(This letter to my father-in-law is a follow-on to my column “You Moose Be Kidding”)
I’m thinking of you, stuck in your hospital bed, red-legged and bored to death. I sympathize, but I am very happy that you are where you are, remembering as I do my son Zach’s bout with cellulitis in the Blue Ridge Wilderness some years ago. Cellulitis is a very serious thing and I’m glad you are out of danger.
Still, boredom is its own danger too, potentially injurious to your most excellent mental make-up. So I thought I’d entertain you with some wonderful news. Of course, this may not be news you want to hear, as it forces upon you a terrible choice: either accept the demise of your bothersome claim there are no moose in the Adirondacks (because you haven’t seen one); or instead accuse your own beautiful daughter, your precious flesh and blood, of being a bald-faced liar. For indeed, glory has been visited upon us! Oh hail the great hand of fate that has delivered unto us a primary source to quiet you once and for all: last Friday we saw a moose!
The circumstances were as innocent as could be possible, not in the least crafted to product such a happy outcome. We were merely driving to work as Amy does every morning. We had not even left our beloved town of Keene, having just passed Stewarts, when in the field to our right we saw a large deer lope towards the road. Startled by our car, it bolted sideways and back, after which it proceeded to energetically circle in confusion and obvious fear. This was odd behavior for an adult deer to be sure, and I slowed down with an abundance of caution, wondering which way it might lunge next.
As I regarded the discombobulated creature a thrill went through me. This was no deer! The hopelessly overlong and ungainly legs first set me off my initial assumption. Then I noticed it was a good deal larger than a deer. When I regarded its face and perceived that it was all snout and ears, the identification was complete. “Look dear!” I shouted at Amy. “That’s a moose!” Amy is used to me screaming things at her – I’m an itinerant screamer who has been known to yell the word “moose” repeatedly just for the pleasure of it, sometimes for minutes on end. But this shout was different: an announcement portending significance. Amy stared intently at our subject; I saw recognition flood her face. “Wow, it’s really a moose!” she cried. So there it was: whether you want to accept it or not, Howard, we had taken a vehicular run at a first-class, juvenile moose, probably born last spring.
What a lovely creature this Moose was! It exuded youth in its movement – indeed I thought at any moment it might be leap over the adjacent cedar tree, so filled was it with springiness. Its coat was a beautiful, burnished brown, with just a tinge of rust red. Its ears were very busy, each rotating in filigreed little arcs. One ear moved quite independently of the other, an effect which was entirely adorable. I’m told by authorities that moose can move their eyes independently as well. Seeing that ability in action might perhaps be less adorable, possibly even off-putting; but really, how marvelous is it? I can think of many times at the card table with you and your gentle wife when that ability would have come in quite handy.
Seeing a young moose had me interested in learning more about moose-making. I gleaned the following paragraph from the DEC web site and share it here since I’m sure you’d want to know too:
Moose breed from mid-September through mid-October. During the breeding season, bull moose will create wallows by pawing out depressions in the mud, and then urinating in them. Bulls and cows will then roll in the wallows. While typically only mature bulls five years or older breed, cows begin breeding at two to three years of age. After an eight-month gestation period, cows give birth to one or two calves in May or early June. Twins are common when cows are healthy and well fed. Calves are reddish brown and weigh 25-35 pounds. By fall they weigh 300-400 pounds. Newborn calves can stand up the first day, and swim within a couple of weeks. They are weaned at about six months, but remain with their mother for one year until she drives them off shortly before her next calf is born.
I don’t know about the pawing out depressions part, but perhaps when I achieve your venerable age I’ll be more accepting of the juxtaposition of bladders and wallowing. (note to DEC: can one really “paw” with a hoof?)
So heal well, Howard, and digest this news: Moose are alive and well in the Adirondacks. Lest you suggest we misidentified or hallucinated, know that said moose and Mom as well were ID’d by others the same day, heading down towards Keene Central, presumably for a little schooling.
If it saddens you to have finally had your comeuppance, I suppose you can take some smug pleasure in my admission that my excitement at seeing a moose in my beloved Adirondacks is surpassed by my excitement at the prospect of finally being able to prevail over you and your anti-moose rhetoric (you should run for President with that attitude). You can be happy for your daughter too: Amy had a pure moose experience, unsullied by my imperative to win. Now she can go to next year’s Great Adirondack Moose Festival with a proper sense of fulfillment: she belongs there, she’s in the club now.
You’re not invited.
Photo: Moose at Helldiver Pond (also in the Adirondacks, Howard). Photo by John Warren.