Americans love myths. We love ghost stories and the "American Dream" and "pulling yourself up by the bootstraps," and we especially love the idea of Bigfoot. This is the only reason why the same backwoods drifter can claim he found two different Bigfoot monsters and make the news for each of them.

This guy, Rick Dyer, claimed back in 2008 that he found a dead Bigfoot in Georgia. After a press conference, the frozen Sasquatch corpse turned out to be a rubber ape costume. Six years later, the same Rick Dyer claims he somehow killed another of the mythical beasts, this time in Texas. Of course he's got a "documentary" to market, and plans to tour North America with his latest scam.

Some people take this stuff for what it is, just some good ol' boy hucksters using folk tales to separate the gullible from their money.

But too many people actually believe in Bigfoot, and they're the same idiots who couldn't identify a bobcat crossing the road or a possum in their backyard, because these people are completely divorced from the natural world around them. They're the same kind of morons who think a cold winter storm magically cancels decades of record-breaking high temperatures and endless fire seasons and brutal mega-droughts. Every airplane is a UFO to these cretins educated by cable TV, every smudge on a window is Jesus, every rat in the rafters is a scary ghost.

Mass idiocy is never harmless, and when you add the other main American ingredient of "lots of guns," the Bigfoot stories tend to become regular human crime scenes, with one jackass shooting another jackass in the back, because they both heard a "barking sound," in Oklahoma, and naturally assumed it was Bigfoot, an elusive forest creature who obviously needed to be shot dead.

Meanwhile, the kind of American wilderness required by big animals continues to vanish, eaten up by distant suburbs and fracking rigs, dried up by drought and dams, paved over for outlet malls, or logged by the Koch Brothers' land-rape operations to make Brawny paper towels and Dixie paper plates.

Wise people like Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln and John Muir and the Buffalo Soldiers protected important chunks of America's mountains and forests and rivers, and hard-working park rangers and biologists and those college kids collecting signatures for the environmental groups continue fighting for wildlife and wilderness.

Thanks to all of them, there are still places where it's still possible to see something far more magnificent than a redneck in a Walmart wookiee costume. There are wolves and elk and bald eagles and even 10-foot-tall grizzly bears who still stomp through a few forests of the Western United States.

Ken Layne writes Gawker's American Almanac and American Journal. Top art by Jim Cooke. Grizzly photo via Shutterstock.