had to break my rule for this one. I’m completely in awe. To quote another Montana state trooper, “This is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen.”

One of the dumbest? Seriously? Do we really need to qualify this one? I mean, I can’t even begin to imagine what that trooper might have seen that was dumber, but I wish I knew what it was so I could write about it.

But I’m not going to talk about how idiotic Tenley’s actions were because I’m guessing none of you out there needs any convincing. What I’d rather delve into is the motivation behind such a ridiculous tale.

According to a friend of Tenley’s who was present with him at the time, Tenley donned the suit and positioned himself by the road hoping to make people driving by believe that they’d seen Bigfoot. I think we can all agree that’s pretty damn funny.

Where Tenley went wrong, obviously, was stepping out into traffic. I can only assume that making people think they’d seen a Sasquatch wasn’t going to satisfy him, so he decided to push the envelope in an effort to make people think they had to swerve out of the way to avoid killing one.

The thing is that Tenley’s plan, such as it was, actually might have worked had he encountered more experienced drivers, but as luck would have it, the first car to come along was driven by a 15-year-old girl. Unsurprisingly, given that the girl was driving on either a learner’s permit or a restricted license, she hit him.

Even then, Tenley might have survived, but the next car to come along was driven by a 17-year-old girl, who likewise was unable to avoid the camouflaged man (and probably just assumed he was a pile of leaves anyway) and ran him over.

In general, when a situation like this arises – if, indeed, something this dumb has ever arisen before – there’s not a whole lot of need for extensive police work; alcohol may have been involved, but foul play clearly wasn’t. In this case, however, I demand that the state of Montana launch a full investigation because I think there’s more to this case.

Here’s the way I see it: Ever since Animal Planet launched the outrageously stupid TV show “Finding Bigfoot,” there has been increased interest in the shaggy ape-men rumored to inhabit the forests of North America. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone in Kalispell hired Tenley to perform the hoax in an effort to lure the show and the dozens of dollars it would bring to northern Montana.

On a different note, I’m also not entirely convinced that Tenley was trying to look like Bigfoot anyway. If you’ve ever seen a Ghillie suit, you’ll agree that it doesn’t look like fur or hair. It looks more like kelp. Thus, I believe that Tenley was actually trying to convince people that they’d seen Sigmund the Sea Monster.

Go ahead and do Internet searches for Ghillie suits and Sigmund the Sea Monster, and then tell me if I’m wrong.

Unfortunately for him, there’s no way teenage girls would have any idea who Sigmund was. Who knows? Had they recognized him they might have done a better job of swerving out of the way.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User


Tony Vagneur: Let it flow

Lake Powell. Many things to different people: drinking water, irrigation, green golf courses, watery grave of archeological sites significant to native people. It’s a huge artificial reservoir of water behind the Glen Canyon Dam; it’s…

See more