Sunday, September 28, 2008

Wife Rule #75: If You Ever Go Camping, and There's an Aggressive Bull Moose Prowling Around, Don't Tell the Kids

I just wasn't sure what other lesson I could glean from this experience.

When I was a young boy, I brought home a small stuffed moose as a souvenir from a family trip to Yellowstone National Park. "Moosie" became one of my best friends and my favorite sleeping companion at night. His soft, smooth fur and felt antlers were comforting to hold and feel.

Moosie was the envy of my younger sisters, who were always expressing their true devotion for, and desire to have and to hold this little gem of brown, plush, bead-filled goodness. But since he belonged to me, I kept a rather tight reign on him. And we had such good times together! Moosie and I would cuddle together in the bottom bunk of the bed I shared with my older brother. We lived out the classic Disney-like dream of a little boy and the furry animal who loved him.

Then came the night of my brother's illness, when all that changed. Moosie had become dislodged from my protective arms in my sleep, and was now wedged between my mattress and the wall. My brother, feeling very sick to his stomach and yet not wanting to disturb his repose in the top bunk, shrewdly chose an alternative to getting out of bed and puking in the toilet: he merely rolled over and puked down the wall. The mess drizzled out of his sight into my environment below, completely coating poor Moosie on its way to the floor.

Mom and Dad had little sympathy for Big Brother that night; as I recall, they made him clean it up himself, middle of the night, sick, and all.

But poor Moosie would never be the same. After several trips through the wash, he looked matted and was showing signs of premature threadbareness. Alas, I admit that in my immature youthful mind, much of Moosie's appeal was, in fact, skin-deep. Moosie went on the fast track to become a hand-me-down, and my sisters were somewhat pleased to suddenly have access to this coveted toy. But given his condition, they rather quickly lost interest.

So it was with mixed emotion that I accepted Moosie back into my family earlier this year, after my mom found him in a dusty old box. With proper gravity and ceremony, I bequeathed him upon Scott, age five, figuring that such a pure, innocent child had as much chance as anyone of giving Moosie the love he surely deserved at such an advanced stage in his pathetic, plush-toy life.

And Scott did, indeed, love him.

But then came the camping trip. My wife, in a nearly unprecedented stroke of most-welcome madness, was the one who brought the idea up. A simple over-nighter, up the canyon by our house. Food + family + pit toilets = guaranteed fun. A great idea. A brilliant idea. But an idea with a catch.

After we got to our camp site and set up the tent trailer, a kindly old gentleman (translation: someone who has not been primarily responsible for the care of small children for too long a time to be very wise about them) from the camp site across the road ambled over and covertly told my wife and me that an aggressive bull moose was prowling around in the shadows. This moose was not fifty feet from where we now stood, and he told us that since he had heard our kids, he thought we had better let them know to be careful, because this moose apparently had insatiable blood lust and no-doubt glowing red eyes, and had in fact attacked campground visitors twice this season.

And being parents of young children (translation: someone who has not been primarily responsible for the care of small children long enough to be very wise about them), my wife and I, feeling for the safety of our little brood, followed the guy's advice and told our kids about the Child-Eating Vampire Moose from You-Know-Where. Or at least that's what they heard, because it took approximately five seconds after spilling the beans for Rachel and Scott and Andrew's eyes to grow as wide as the full moon and for them to shrink back fearfully and start a routine of nervously glancing from side to side and over their shoulders and whimpering about the ever-deepening darkness. Every few seconds, for good measure, they would shudder.

Dawn, of course, being the oldest, wisest, and most fearless of our children, deftly seized the opportunity to torment her subordinate siblings relentlessly.

"WHAT WAS THAT?" Dawn would suddenly cry, "A MOOOOOOOOSE!"

And the other three kids would fret and whimper and glance around, and Mom and Dad would make idle threats about what would happen if Dawn didn't stop it right now, because what could we really do to at this point? Make Dawn walk home? Not a chance, with a Vampire Moose on the loose.

So we spent the hours as dusk fell into blackness trying to reassure and comfort our cowering, shuddering children about The Moose. Poor Scott seemed most affected by it all. A log would crackle in the fire, and he would jump in his seat and ask with quivering lips, "Was that The M-M-Moose?"

So we tried singing campfire songs. Our favorite ones can be sung in a round, so we started with "I love the mountains, I love the rolling hills..."

"But The Moose lives in the mountains," Scott complained. So we switched to "Hey, Ho, Anybody Home," and enjoyed singing a good round and then moved on to "Have You Seen the Ghost of John," since Halloween is just around the corner.

Poor Scott, nearly in tears after a few rounds of this song, cried, "I don't like all this singing about the Ghost of John. It reminds me of The Moose!"

I couldn't quite make the connection, but we stopped that song, anyway. Appetites for S'mores were uncharacteristically small that night, and we retired to the trailer for bed, where thankfully, we didn't hear any stray noises and didn't have any bad dreams about The Moose.

Morning dawned crisp and clear with outrageously pinkish-orangish light showering the peak of Mount Timpooneke, the backdrop of all the fun, above groves of golden autumn aspen trees. I got the kids up and took them on a little walk to take some pictures of the spectacle.

They huddled together on the way, and at first I guessed it was because of the chilly morning air, but of course found out quickly that it was because of The Moose.

We paused for pictures at a verdant meadow that extended to the base of the mountain, complete with a pleasant, trickling stream. My kids asked if The Moose lived here. I was intentionally vague in my mumbling "maybe" reply, since in fact I thought it was extremely probable that The Moose made this pleasant spot home base, between bouts of terrorizing and eating innocent children.

Later that morning, the kids wanted to explore along some scanty animal trails in the brush by our campsite. They would scrupulously avoid any trail that led into a dark patch of pine trees, for fear of The Moose.

At one point, we came across a pile of poop. My kids asked me about it.

Hmmm. Clearly not deer.

I don't think there are elk here, at least not frequently.

What non-deer, non-elk animal would make a trail like this and leave poop like this?

The Moose.

So I reluctantly answered their question, and that pretty much set in motion the end of our last activity before packing up and going home.

Well, we survived our camp-out without so much as a sight or sound of The Moose, much less any actual loss of life or limb. What did my wife and I learn from this, aside from the obvious lesson of avoiding any kindly old gentleman that ambles our way?

Well, we learned the lesson in the title of this Wife Rule. And we learned a new punishment for bad behavior: we'll make the kids eat Moose Tracks ice cream.

And speaking of tracks, I think I learned that my childhood Moosie is probably on the fast track--again--to be disowned, this time by Scott. Poor Moosie just can't seem to get a break.

1 comment:

Alisa said...

I loved this story (or both stories). Hilarious!