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Tracking Down the Truth About the Trotting Moose

From no less a place, mind you, than the erudite corridors of the University of Prince Edward Island, the college of veterinary expertise, came a query to this department asking if a moose, when running, trots or paces. Thinking our editors, if not our readers, would be amused by this, I sent the whole thing along to our Home Forum, and the subject had exposure without really resolving much. The consensus amounted to a decent yes, a decent no, and a cautious both. A dozen or so of our carefully selected experts think a moose can shift from trot to pace, and back again, as suits the terrain, and that it requires no great intelligence on the part of a passing moose to shift or to shift back.

One gentleman, a longtime student of the moose as a forester and warden in the deep Maine wilderness, was adamant in his position. He said he didn't know. Another gentleman offered, and I quote from his taped telephone response, "Last Tuesday a bull moose stepped from the roadside growth directly ahead of our automobile, and we followed him about six miles. He paced."

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Equally accurate, another gentleman well versed in moose lore told me, "Pacing is like an acquired taste. No four-footed animal paces naturally. Racing horses are trained to pace by attaching a hobble, forcing the animal to move his feet as the hobble permits. Nobody, I think, has ever tried to hobble a moose."

I did not pursue the one scholarly answer that came to mind first, to tell the reader from Prince Edward Island to go look for himself. There are no moose on Prince Edward Island. Nor did I pursue my wonderment as to why anybody on PEI wants to know.

I now direct your attention to the town of Cushing, Maine, which lies along the salt water. The principal settlement in Cushing is Fales Corner, where for numerous generations the Fales family has kept, and still keeps, a grocery store and sundries supply center. It can be found easily as it is the only store there, and the chalkboard by the front entrance says "Crabmeat Today." There is also a back entrance if by decency, character, reference, esteem, and nativity you merit this honor.

A great many native Cushingites have never known that the store has a front entrance, and a few, never having seen the sign, don't know about the crabmeat. The crabmeat is worth a trip. Inside the front door you must walk through the merchandise to gain an audience, but by the rear entrance you step immediately in medias res and will find Richard Fales standing there with a pound package of crabmeat in each hand and the change for $5 bills in his shirt pocket. It is not customary to call him Dick. Say Richard, but never say Mr. Fales.

Richard is assisted in conducting the store by Mrs. Fales, by his son John Fales, and by Harold Jameson, a semi-retired fisherman from East Friendship whose presence is optional and his duties enigmatic. Harold is known to the citizenry as Cappy, to rhyme with Happy, or Snappy, or Wappy. Strangers sometimes mistake that Cappy owns the store, but he does not. He just looks as if he does.

It is with son John Fales that we are now concerned. John, besides being committed to the Fales Store, is loyal to many community interests and causes, and not much goes on in town that he doesn't aid and abet, approve and advise, and if it costs too much, deplore and denounce.

Many envy him his perfect record with the Military (or militia) Intelligence Brigade, which turns out on the Fourth of July to bring word that Cornwallis has surrendered and the IRS has been enacted in the name of Freedom and the two-party system. This is a patriotic exercise that begins down on Pleasant Point as the holiday dawns, and the news is transmitted to Fales Corner, where Fales Family Store is officially closed for the day to honor the Independence of the United States of America and Cushing Township.

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Members of the town's home-guard stand at intervals along the way and transmit the news by musket fire. With similar faithful attention, son John takes part in other civic matters, and he has now taken care of our moose query and we need not wonder again if a running moose trots or paces.

The moose, endemic and peripatetic in Maine, is a curiosity looked at in awe more often than studied. If a moose chances to be in your begonia bed, and you surprise him on your way to the cucumber patch, he (or she) will rise and run in such a fashion that you will follow him with your eyes, and never notice how he arranges his feet.

Did you ever notice that a man can look at his watch and then not be able to tell you what time it is? Try it next time you see somebody squint at his watch. Say, "Er, what time is it?" He'll look at his watch again before he tells you. Almost every time. So does the departing moose leave his viewers uninformed. But John Fales brought his pet moose down from the swamp, taught him to run up and down the paved road past the Fales store at Fales Corner, and just in front of the spacious parking lot John snapped a picture of him. This moose is trotting.

Please do not consider this evidence final. Prince Edward Island should know better than to appeal to Maine for accurate moose information. Too much of Maine lies in all directions. Soon we can expect a picture of a moose in hobbles.

Meantime, I believe this trotting moose may be had at the Fales Store for a summer greeting card, and you can pick up some crabmeat at the same time. The moose, on summer schedule, trots by every hour on the hour.

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