Black Butte School told the tale of Harold the Hodag in their winter play. photo by Jerry Baldock
Black Butte School told the tale of Harold the Hodag in their winter play. photo by Jerry Baldock
Black Butte School (BBS) students revealed the history of the Hodag and how it came to Hoodoo Ski Area in a stage production at Camp Sherman Community Hall on Thursday.

“Oregon Winter” was a variety show with holiday music and the feature presentation of the evening, “The Legendary Hodag,” was written and directed by Jennie Sharp.

The year is 1893. Eugene Shepard, played by student Jo Jo Souza, a respected timber cruiser, stumbles into a logging camp in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, and the story begins.

He has encountered a vicious beast: the great black Hodag, and Souza as Shepard describes the creature to the loggers:

“The first time I saw one, I came around a huge hemlock to arrive face to face with the 200 pound, seven-foot-long, lizard-like beast. Its head was large for its body, with two horns growing from its head, large fangs, and nasty green eyes. It was covered with short black hair and the body was stout and muscular. On its spine were spikes leading to a powerful tail. Its four legs were short and sturdy with three claws facing forward and one back.”

According to the script, Shepard captured a live Hodag, but it got away, so to prove its existence to skeptical folks he made a fake one.

At the end of scene four, Shepard tells the loggers, “We’ll have to make a Hodag with wood and rotting oxen hides.”

Its armor was made of horns once belonging to various bulls. Those vicious claws were bent steel rods. But to Rhinelander, Wisconsin, the Hodag is much more than a hoax. It became a local legend.

“I thought we could celebrate local history,” Sharp noted. “Part of the inspiration for the story first came from the social studies curriculum — this year grades 5-8 are learning about Oregon history. I started brainstorming and wanted to focus on a local story. Last year writer T. Lee Brown helped the kids learn interviewing skills and they interviewed long-time Camp Sherman residents Leon and Sylvia Foster. There were many fun stories that they gathered through the interviews, and the transcripts were shared with me. Some of the best stories were about their time managing Hoodoo Ski Area.

“After my husband, Delany, suggested that I write about Harold the Hodag, I started researching the mascot of Hoodoo and the history of this mythical beast. It was such a fun history that I had to incorporate it into the show.”

She added, “Hoodoo owner Chuck Shepard gave me lots of information that helped me to write the play.”

Shepard was in the audience with his family. He grew up in Wisconsin knowing the story about Uncle Gene.

“The play sticks to the facts,” Shepard said. “I knew it would be good, but it was a whole lot better than I anticipated.”

After the audience cheered in awe of a delightful performance by 26 students ages 5 to 13, the cast appeared on stage and sang “Deck the Halls.”

But that wasn’t the end — Harold the Hodag from Hoodoo put in a special surprise appearance (arranged by Sharp) for the cast and everyone in the audience.

Since 2015, Sharp has directed the BBS winter performance, creating memorable experiences for the performers and their audiences.

After being approached by parents to offer summer camps many times, Sharp decided that 2019 was the year. At Starshine Theater Camp kids leap into the fantastic world of imagination for a week of designing, creating, and performing their own show. For more information visit www.starshine-theater.com