Of Moose and Men
The moose was about three feet from the window when Forte started barking. There is a difference in a friendly, " I really need to go out" or " someone's at the door" bark and a moose in the yard bark. Also, when there's a moose in the yard you can't let the dog out. Forte won't chase a moose, but a moose will chase him. (Plus, the neighbors may not be thrilled by his wake-up call at 4:30 in the morning.)
So, Forte was barking, and Chip and I stumbled downstairs to see what was up. The shadow outline of the giant moose walked by the window near my desk, then right up onto the back porch, across it, and back down into the deep snow in the yard. Chip and I stood in the front room, with nothing but a big window between us and the moose, whispering, like they do on the hunting channel, while the moose looked at us. I did wonder for a minute if he would break the window and come inside. The fire was cozy. The coffee was on. But he occupied himself by eating the big wild dogwood bush I keep just for moose snacks. He ate like that for a while. Then munched on some snow to wash down all that fiber. He stayed long enough for Chip to say he could get his bow and arrow and shoot him, and we could cover him with a tarp and no one would know. We are not that hungry, and we are law abiding. Also, there is already a moose in the freezer, cut up and wrapped in small white packages.
It is funny, how when you are hunting moose you tip-toe through the woods and they bolt if you clear your throat and then run for miles. You can hardly get close enough to be sure of your shot. Yet when you are having your morning coffee you can sit a few feet from one and talk loudly and he doesn't mind a bit. This one also didn't worry about Forte, who still was barking every few minutes, like a foghorn, lest we forget the moose was there. The moose stayed even after we turned on some lights, and started the coffee and put wood in the stove. He didn't take off when I turned on Morning Edition, or get distracted by Chip's news on the TV, (or what passes for news) --Chip just said, "did you know The Deadliest Catch was once the highest rated show on cable?"
When the moose started to mosey toward my apple and cherry trees, or actually the tasty tops of them sticking out of the snow near the now buried in snow garden fence, I was energized enough to holler for Chip to do something. He opened the door a crack and said: "hey, moose, git." The friendly moose walked toward him. Chip shut the door and backed up. The moose turned, slowly, struggled some in the deep snow until he found the harder snow right next to the house, and walked away, nearly brushing up against the window box (and filling the whole window with his moose form- that is a sight that makes your heart beat harder.) He walked down the hard shoveled path by the chicken coop, where he stayed a moment, before following it to the sanded driveway and back the way he came, without, it appeared, any confusion at all. He knows the way well and no doubt will return.
This week I went to a downtown planning meeting where we learned that the roads and sidewalks in Haines are not as easy to read for people as my yard was for that moose. The Juneau planners noted that tourists, ferry travelers, or drivers coming down the road from the Yukon have no clear directions about what is where in Haines. They showed slides of familiar intersections and asked us to look at them objectively. "Which way would you go?" They were so confusing and uninviting that we laughed. Most of us would never have noticed this if we hadn't been asked to look at our town with an outsider's eye. The planners were right, we need some signs and a lot of brush cutting. Without local knowledge you couldn't find Main Street, the harbor, or the Fort from the "Welcome to Haines" sign. We are so used to our man-made surroundings that we don't notice how shabby or uninviting they appear to strangers.
You would think we would be used to moose too, and that a moose in the yard would not demand our attention at four in the morning. But that is not so. He was worth waking up for.