Friday, June 7, 2013

Living in Moose Country

I almost hit a moose tonight. This isn't the first time I have had a close call with moose, and it likely won't be the last, but it still got my blood pumping. We see moose quite often, especially at dawn and dusk or later in the night. When the first salt of the year is put on the road, the moose come to lick it and you will see them on their knees in the road, nose to the ground. Tonight was a dark night, and rainy. The pictures in this post are from last summer, not tonight.

We joke that the moose is generally the thing you don't see, but it really is true in many cases. The eyes often don't reflect light, and their coats are so dark that they just don't show up. If you look ahead in the road and there is a place where the road seems to disappear a bit, that could be a moose. If you get lucky, you see a flash of their slightly lighter brown inner legs or a glint of an eye before you are forced to take action. Baby moose are a much lighter brown.

The cow moose in the road tonight had a very young calf with her. As I rounded a corner and came over a little rise, there she was, in my lane. I had to slam on the brakes and come to a complete stop because I saw that her calf was right behind her in the other lane, so veering over there wouldn't help matters. Many times, moose will start running in whatever direction they are facing when they get spooked. The moose in the ditch might run right into the road if it is facing the road when it feels threatened. This particular mama stood her ground rather than leaving her wobbly calf behind. I successfully came to a complete stop, despite the short notice, 55mph I was driving, and rainy conditions. My heart jumped into my throat. As I slammed on the brake, my right arm flew over to the passenger seat and caught the bag of groceries before it could fly forward and crash into the dash. I probably shouldn't have had it there anyway, but hindsight is 20/20.
My heart raced and my breath caused the windshield to fog up a bit. I think the adrenaline hit me so hard because I had the baby with me in the car. She is still rear-facing in a very safe car seat and will be for as long as I can keep her that way, but I still worry about her. The sudden stop woke her, but she didn't cry. I heard her kiss her baby doll noisily and then say, "Mama?"
I answered, "We're almost home, baby girl. Don't worry. We have to wait for a baby moose to cross the road." My legs started feeling a little numb and tingly as my heart continued to pound like a bass drum.

My voice was deceptively calm. I didn't want my sweet girl to worry. As I watched the mama patiently walk as her baby wobbled across the road I realized that this is the first calf of the year that I have seen. When you have to drive 1 1/2 to 2 hours to get to Walmart or a "real" grocery store, you can easily get into the rhythm of driving and become comfortable, but all it takes is one moose sighting or close call to snap you out of it and realize that you can't ever let your guard down around here. When you get as close as I did tonight, you realize just how BIG they are. A car can easily break a moose's legs and bring its heavy body crashing through the windshield. People die in moose crashes all the time. By the grace of God, we stopped in time. Tonight as I kissed my baby goodnight, I said an extra thanks to God for protecting us. We live in moose country, and we aren't invincible.

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