Once upon a time, I was not only a newspaper reporter, but a columnist. This cautionary tale for campers is one of my favorite columns from those days. I have not, despite desperately wanting to, made any changes.
From the September 27, 1989, edition of the Port Dover Maple Leaf:
Beware the Narrow Moose
Now that camping season is ending I suppose I can tell my story without causing undue panic and fear among the general populace.
It all started a few summers ago , on Labour Day. I had gone camping on Moszbong Lake, up north of Sudbury.
I was to meet up with a pair of friends who were returning from two weeks of camping and canoeing along the north shore of Lake Superior. The three of us were going to go on a short thirty mile canoe trip over the course of a week.
After a quick breakfast of trail mix and beef jerky, we launched our canoes for a spot on the long lake called Moose Narrows, on the map.
Well, when we got to Moose Narrows, as it was called on the map, we found just what we were looking for; an island for a nice breezy point for a campsite.
We lit a small fire and cooked some bacon and eggs for lunch. Then we decided to go out and explore the rest of the island.
When we came back a few hours later. we noticed the area around the fire smelled like urine and all the canned goods were gone. All around the campsite were large footprints that looked as if they had been made by a man in swimfins, except that the man would have to had four legs and weighed 900 pounds.
We relit the fire and sat around drinking hot tea with sugar and rye whisky, smoking a few hoarded cigarettes and being more or less mystifyed. (sic)
The next day , we discovered a further clue inthe mystery of Moose Narrows. While we were out hiking down a deer trail we came across an an abandoned logging road. At the end of the road was a camping trailer. It was turned on one side and the rust testified to the the number of years it had been sitting there. The side of the trailer that was pointing skyward was half caved in, as though it had been struck by a very large, heavy, fast-moving object of some kind. There was also the distinctive odor of urine, the same as back at our campfire.
Then Mike noticed the licence plate on the rusted out trailer. The top half had rusted away, but we could tell it had been issued in 1986. The trailer was only a year old. Even a bashed-in wreck like this could not have rusted out like this. The trailer looked like it had been there twenty years. "Curisourser and curisourser" as Alice used to say.
As we paddled back across the lake to our campsite, we heard the disgusting roar of an outboard rip through the silence of the deep north woods. We scanned the horizon and saw a boat approaching so we put down our paddles and waited.
As the boat came closer we saw the driver and passengers. There was a far, bald man in a camouflage hunting jacket, a New York Yankees baseball cap and loud plaid Bermuda shorts. He was driving with one hand and drinking beer from a brown glass bottle that he held in his other hand. In the front of the boat was a teenage boy listening to heavy metal on a gigantic ghetto blaster. He was throwing the empty bottles overboard and then trying to sink them by shooting at them with a pellet rifle. As they passed, the boy held up a string of trout, all well under the legal size.
We watched as they sped by, then Graham spotted it.
Following just behind the wake of the big fiberglass speedboat was about a dozen humming birds swarming around a pair of brown sticks that were moving along in the water behind the boat. We just assumed that the boat was dragging something, maybe a log, behind it. Then the sticks changed course and headed on a course perpendicular to the course of the boat.
We pursued frantically in our canoes as the sticks and humming birds went around one side of an island and the motor boat went around the other side. We followed as best we could.
When we reached the end of the lake a few hours later the scene of carnage that greeted us was incredible. On the beach was what was left of the fiberglass boat.
It had been smashed, much as the trailer we found earlier in the day, all around it were the footprints we had found at our camp, flipper prints with the front pair of feet being only about a foot and a half apart, same for the rear prints except that from the tracks the two sets of legs were nearly ten feet apart. Near the boat was a partially collapsed tent trailer.
Then I heard it, the bloodcurdling honking of a bull moose. We followed our ears and crept quietly up the trail.
About thirty feet away was big green Cadillac Coup de Ville. On top of the Caddy stood a fearsome beast.
It was almost a long as the car and had one huge webbed hoof planted on each corner of the car. Long legs as thick as tree trunks led up to a sort of odd parody of a moose's body. It was as though, somehow, the moose had been flattened like a coin left on a railroad track. He was six or seven feet from breast to shoulder, but a mere foot and half wide. The head was also narrow, with a pair of long wattles on either side of his muzzle that gave the impression of a sinister moustache. The antlers were the same as those of a normal moose except that they pointed straight ahead instead of out to the sides. There seemed to be small breathing holes in the tops of the highest points. Hummingbirds buzzed around the antlers, picking out bits of bloodstained camouflage fabric.
The creature opened its horrible jaws and let out a furious roar that sounded like a foghorn in pain. Then it jumped high into the air and came down, crushing the Caddy. The beast stomped on the car a few more times while we stood rooted to the ground in fear. Then it came down off the vehicle, lifted a leg against the car and let loose a stream of fluid that ate its way through the metal of the car much like a strong acid.
We quietly backed down the trail to our canoes and shoved off into the lake. From behind the screen of some nearby bullrushes we watched as the dreadful Narrow Moose ate the entire boat and then piddled on the leftovers, causing them to dissolve. When we left, the Narrow Moose was eating the beer bottles and other assorted trash.
And that was how we discovered the legend of the caretaker of the wilds, the fearsome Narrow Moose.
Crossposted from the Woodshed.