John White: Conversation with a moose
I’m new around here.
OK, I’ve been here long enough to know better.
Last Monday I decided it was a great idea to drive from Castlegar to Nakusp in the late afternoon to visit our sister paper there, the Arrow Lakes News, and reporter Jillian Trainor. The visit also coincided with a council meeting in Nakusp that night. My plan from my first day was to eventually go to each city and town in my coverage zone and meet those in charge of running things.
The Nakusp council meeting was quite interesting. It was very well run, and delegations were received warmly. Councillors and city staff made informative presentations and updates to the mayor, and it was clear that the CAO was on the ball. Hearing how they set reserves for certain capital and infrastructure projects in anticipation of need was impressive.
I felt very welcome and based on the mayor’s quip about her disappointment that I did not bring my guitar to the meeting, it was clear that she’s been reading my columns.
Jillian and I also had an excellent chat and I toured the Arrow Lakes News office. She’s a solid, eager reporter who takes her job seriously and delivers each week.
That was all brilliant. But this is really about the drive back to Castlegar after the meeting, and my ignorance/arrogance almost biting me in the tuckus.
The drive out was amazing. It was my first go on that route, and the scenery was spectacular. Just when I thought it couldn’t get more dramatic, I’d round a bend and BAM … visual perfection. I encountered a pair of deer after one turn. It was like they were placed there solely for my enjoyment. They frolicked at the side of the highway, nodding in my direction. I was listening to Loreena McKennitt on the stereo and the music grew to a crescendo as the deer darted away. It almost brought a tear to my eye. It was lollipops and unicorns the whole drive.
Fast forward to the return drive …
It was around 8:30 p.m. when I set out from Nakusp. It was dark. So very dark. Well, dark except for the thick flakes of snow blanketing the ground and my car, and my face, and my hair.
“Huh, I guess I could have checked the forecast ahead of time.”
The freshness of the mountain air was bolstered by the damp snow shifting in the light breeze.
“That would be beautiful if not for my need to drive in it,” I mused to myself. Myself was not amused with this observation.
Off I went. I quickly noticed that the highway was not actually discernible from the shoulder and the ditch. The snow had covered the lines and the edges. I was just working to stay within the snowbanks. I’d occasionally hit the centre rumble strip and be jarred back to my side of the road.
I rolled over a bumpy section and my top-of-the-line winter tires slid just enough to cause me pause.
“Huh, that’s not optimal.”
It was then that it happened.
After yet another twisty turn in heavy snow, I recognized the dark outline of a moose. I hammered the brake pedal and the anti-locks kicked in.
“Clack-clack, clack, clack … shudder.”
I was 10 feet from this magnificent beast. It didn’t budge. We locked eyes. It was for, maybe, two seconds, but much information was exchanged in that time.
Moose: “Oh, hey. Sup?”
Me: “My blood pressure, for one.”
Moose: “Why do you look so tense?”
Me: “I’m trying not to have a heart attack and soil my Calvins, you dingbat!”
Moose: “Hey, settle down Chauncey, we’re all buds here.”
Me: “Chauncey? Really?”
Moose: “You look like a Chauncey.”
Me: “Anyway, why are you standing in the middle of the highway?”
Moose: “What’s a highway?”
Me: “Arrggh. I’m just trying to get home.”
Moose: “Hey, same as me. It was a lot easier before these stupid metal boxes came speeding through here all of the time.”
Me: “Fair enough. Look, we can both go home if you just shimmy over a little bit.”
Moose: “Ah, OK, sure, one sec.”
The moose slowly starts walking to the side of the road, but slips.
Moose: “Whoa, jeepers, it’s really slick on this hard stuff. You should be careful in your metal death box.”
Me: “Ya, I’m well aware, thanks.”
Moose: “Toodles, Chauncey.”
Me: “Be safe, you clumsy goober.”
Moose: “It’s Karen.”
Me: “Of course it is.”
After another hour of high-intensity motoring, I arrived home and finally exhaled. I peeled my right hand from the wheel, which was wrapped like steel belts around the leather.
Let this be your reminder to be smarter than me, and plan more effectively. Not all moose are as reasonable as Karen.