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Down the Road

Moose, is that really you?
By Milton M. Gross
Oct 14, 2012 - 7:31:32 AM

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A few days ago I was driving my bus along Acadia National Park's Park Loop Road, when I noticed a deer crossing the road about 30 yards ahead.

Only this deer was a cow moose.

What is there about a moose siting that is so fascinating? I have no idea. I do know that having come across about 40 of them along Maine roads and while I was afoot in the Maine woods, I'm always happy to see another. Happy but usually a bit nervous, very nervous when I'm afoot and the moose is also.

This cow was tall, dark, and with a tail boasting that moose-looking white bushiness on the bottom of her tail.

Yup, a cow moose all right. She didn't stop to see what kind of bus I was driving or wave or even give me the moose hoof -- equivalent of a human middle finger. In fact, I got the impression she didn't want to visit at all.

She just trotted across the road, rear hocks lifting high moose style, and climbed up a wooded gully. When I reached the spot, I stopped and looked. No moose, of course.

She had made my day. I hadn't seen one for a couple of years and wondered if they were still hanging around Mount Desert Island. I was assured. They were.

Later the same day, a woman passenger told me she was from New Jersey. All right. I didn't hold it against her. I even chatted a bit with her.

I told her about the cow moose, of course. She listened and only asked how big it had been. I told her it was typical cow size (meaning moose cow, of course).

Still later I picked up a group of passengers I know well and, as we drove along, I told them about the moose.

In Maine, moose stories are never out of style.

A passenger said, "Oh, a moose. That's good. How big was it?"

"A little taller than a horse (even though all horses in Maine are actually a distinct breed, hosses)," I answered.

"A moose," said the original passenger from the Garden State where I don't think moose are a common sight, "I thought you meant a cow."

"I did," I replied. "A cow moose."

That about ended that moose conversation.

Other moose conversations were different. They're all different, because you generally see different moose in different circumstances.

A man way up in Danforth, actually who was known in those long-ago days when you could describe him such as the town drunk, said to me while we were in the general store, "I touched a moose and nobody believes me."

He explained that he had canoed down the river, landed on a small island, and seen a moose standing still, just standing there. The man had walked up to the moose and touched its nose. It still stood there.

I knew that in those days there was a nerve disease circulating through moose herds, which rendered them fairly helpless. They would just stand still, even if you didn't touch their noses.

"Nobody believed me," he said again.

"Well," I said, "no wonder. This would probably be the first time in your life you've told the truth. Why would anyone believe you?"

We laughed, chatted a bit more, and parted. Which is always a pleasure when the person with whom you're chatting is breathing alcohol breath.

Moose stories are a Maine tradition.

I met a man in a supermarket, as super as they get in semi-rural Maine, who told me he'd moved to the Pine Tree State a year earlier.

"I really like it here," he said. "I'd like to make Maine my home."

"Good," I said. "How many moose stories do you have?"

"Moose stories?" he questioned. "I've never even seen a moose."

"That doesn't matter," I explained, "to be a true Maineiac, you have to have a collection of moose stories. If you haven't seen one, just make up a few stories until you do see one. Otherwise, you'll never be accepted as a resident instead of a tourist."

He thanked me, although he may have questioned my residential sanity.

I wonder how many moose he's seen since, or at least how many moose stories he has dreamed up to share with those who might challenge his Maine residency.

Another man told me he had been paddling his canoe on a small stream. He had been in the bow and his wife in the stern. They saw a bull moose, standing a short distance from them in the stream. He didn't tell me how far a short-distance was.

He said they paddled closer but the bull just stood there, dining on whatever evil-tasting stuff he was finding on the stream bottom. They paddled closer -- and closer.

Finally the man reached out with his paddle and touched the moose.

I forget the rest of the story. Probably appropriately so it can become one of those you-finish-the-story-yourself stories that were popular a number of years ago. I always felt kind of sorry for those authors, who obviously didn't know how to finish their tales so left that part of it to the reader.

An acquaintance from Lewiston and I were driving north on the South Arm Road from Andover to Lower Richardson Lake. I rounded a curve, and found a young bull trotting along the road in front of us.

"Wow!" the friend exclaimed, "a moose!"

You can always tell when a guy hails from a city and hasn't been in the woods too much. But at least he didn't think it was a horse.

Of course not, he -- the moose -- had antlers.

Bullwinkle stayed right in the middle of the narrow road. Every time he edged over a bit I tried to pass him. And he would swing his head -- and antlers -- around to the left to see what that wheeled beastie behind him was up to.

After two miles or so, he stopped, turned, and clambered down a bank to a stream to find his dinner.

We drove on past.

When our kids were smaller and we were driving somewhere, I would tell them that if we saw a horse in the road, it wasn't a horse.

It was a moose.

Poor old Dad.

But I knew. I rarely have seen horses along the road in Maine, nowhere near as many as I have seen moose and certainly far fewer than the deer I've missed.

I passed a horse and rider the other day. I was coming down the narrow road, while she was walking Old Paint up the road. I slowed so I wouldn't spook either the horse -- oops, hoss -- or rider.

She -- the rider -- waved at me, moving her lips in a silent, "Thank you."

I wonder what she would have silently mouthed if she had been riding a moose.

I'll have to think about it and get back to you.

Or, maybe you can write the ending to this had-she-been-riding a moose tale.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at lesstraveledway@midmaine.com.

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2012

Milt Gross Down the Road A Piece Column

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