When Moose Attack
November 1, 2011 § 4 Comments
We’ve all been taught the lesson from the time we were children: wild animals are not pets. Don’t feed the bears, don’t adopt a panther (as much as you think they’re beautiful, those coal-black creatures of grace and lethality), don’t fool yourself into thinking that hippo is happy to see you. I haven’t had much experience with wild animals but the few times our lives have intertwined were, for the most part, normal. For the most part, you say?
Yes. I have had one memorable experience in my lifetime with a wild animal. This beast of prey, this demon in animal clothing, came after me and my brother while we were on a supposedly idyllic family vacation in New Hampshire. Some of you who know me may already be familiar with the moose story. For all readers who are not, the following event is true. Names have not been changed to protect the innocent because that wouldn’t stop the moose. He’s probably still out there, hunting us. (And people wonder why I am learning how to defend myself with arms.)
In the year 2000, I turned fourteen. My brother Dan was fifteen. We were up in New Hampshire, staying at a timeshare owned by family friends. The month was April (because my parents are the kind of people who like to go on vacation when it’s cold and rainy. They think sunlight is boring). Dan and I decided to take a walk down the hill behind the house to the nearby golf course. It was dusk. We reached the bottom of the hill below the house and used a cute little wooden footbridge to cross the stream that separated the golf course from the road. Dan was in a golfing phase and I was in a wandering around the woods phase. On the golf course, which was empty, we meandered for a few minutes looking for stray golf balls (Dan) and daydreaming about running away into the forest with an Indian brave (me). Not much time at all had passed and I was reaching down onto the fairway for a golf ball when Dan’s voice came from behind me.
“Rose,” he said, in that tone of voice you don’t ignore ever, even when it’s your (semi) annoying older brother. “Stand up really slowly.”
I stood up really slowly.
“Back up slowly.” Dan was still using that tone of voice and I was terrified. We backed away, not turning around, keeping our eyes fixed on the moose. The little wooden bridge was nearby and we were heading for it. The moose kept walking towards us, not running, not ambling, just pacing steadily with a ground-eating stride. It was enormous and it was about twenty yards away from us. It paused for a second when Dan and I hit the bridge and then began trotting. At that point, we forewent caution and ran for it. The moose started running too.
I remember being so frightened that I was almost crying as I ran through the forest towards the little service road. Why was this moose chasing us? What if it caught us? Would it eat me? Kick me? Throw me up in the air with its antlers? I was gasping for air and sobbing a little and it wasn’t helping that I was wearing clogs. The thicket we were running through had dead branches and soggy puddles all over. They clawed at my feet and suddenly my one clog fell off. I didn’t even stop for it; the moose was gaining on us. I ran in my sock and other shoe. The moose crashed through the branches after us.
The service road was in sight but there was still the huge hill behind it that we’d have to run up to get to the safety of the house. Everything was happening so quickly. I knew we wouldn’t be able to get up that hill faster than the moose. The animal was already only about ten yards away from us.
Suddenly, a blue minivan came down the service road.
“Help!” I screamed. I waved my arms and I could hear Dan yelling too.
The driver noticed our imminent doom and braked to a stop, blaring his horn. The moose jerked and froze. He tossed his head and snorted angrily. The driver kept honking the horn, in short hard bursts. Dan and I hadn’t stopped running and we were finally outdistancing the moose. We made it onto the road and the minivan door opened. I didn’t even pause for a second before I hurled myself inside. Refuge was my only thought, not that I had just climbed into some stranger’s van. Believe me, at that moment, choosing between irate moose and strange car was not really a choice at all. It was an instinctive, gut reaction. “HIDE!!!!” My mind was screaming at me and so I did in the nearest enclosed space.
Dan hopped in after me. The moose made a few more angry hoof-scuffing motions and then trotted off back to the golf course. I finally regained enough wits to realize the driver of the van was the same guy who’d been at the front desk of the time-share’s enclosed swimming pool/rec center. I was so glad to see a familiar face that I almost threw my arms around him.
Dan and the friendly man began to discuss in excited tones what had just happened. The guy explained that he’d been heading to the storage shed just down the road. Apparently he helped maintain the golf course as well. I just sat there, crying. Thoughts of what could’ve happened to us kept flashing through my mind. That moose had been close to us. He’d been gaining. We wouldn’t have beaten him to our house. I had almost just died, or at least been injured by a moose. What if the car hadn’t been driving past? What if it had been just me out there and I hadn’t even noticed the moose until too late? Why did it chase us? It had happened so quickly, all in less time than it takes to tell.
Dan turned to me. “Come on,” he smiled. “We’re alive, right? And I’ve got your shoe.”
Dan, being the heroic, chivalrous, and protective brother that he is, had made sure he was running behind me (he was faster than me at the time) and he somehow, in an act of gallantry that still amazes me, had managed to pick up my clog and still keep running.
I managed a sickly little smile. “Thanks, Dan.” I slipped my clog back on over my wet, dirty sock, and then the nice man from the swimming pool desk drove us up the service road and back to the house. I have never worn clogs since that day.