Close Call With A Myopic Moose

HAROLD is all right. It was nip and tuck for a moment, and Harold was some old scairt. 'Twas a moose, and the consequences of a moose, and this was timely for ye scribe, for as ye scribe scribes, the civilized State o' Maine is holding the big annual moose lottery. Less-cultured people in states as yet unrefined probably don't realize how this works in our excessively advanced Pine Tree State. Every year the Fish & Wildlife Department has a big ticket sale and anybody who would like the joy of owning a dead moose can buy a ticket and take his chances in the exciting lottery. Those who don't ``win'' don't get their money back, so the state treasury gains a good deal, but those who win can fare forth bravely into the wilderness puckerbrush come fall and hunt moose.

To make this glorious adventure more sporty, each lucky hunter can have a guide go with him, as well as some friends who will play cribbage and so forth, a selected committee of well-wishers, folks to carry the lunch, witnesses from Rotary, Kiwanis, and/or Lions, and members of the immediate family.

The holder of the ticket waves it as he advances, and if a band and color guard is employed the procession is spectacular. The chummy nature of a rousing moose hunt thrills the sportsman who likes to play pristine man in the deep jungle, but quite a few good Maine people deplore the whole thing and are ashamed that the lordly moose amounts to nothing more than a prize in a raffle.

Meantime, the chips are down and the payoff is at hand. Taking out a moose is fully as difficult as whacking a croquet ball on the front lawn with a mallet, and has all the sporting value of bumping off your grandmother while she reads poetry by the fireside. Pertinent to Harold's fearful experience, the moose is nearsighted. The biological truth is that no moose ever sees his executioner.

As I have related in another context, Bill and I have a moose named Charlie who comes when we are in camp and watches us do the supper dishes. He lays his dewlap on the windowsill and squints at the sink. We speak to him and he looks all about to try to see who's talking. Charlie would be what Mainers have always called ``an easy chance'' - such as taking fish in a rain barrel. Modern Mainers may update that to ``as easy as ticket-taking a moose.''

My friend Harold lately retired from lobstering, and for something to do he's gone to digging clams. He sold his boat and all the gear, so his investment as a clam digger amounts to a hod and a clamhoe. The hod is not only a receptacle into which the clams are tossed as dug, but is also a measure - it holds a half bushel.

The clamhoe, sometimes called a clamrake, is a short-handled tool on the style of a tined potato digger, so the posture of a clam digger at work is close to the mud - feet wide apart and the rubber boots deep in the ooze. Attention is on the mud being turned over, and as clams appear each is scanned for size before being tossed in the hod. So Harold was thus engaged when he heard a noise.

He didn't know what kind of a noise it was, except that it sounded something like the suction slurp of a rubber boot being withdrawn from a clam flat, as when a clam digger moves to another place, so Harold, without looking up, surmised somebody had joined him. But Harold next realized the noise wasn't quite like that, and in curiosity he looked up.

He saw a cow moose tripping along on the flats, lifting her hooves high from the mud, and Harold said his first thought at seeing her was surprise at her being a distance from her wooded habitat. Why would a moose be on a clam flat? This was momentary, because Harold next realized that she not only WAS on the clam flat, but was coming directly toward him with her head down as if carefully evaluating the spot for her next step.

Harold said that in recollection he would estimate 35 or 40 feet, but that she was coming in a manner that made her seem a good deal closer. Harold said he shouted, ``Hey! Hey!'' The moose paid no heed and kept coming. Harold said he felt as if he stood on a crossing with a freight train coming. He called again.

It was time for action. Harold let the moose have his clamhoe, which caused her to veer just before the collision, and she trotted by. It was a close one. Harold says, ``Can you imagine what the game wardens would do if I'd killed a moose with a clamhoe and no ticket?''

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