Never Whistle at a Moose
by Michael R Dougherty
If he didn't like the song I was whistling - I was toast.
When I was 11 years old, my dad accepted a construction job that took our family from Anchorage, Alaska to the small town of Sterling, which is located about 137 miles from Anchorage on the Kenai Alaska peninsula.
It seems a little funny now to refer to the town by it's proper name of "Sterling" because when our family lived there, all the locals called it "Naptowne."
Back then, Naptowne consisted of a small cafe, a trailer park, a dirt small plane airstrip and Bing Brown's hunting and fishing guide service.
One snowy winter Saturday I set out across the airstrip with no particular destination in mind. I was just out and about and headed for a wooded trail that my sister Anna and brother Tom and I often walked for fun.
As I walked, I started whistling as loud as I could. Not a nice melodic whistle, but a great big loud annoying whistle. I wasn't even whistling a recognizable song, because I was just making it up as I walked along without a care in the world.
But in a few short minutes, my carefree world would change dramatically.
As I walked down a snow covered hill, I wasn't even watching where I was going. Instead, I was looking straight down at my boots and kicking up snow with every step. There I was, not paying any attention to anything and whistling my fool head off.
Then, for some reason, when I got to the bottom of the hill I looked up -
What I saw made me stop cold in my tracks, snap back into reality, and quit my loud annoying whistling.
Just 9 feet in front of me stood a great big moose who was flicking his ears back and forth as if to say "hey dude, knock off the noise you dummy."
Never Whistle at a Moose
Now I had been raised in Alaska and had spent lots of time in the great Alaska outdoors. So even though I was only 11 years old, I was woods savvy. But by walking along in the woods of Alaska without paying attention to my surroundings, I had put myself in harm's way - big time.
And as a result of my acting like a Cheechako (that's a newcomer to Alaska) I found myself staring down an irritated moose.
As I stood there shaking and preparing to meet my doom, it occurred to me that if I hadn't looked up when I did, I might have walked right into the moose. "Oh excuse me Mr. Moose, I'm just a dumb 11 year old kid that's walking along whistling a really irritating song as loud as I can - so get out of my way."
Now here I was, face to face with a big scary moose just 9 feet in front of me, and a slippery, snow covered hill right behind me. So if Mr. Moose was annoyed by my stupid intrusion, or worse yet, didn't like my whistling, I was about to get stomped.
And if I turned around to run up the slick, snow covered hill behind me, I might slip, fall down and get stomped anyway.
I was not having a good day.
My 11 year old mind raced as I stood there looking into the eyes of Mr. Moose who seemed very curious about the noisy, trembling boy who dared to invade his moose space.
As Mr Moose stood there sizing me up, I decided I only had one option -
I had to get back up the hill behind me as quickly as my now wobbly legs could carry me. Then, once I was at the top of the hill I would take off running for home as fast as my winter boot covered feet would allow.
My next challenge would be how to turn around very fast and then start running up that slick, snow covered hill without falling down - or I was done for. And all before Mr. Moose decided to stroll on over, give me a good sniff and then start stomping me into a blob of quivering jelly.
Never Whistle at a Moose
My plan was set.
I stood there staring intently into the big intense eyes of Mr. Moose. I took a deep, quiet breath and then -
I spun around on my boots so I was facing the hill, and then I bolted up the hill. With each step I prayed that I wouldn't slip and fall, and that Mr. Moose wasn't chasing me.
Up, up, and up, it seemed like forever until I finally reached the top of the hill. I was breathing hard and trying not to scream in horror as I started running as fast as I could, straight for home.
As I ran, I was afraid to look behind me for fear that Mr. Moose was about to overtake me. I ran and ran and ran some more. I ran right across the airstrip without even looking out for airplanes.
And finally, I ran for the safety of my home.
Once there, I ripped open the front door and dove head first into our living room as if I'd been shot out of a cannon.
My mom was stunned by my unusual entrance and to see me laying there on the living room floor gasping for air and shouting "moose, moose, I was (gasp) running from a moose."
Mom quickly looked out the front door that was still open, to see if a moose was anywhere in sight. "What moose? I didn't see a moose."
Although my close encounter with Mr. Moose has now been a very long time ago, I still think about my adventure from time-to-time. You see, I have always wondered what that moose was thinking as he stood there staring at me.
Was my whistling annoying him? Did my lack of respect for Mr. Moose's back yard irritate him? Or, and this is more likely, did Mr. Moose find my loud, short visit and hasty escape laughable?
One thing is for sure -
If you ever find yourself in the great Alaska Outdoors and there's a moose nearby, don't whistle at the moose unless you're absolutely certain you know what songs they like. I hear that some moose may like the theme song from the old cartoon series "Rocky and Bullwinkle", you know, the cartoon with Rocky the flying squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose...
Or do moose like the theme song from that popular classic Alaska kids TV show "Mother Moose" with the Old Prospector and Miss Northern Lights?
Yes, that's the one.