The answer to that would be: A mother moose with two babies.
And yes, there is a story attached.
You see last week the family decided that we wanted to enjoy the nice sunny evening and take a bit of a walk. We went down to our neighborhood schoolyard and were having a great time together until Lillian informed us she needed to get to the bathroom. Fast.
Great. We don't have that happen around here too much anymore and I'm really out of the habit of asking everyone if they've used the bathroom before we go anywhere (I figure it's their own business) so I sighed and figured it was my fault for not being more vigilant.
"I'll take her back" I said.
"No, we'll all go," Andrew said. He was trying to be nice.
So we headed back and took the shortcut through the "woods," which is just a little bike path through a wooded area in between the school and the subdivision where we live. However, as we came to the top of a hill and turned a corner Lillian let out a scream.
"MOOSE!!" she yelled. And I mean yelled. Then she went all crazy on me.
You see, apparently the good folks at the Anchorage School District figure that children today don't have enough to worry about. Global warming, nuclear holocaust, terrorism, AIDS, swine flu, drugs and domestic violence are all fine and dandy but our children today really need to be warned about the dangers of moose. Yes moose.
So in an effort to reinforce to the children of Anchorage how horribly dangerous these quadrupeds are the school district apparently showed a public service video on the dangers, complete with a reenactment of a boy being terrorized, and the effect was to scare the you-know-what out of my daughter.
I didn't realize this until we turned that corner and came face-to-face with Bullwinkle but when Lillian went all to pieces on me (seriously, she was hysterical) one of the boys said in this disgusted older-brother voice, "They showed this video at school about how moose are dangerous. It kind of scared her."
Kind of scared her? Really? You think? My child couldn't have been more upset if her parents had just been turned inside out by roving bands of alien marauders. Upset was an understatement.
So I was a little irritated that my taxes had paid for this full-blown psychotic episode that I now had to deal with. Then on top of that while I dislike having moose around (and they're all over the place) I have never really understood people's fear of them. Yes, they're big and anything big or wild (or both) should be taken seriously but really people, isn't a moose just a big wild cow?
I hear all the time about how dangerous they are and how you can be trampled by them but I sat in a class several years back where the state medical examiner himself said (I swear on a stack of Bibles) that there had only been one death recorded in the entire state of Alaska where someone was killed by a moose. And even then it was an elderly lady who was found dead in her back yard and they think that she got trampled by a moose trying to defend her little dog but there was no proof--just speculation based on her injuries. In short, I find the dangers over rated and moose habits quite annoying.
So to make my story short, here we were trying to get home to get my child to a toilet in time and there is this moose, 40 feet away blocking the path. I don't like moose and their lilac-chomping habits and the fact that this one was going to cause a large inconvenience didn't set well with me.
Andrew said, "Let's just go another way."
I said, "What? It'll be fifteen minutes out of our way to go around and she's got to get to a bathroom--it's just a moose."
"What do you mean? What are you going to do?"
"Throw things at it to make it go away."
I suppose I should mention here that it was a mother moose with two brand new babies. She'd probably given birth within the last week if not the past day or two.
"It's no big deal" I said and to prove my point and to get the job done quickly I walked closer to where she was standing on the path with her babies on the other side of her.
The boys by this time must have felt rather sheepish about their mother acting so brave and not to be outdone one picked up a small stick and threw it her direction. She was far enough away that it didn't hit her, it just kind of landed in front of her where she could look at it and wonder why we were bothering her.
Lillian calmed down a bit at this point as the action in the scene picked up and Andrew and the boys half-heartedly lobbed a few other items (they were obviously still skeptical about my moose-eradication techniques) but being so far away it didn't do anything to scare her off. I'd chased so many moose out of my yard that I just didn't see her as a threat the way they did and knew that if I could just hit her with something to startle her she'd bolt off and let us go by. I wasn't about to hurt her--just get her to move.
So I marched toward her, picking up a small stick along the way, determined to clear the path.
I walked to where I was about ten feet away and I threw the stick at her. It wasn't very big and it was pretty rotten so it just kind of pelted her in this annoying way and bounced off her side. She turned to look at me and stood, face-on, eying me with her babies behind her.
That's when things got interesting.
She took a step or two toward me and suddenly I heard this funny noise. A low rumbling sound and I kind of thought in this back-of-my-mind way "That's an odd sound to make. I don't think I've ever heard a moose make that kind of sound before . . . " and I realized she was actually growling at me. It startled me, I'd never heard a moose get angry before, they're really pretty docile (as long as they have a steady diet of my crab apples on hand) and will usually, eventually run off if you make some noise and chase them away but this one was facing me down and making angry sounds. I could be wrong but it even looked to me as if her hair was bristling and I remember thinking, "That's the look a dog gives you when it's mad at you and wants you to back down."
I took another step forward but about the time my thoughts continued on and said, "She's not happy with me. Maybe I'll change my mind and just leave her alone," she charged.
She did this little hop-step to get some momentum and then she ran at me.
I heard Andrew yell and I heard all the kids yell and I heard Lillian flip out with this scream of terror that you only hear in movies as she went all to pieces. They were all yelling and running and the moose was still growling as it came at me and it all happened so fast it was all rather a blur. But I definitely decided right then and there that bravery was completely overrated, that this specimen of wildlife was bigger and meaner than I had previously imagined and that now it was time to run.
I was wearing a long cottom skirt but it didn't matter, I made a dash for it and ran off the path into the woods to duck behind a tree. It wasn't a big tree, maybe two inches in diameter, and it wasn't like I thought it would hide me or anything but I figured that if she was going to stomple me that at least the tree would slow her down before she could actually crush me to pulp.
I vaguely remember closing my eyes and waiting for impact then after a few seconds opening them to realize she'd stopped and turned away to go back to her babies. At which point I jumped out from behind my scrawny hiding place and ran far, far away.
I caught up with the kids (who had scattered for their lives) and Andrew gave me the what-for. Lillian was completely gone (I'm sure she'll require therapy for this one) and if you too would like to shake a finger go ahead. I deserve it. If you'd like I'll even take an oath. "I hereby do solemnly swear that I will never again attempt to run off a mother moose. Not even for the sake of convenience on a family outing."
I would have looked pretty stupid, all mushed into the pavement right there after all my tough talk. As it was I looked stupid enough running behind the tree but at least I lived to tell the tale.
I guess I'm not exactly ready for a running of the bulls.
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Monday, June 22, 2009
The answer to that would be: A mother moose with two babies.