I've come across many moose in my wanderings through Maine, most when I was afoot.
It has never been pleasant -- always frightening.
But which was my unfavorite moose? I got to thinking about that question, and, in a way, they all were. There's almost no time you want to meet a great big -- as in great big! -- critter that could possibly step on you and not notice.
My problem is I never found a moose, which did not notice me.
One of the most frightening parts of non-hunting of moose is when I first hear them -- or I'm pretty sure I do. I don't see them and am not exactly sure where they are. Are they peering at me? Are they carrying six-shooters? Probably not, but when you're as big as a moose, you don't need a six-shooter.
Are they getting ready to charge me? None so far, but only they knew that. I didn't.
Maybe the young bull that climbed out of Sandy Stream Pond in Baxter State Park, I learned later wanted to play with us. The problem was that he was close, too close, about 50 feet away, when he climbed up on the bank. And we climbed up on our feet and started running. He didn't chase us, but a park ranger later told me that the young bull liked to play with visitors.
Rule #1 when not wanting to be chased by Bullwinkle; never call yourself a visitor.
Not the cow moose that stood across the trail to that same pond and gave both my father and I premature heart attacks. She wasn't my unfavorite. She just stood there, pretended we weren't staring at her. She didn't charge or run.
We did, walk rapidly away. And kept walking.
While I was working as a volunteer in an area of woods near South Paris, I heard one. Either climbing a tree or pounding on it to scare me. Either way, the noise scared me. I knew it wasn't a rabbit. I didn't see it, possibly because afterward I made sure I was volunteering in another direction.
The most frightening guy was the one I met while walking the woods near the Appalachian Trail, not on it, when it wouldn't have been quite as frightening. (Moose are instructed not to scare hikers on the AT -- maybe.) I was in an "untrailed" place, heading up a five-foot wide corridor line (AT corridor is about 1,000 feet.) when, suddenly there was the big guy.
He wasn't running. He wasn't charging. He was just standing across the line, staring. After staring at me for about ten years, he turned and trotted ahead of me up the line. I was committed that day to following that corridor line. I wasn't committed to wrestling with a great big bull moose. I saw him once more on that same line, when he paused to wait for me to catch up. Polite of him, but scary for me.
The second time he raised his big antlered head and trotted up the line ahead of me, I recited the non-moose hunter's prayer. "Lord, if you're not going to help me, please don't help that moose." Or something like that.
I didn't see him again, but I did see a younger cousin when he stepped out from behind the upturned root system of a pine that had blown over. Then, that nervy youngster had the gall to walk toward me. When he got close enough, and when I was hiding behind a tree hoping my strong heartbeat would alert him that the rangers were coming, I said to him, "Why don't you go home and enjoy your Sunday dinner."
It was Sunday. He replied, as I remember or misremember, "I am home, why don't you go home and eat yours?"
Having so much fun chatting by this time, I answered, "Because I'm too scared and too far from home."
Out of sympathy or boredom or from curious to see what I would do next, he turned and walked away. Love it when bull moose walk away!
I headed up the mountainside, circled awhile and returned to the corridor line. Never saw him again.
I think the young bull was more my unfavorite than the older, big black one. The black one headed away. The young one came to visit.
I think it was that young bull rather than the one that swam across a pond toward me that may have been my unfavorite, or the one that stood near our camp in Brooks so I didn't dare get out of the car, no the one that stared in my dining room window and watched me eat breakfast. Nor any of the others.
I've seen them in Acadia National Park, but those moose don't seem to care. They keep on doing whatever they were doing when I came along.
"When you've seen one tourist, you've seen them all," they may be saying.
"And I don't know which tourist was my unfavorite."
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at email@example.com.
Milton M. Gross Copyright 2015