Meet The Signcutters

William “Bill” Balfrey Awarded JHPTS “Sign Cutter” Certification – 2005

Bill, as he is commonly known by his friends and foes alike, is a retired psychology and assorted other topics professor from the College of the Siskiyou at Weed, California.  Bill arranged for the old Universal Training Systems group to come to the college at Weed and present a basic tracking course in about 1978.   Those were the days before we had to deal with paperwork, student tuition, evaluations, certifications, etc.  That was when tracking was fun, some might say, because tracking was practically all we did at the course.  Oh, of course I got up and talked until everyone got bored or went to sleep, that is all except Bill.

Bill was an interesting study.  He liked tracking that was for sure.  He was kind of a mountain man really and just taught psychology to pay the bills and pass the time until he could lead the mules back into the mountains.  Yes, he had mules and packed and rode a mule.  Bill walked slow and talked slow, thinking before he spoke and when he talked, he was more interesting to listen to than I was.  That first tracking course was a success and Bill was hooked on the methodology that we presented.  It was, in fact, to be the first of nearly twenty years of annual courses at College of the Siskiyou.

Bill struggled to learn and know every facet of tracking.  He would spend hours studying a track, and if one eluded him, he was back there until it gave up and let itself be found.  Bill began to participate with the local Siskiyou SAR team and worked with the Sheriff’s office on numerous cases of missing persons and/or crime scenes.  Bill was a good tracking trainer and traveled to courses both as a student and an Assistant Instructor.  Bill Balfrey was given the title and certification as a Sign Cutter in 2005.  Bill was active this past weekend working with another Sign Cutter and other JHPTS trainers in presentation of the tracking program to combined county SAR units in Southern Oregon.

The mules that circle the corral at Bill’s house and wait his coming to feed and water stand each day and watch Bill slowly head down across the area, examining the ground surfaces to see which critters have visited during the night or afternoon.  Cutting sign gets into the blood and becomes a natural habit beyond the consciousness of the Sign Cutter himself, seeing and knowing, aging and understanding.  Want to know something of depth regarding tracking, ask Bill.

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