de Vos: The first moose
The Friday Report
There’s a moose terrorizing our neighborhood. Well, times being what they are, perhaps terrorizing is too sensitive a term. Rather I should say there is a moose with a thorny disposition lurking around our suburb. Moose are docile and slow-moving until they attain that clinical condition known as, “upset”. Unfortunately, no one knows what triggers the condition, perhaps it’s the color of your running shoes in full retreat.
Say you’re out hiking with your dog. Suddenly your mutt barks up the wrong tree, startling a three-quarter ton moose outfitted with heavy-duty bumpers and four-wheel drive. The behemoth charges the dog that naturally leaps back into the comfort and safety of his loving master’s arms – a spry loving master, hopefully.
Even without the dog, it’s unnerving to come across a moose while trespassing in Mother Nature’s living room. Moose are a lot like Mount Rushmore, they don’t look that big until you get close. Unlike Rushmore, Teddy Roosevelt is not going to climb down and pummel you senseless with anvil-sized feet.
Lurking is the right word for this moose. He stands quietly in the shadows until you are right on top of him. Moose, despite their size, can be difficult to see, especially when you are daydreaming and rocking out to your ear buds. Then your dog finds one.
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Prior to 1978 you didn’t have to look at all. That was the year that private donations allowed the Colorado Game and Fish to introduce four bulls and eight cows (a male-to-female ratio previously unknown on the Western Slope) southeast of Walden. Today Colorado herds number about twelve hundred, abundant like prairie dogs only easier to spot, mostly.
These relocated beasts were not technically the first moose in Grand County because a year earlier in 1977, there was a fast-food restaurant named The Orange Moose. It was hastily thrown up next to Lightning Liquors and mercifully demolished some years ago.
The Florida gentlemen who started the Orange Moose were intent upon dominating the entire East Grand County soft-serve ice-cream market, going head-to-head with the Fraser Dairy King in this Icebox of the Nation.
Instead of Golden Arches, the Orange Moose had an eight-foot tall orange totem pole, made out of recycled plastic and buried in cement in front of the building. Consensus at the time agreed it was a bit obscene.
That, as much as anything, may be why it was only erect for two days. The second night a daring criminal fired up a chainsaw and stole it away into the night. “Probably took ‘em less than sixty seconds,” opined Grand County Sheriff, Huck Henderson, staring down at the only clue, a spray of orange sawdust.
Huck Henderson was sheriff of Grand County for more than twenty years before moving on to chief investigator for the casinos in Central City. Huck was the quintessential county sheriff, think Jackie Gleason in Smokey and the Bandit. After his casino job, he vacationed for a while in prison for selling gaming tokens on the sly.
The daring theft of the totem pole was never solved, which surprised no one. While everyone knew who did it, nobody dreamed of telling Huck. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to reveal their identity, despite being such a heinous crime but that raises a moral dilemma, just because you can, does that mean you should?
So if you hear someone proclaim that moose were introduced into Grand County in 1978, don a smug expression and tell them, “Well, actually, there was a moose spotted in Fraser a year earlier than that.”
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