April 25, 2002
In Alaska, you don't need to leave town for a wilderness experience. We came upon two teenage bull moose in a neighborhood near our home one April. Normally, moose will give way to a car, but these two had an attitude. They flattened their ears, raised their haunches, lowered their heads and charged! We backed up quickly, turned around, and found an alternate route.
Dennis was walking the dog one day some years ago. He cautiously passed a moose off to the side of the road, giving it a wide berth. He thought he was in the clear until he heard a sound and turned to see the moose following him, ears flattened. He shouted and waved his arms. Fortunately, the moose veered off before reaching him.
Susan was driving along a road on the Anchorage hillside at speed limit one afternoon when a moose charged out of the forest directly into her path. If the moose hadn't veered away she would certainly have hit it. To date, neither of us has bumped into a moose with our car. We can't take credit for that. Since moose aren't equipped with headlights, there is no warning when one dashes onto an icy road in the darkness of winter.
Susan's car once took a healthy kick from a moose we were trying to frighten away from our flower garden. It's amazing how quickly moose can destroy an expensive garden! When you plant a decorative bush or tree, word travels like wildfire in moose circles that a new salad bar is open for business in the neighborhood.
One of the scariest mad moose stories we've heard concerns our friends George Murphy and Dorothea Taylor. It would have been the most terrible story had it turned out differently. George, 82, and Dorothea, 85, had taken their two golden retrievers to the Willow airstrip for some exercise. It was 30 below zero, so they sat in the truck while the dogs ran around. When it came time to go home, George told Dorothea she could stay in the truck while he rounded them up.
On the way back to the truck with the dogs, George saw a moose quite a ways away. It saw him, too, and charged. George tried to reach the truck in time, but couldn't make it. He dove into deep snow for protection. The moose started stomping.
Dorothea heard dogs barking and jumped out to investigate. She didn't see George but assumed the moose was trying to kill one of her dogs. The moose turned to charge her so she grabbed a shovel out of the truck and started fighting. The moose kept stomping the snow and she kept whacking until it turned and fled.
That's when she discovered George in the snow with broken ribs and a 6" gash in his head. He lost 75% of his blood! Local first responders saved his life and transported him to the hospital. He's doing fine now.
Media around the world picked up on the story of a 97-pound octogenarian successfully battling a moose for her husband's life. The newspaper called it the "thwack heard 'round the world." The moose's unusual behavior was attributed to stress due to record-breaking cold and snow.
I taught school with Dorothea in 1982-83. At her retirement party, I asked what her plans were for the summer, and she said she planned to float wild rivers. Would we like to join her? YES! A few weeks later, George flew me to Talkeetna (my first flight in a small airplane) and six of us put in to float the Susitna River from Talkeetna to George and Dorothea's cabin downstream. George flew up after work, landed on whatever sand bar we'd camped on, brought us fresh pie and the newspaper, stayed the night in a tent and flew back to work the next morning. When we reached their cabin, he had a salmon feast prepared with salmon he'd caught that very day in their fish wheel. It was my first introduction to Alaska's incredible wilderness!
Some years later, George and Dennis were both on the Iditarod Air Force. A couple of veterinarians needed to be flown to Nome. A bad windstorm was predicted and Dennis refused to fly but George went ahead and picked them up. The weather deteriorated so much on the return trip that he had to land on the ice, put in ice screws, tie down the plane, and hang on for dear life. The plane flew on the ropes all night long. George wouldn't let any passengers out of the plane for fear they'd blow away! The next morning when the storm abated, he took off and flew on into Nome.
We weren't surprised to hear about George and Dorothea's mad moose story on national TV. They're extraordinary Alaskans!
Go on to read Guarding the House
Source: www.SusanCAnthony.com, ©Susan C. Anthony