Saturday, August 1, 2015

My 3 am visitor

I have lived in Alaska my whole life (except a few small stints outside visiting other states). I grew up with wildlife in my backyard, or the front or sides, even the porch. Moose are a common occurrence in Alaska, as well as in my writing. You just get used to them, learn to live around them and hope you never get up close and personal.

I’ve been up close and personal a few times.

When I was a kid, still in school, it was dark when I waited for the bus. No matter how early the hour was or how late. In the winter, it’s dark longer here. In grade school, the bus stop was a few houses down at the ‘pump house’. Everything in my neighborhood, the houses, the ‘pump house’, the street in general is surrounded by trees.

There were several occasions when I’d walk to the bus stop, only to find I’d walked right up on a moose, hidden in the dark, cleverly camouflaged with its dark brown colors to blend in with the trees and the night sky.

Let me tell you, you will probably never move as quickly as you do when your fight of flight instinct kicks in because you are faced with a half-ton kicking, stomping, goring death machine. I’m small, but I’ve scaled ten-foot chain link fences in seconds flat to escape a charging moose. I have no idea how I did it, but that’s adrenaline for you.

The yard I have now is much bigger than the one I grew in, it’s filled with trees, forest even. Lots of new growth trees popping where they were cleared to make way for the house. Very attractive to these behemoths.  

Last night, I had one of these late night visitors in my yard, just outside my bedroom window, enjoying some of those new growth trees that have popped up since last year.

Like I said, I grew up in Alaska, and prior to moving out my home in Wasilla, I’d never truly heard the sound of a moose eating. The first time I heard it, I’d just gotten home. It was late, dark. I opened the door to my truck and was confronted with what sounded like bones snapping and flesh being stripped from those very same bones. It was horrific.

As a writer, my imagination can do terrible things and it was working overtime, imaging that maybe a bear had found its way into my yard with a kill and was slowly, methodically eating it right there in the trees, in the dip of the hill below me.

I tried turning my truck back on and angling it into the trees to see what I was dealing with, even went out onto the street, but to no avail. Needless to say, I didn’t exit the vehicle on that side, but parked as close to my porch steps as possible and then crawled over the seat to the passenger side that was facing the house and hurried inside.

Later, when I heard this same sound coming from another part of the yard, this time I was able to get a good angle with my headlights and identify the culprit as not a bear, but a moose, stripping not flesh from bone, but leaves and bark from tree limbs and not bones snapping, but twigs being bitten off.

So there I am, lying in bed at 3 am, the horrific sounds of something very amiss outside carrying into my room through the opened window, my dog awake, barking, warning me that there’s an intruder on our property. Even knowing the sound, having heard it before, in my fight or flight, adrenaline burning away the fog of sleep brain, I get up to find out who or what is outside my window, armed, just in case. I flip on the back flood light (sorry neighbors), open the door and peek out.

There in the small copse of trees, head turned back to look at me in a lazy, I’m the biggest thing around so I’m not really worried about whatever is there sort of way, is an adolescent moose. He almost gives me a shrug and then goes back to munching away.

I turned on the fan to drown out the sounds that, even though I know the source, still sound like the worst kind of death to me, and I went back to bed.

Here is the evidence of his disturbing visit:
Notice the stripped branches all along the right side.

Snapped the tops right off this poor little tree.

More branches stripped clean of their leaves and some of their bark. Imagine what that must sound like at 3am.


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Children of the Gods Children of the Gods (Chosen, #1)
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