Birthday Moon

It’s here, summer solstice, new moon. Beware! Things are haywire. What a loony lead-up to our longest day.

It all started Friday on my daily rounds with the dogs when — Bingo! — back of the hayfield, orchard grass standing tall, bobolinks perched on hardy weed shafts, fluttering, hovering, I saw an uncommon sight, actually not as unusual as it once was. A moose. Not big, but a moose nonetheless, standing tall and alert, looking straight at me. I stopped and backed across the road into the landowner’s driveway, where I parked, got out and walked through the breezeway to the glass kitchen door. Sure enough, both there, man and wife, him seated, her standing at the sink.

“Hey, there’s a moose on the loose in the hayfield!”

“Really?”

“Yeah, wanna see?”

He stood and they hurried outside, him yelling once outside to neighbor Mike, who wasn’t out. They reached the driveway and the lanky quadruped was trotting south. It broke into a scalped hayfield and kept trotting toward a narrow tree-line overlooking a thin riverside swale bordering cropland. I bid the couple adieu and headed back where I started. Hey, maybe it was going to descend into Sunken Meadow, great habitat, wet and getting wetter daily, aided by busy beavers. Beavers and cougars. Seems there’s been a lot of talk about them recently in this space. Not today. Risky. Don’t want some Christian conservative, the worst kind, to accuse me of cheap thrills and hidden messages. I park my truck and take a walk, no moose, no sign of it up top, either. Gone.

A couple of days later I walked into work to start a new week and, not five minutes into my shift, at my desk, a colleague I call Big Boiczek says, “Hey, I saw a moose Friday night on the way home from work, about 10:30, headed for GCC.”

“Interesting. I saw it, too, four hours earlier, a young one, just north of where you saw it.”

A news scribe overheard us, said a moose had been spotted all around Greenfield over the weekend. It was in the Greenfield police report, had somehow crossed 91 and ended up downtown Friday night, by the jail, then in many neighborhoods. Cops gave chase, came up empty. No big deal. Once akin to UFO sightings here, moose are now resident, have lived in territory south of Greenfield where I’ve hunted for many years, sign everywhere, hilltown residents along the periphery routinely spotting antlered bulls, cows with young. Something tells me we’re headed there with cougars, populations quickly expanding into the Midwest and eastward. I believe it’ll happen in my lifetime, unless I meet a sudden, untimely death, the best kind.

Do you remember when moose started showing up in these parts and the experts blamed it on a disorienting parasitic brain-worm? Well, it wasn’t any brain worm, just another historic species reappearing with the forests, like bears and wolves and bobcats and coyotes, all of them coming back with reforestation. I wonder what’s holding back the rattlesnake renaissance. Those venomous serpents were common here from the contact period well into the 19th century and seem to show up everywhere in early New England narrative. Native tribesmen used to adorn themselves with necklaces strung with rattlesnake fangs. That was during the Little Ice Age, when the Northeastern climate was colder than now. I suspect rattlesnakes will soon be back, too, not a pleasant thought for a man who does a lot of off-road, bare-legged hiking with little foot protection.

Back to the moose, though, it wasn’t the only weird weekend occurrence I bumped into. No sir. It got even better Saturday night on the Route 2 overpass in north Greenfield, where, again according to the Greenfield police report, two deer catapulted over the railing and onto Interstate 91. Scribes have had no luck hacking through annoying government-mandated information screens to confirm the tale and get further details, never easy since Gov. Mitt Romney instituted rules restricting media access to state employees. It’s frustrating for reporters chasing an interesting story on deadline or anytime. I learned long ago to ignore the irritating information roadblock. In this case, it was on the police blotter so it must have happened. Given that, and assuming the deer weren’t drunken teenage daredevils, the question is why would they leap off a 25-foot highway overpass. Coyotes, perhaps? Mountain lion? Panic in a dangerous new place, traffic buzzing by? I guess we’ll never know. Worth reporting, though; just the type of story you’ll find in newspapers hamstrung by politicians like Mr. Romney, who may yet be our next president. It wouldn’t surprise me. America deserves a leader who won’t answer questions or allow anyone associated with his government to do so, unless, of course, they have a Master’s in manipulation and deception. But enough of that, back to the animal kingdom, this time critters right around my homestead.

With all the other stuff occurring, why should I be spared at home, where over the weekend we encountered our first kitchen mouse since our April 1997 purchase. Imagine that! More than 15 years in a 200-year-old rural home and never an indoor mouse. That changed late Saturday night when my wife went to the sink and screamed bloody murder, whatever good that does. A trap works much better. But that little issue was insignificant compared to the skunk letting loose around my home for a few days, filling a few rooms with eye-watering stench. What was happening, I can’t say. But my wife called Tuesday night at work and said she had seen it out by the woodshed, fat and healthy, obviously not ill. By Wednesday afternoon, all that was left was faint scent in hot, steamy air out back. Go figure. A litter coming of age? Maybe. Who knows?

Come to think of it, the weekend presolstice weirdness was not limited to the animal kingdom. How about my Tri-Tronics electric dog collars? They’re going goofy, too. I own that are operated by one remote-control. One collar works fine, another won’t turn on, the third won’t turn off. When I put them in the charging cradle, everything seems fine. The charging light glows red and turns to green in a couple of hours when it’s supposedly fully charged. Problem is, when I remove them, they blink green and red a few times, then one keeps blinking reen, telling me it’s on, and the other will not go on even when I try pushing the button with a Phillips screwdriver. The technician I spoke to Monday told me what to do to for a home remedy. I tried. No luck. Under warranty, I mailed the two malfunctioning transmitters to Tri-Tronics’ South Research Loop in Tucson, Ariz., where they’ll be repaired or replaced and returned.

Whew! What a strange six days leading up to the summer solstice, huh? Me a Moon Child, no less. Maybe I should have just been patient and waited for the weirdness to fade. Either that or perhaps I should have thrown both of those transmitters off the Route 2 overpass and taken a flying leap along with them.

Nah. Just kidding. I wouldn’t miss this next full moon for anything. A birthday moon. Promising. It should be intense.

Nice

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