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Talking It Out With Mr. Moose

Friendship, Maine, August 12, 1992

DEAR Boss,

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Your kind letter saying you have a goodly supply of stories on hand and I might rest for a week or so was appreciated, and I have acted accordingly. They have been making a big movie over at Camden, two towns away, greatly adorning the usual uproar of the summer season, and it was pleasant to slip away without an adieu and embrace the relative peace of our northern wilderness townships - which William and I have done for 29 consecutive Julys in a ceremonial jaunt now well known as The Grandfathers' Retre at.

When his Ellen and my John betrothed, we thought it would be well for us to get acquainted, and these North Woods visitations have brought culture and enlightenment to the uninhabited wilderness north of Seboomook. Our first time was in a tent, but Great Northern Paper recognized our efforts and made a comfortable "camp" available at Caucomagomac Lake, on the other side of a keep-out chain, which we sesame with a key we return after each happy occasion.

Have you ever had a Maine moose look you closely in the eye and express his pleasure at making your acquaintance? This turned out to be the summer of the Maine moose. During the nesting season, the moose is docile and tractable and remains rather much in a meditative posture. But in July, the moose begins to move about and becomes prominent, and as we wended our way we encountered a number of them strolling in the road and waiting to have their pictures taken. We had just passed the Sias Hill checkpoint of Great Northern Paper, our host, where we pick up our keys to the chain and the camp, when our first sighting came.

This moose was standing precisely in the middle of the dirt logging road, with head down lapping the ground. This is to acquire salt, which a moose likes but does not get in his normal diet. The road crew squirts a liquid saline solution to keep down the summer dust, and although it doesn't offer the usual sodium chloride found at table, a moose doesn't know the difference and accordingly takes over the woodland highway system. When you come upon a moose in the road, you should stop and in a loud voice c all out, "Mr. Moose - that's your road and I want no part of it." This I did.

For a moment, I thought this moose didn't hear me, but then it raised its head, gazed upon us with myopic scrutiny, and walked over to chat.

There is, truly, something extremely chummy in having a lordly moose, half the size of Mount Katahdin, lay his snout through the window on the driver's side and extend a glad snort of welcome to his forest. It is then you sense the beauty of his limpid eyes and feel comfortably akin to the wonders of nature and the magnificence of the great outdoors. This moose did not hurry the amenities but lingered languidly to make sure his message got across. His dewlap was impressive.

Shortly, he withdrew and returned to lapping salt. I gently put our pickup in gear, eased the clutch to the minimum, and we moved along toward camp, nodding a careful farewell. Unless you have had a Maine moose inspect you in passing thusly, your life has been accordingly bereft. During this visitation, we saw many mooses, some bigger'n others, and all friendly and disposed to sociability. William said, "I keep thinking of the thousands of people who come to Maine to see a moose and don't happen to conne ct."

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When we first began these visitations, the Great Northern man in charge of company affairs at Pittston Farm (a woodland operations depot) was a dear soul named Felix Fernald. Felix always boasted that he was the homeliest person ever employed by Great Northern. This may have been so. His long face and lantern jaw had a landslide perspective and would grip anyone's attention until Felix's amiable personality overrode his looks. I mention Felix to you at this time, Boss, because when his beautiful wife, Ve lma, first met him, she went home to tell her parents that her boyfriend "looks just like a moose!" This should give you some idea.

My love to you,

(Signed) John (Thoreau) Gould

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