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Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Triumph of Chris Moose

     There once was a very ordinary moose.  In the woods he blended into the trees.  In the streams he looked like a brown log.  The other moose, even his brothers and sisters, sometimes forgot he was there.  Even his mother and father ignored him.

            One day this moose was eating bits of grass.  They were delicious, so fresh and so juicy.  But when he looked up, the other moose were gone.  He searched everywhere, in the meadow, in the forest, by the rock cave, but there wasn't another moose to be seen.

            "They've left and forgotten I was here," he thought.  Big tears fell from his eyes, and flowed through the fur on his cheek.

            "Mother!  Father!"

            The rest of that day and the days that followed the ordinary moose hardly ate a blade of grass or a leaf.  He moped around, trumpeting for help, but no moose answered.  Not caring where he was he stepped into a hole, and heard his leg crack.  He thrashed around, trying to escape the hole, but knew his leg had been broken.  He didn't care. 

            "If I die, nobody will know the difference," he thought.

            Then two creatures appeared.  They were pink.  One pointed with his paw.  A few minutes later, one aimed a tube at the moose.  He felt a sting in his shoulder, and tried to run, but he couldn't escape the hole.

            "Everybody hates me," he thought.  "Nobody cares if I live or die."

            The ordinary moose became drowsy.  His hooves seem to weigh a ton each.  No matter how afraid he was, he could not move any more.

            "It's better this way," the moose thought.  "I'm better off dead.  Not even my mother and father loves me."

            When the moose woke up, he was in a cage.  The cage was moving, faster than he imagined any animal could move.  The leaves on the trees passed overhead so fast they were blurs.  He became dizzy, and trumpeted for help.  But, of course, no moose came to free him.

            The next few days were terrible.  He was forced into a new cage, and shot again with the stinger.  When he woke up, the ordinary moose was back in the cage, but with a strange tube on his broken leg that kept it straight.  The pain was pretty bad, and for days he tried to scrape or shake off the tube.  He was fed though, delicious leaves.

            Another sting, and this time he woke up in a small meadow.  The tube was still on his leg, but it felt O.K.  He tried to run away but at the front was a big ditch and walls blocked the other sides.  He decided he couldn't jump that far or that high.  Besides, there were those delicious leaves to eat piled in the middle of the snow.  Though he missed his family, and other moose, he decided to stay for awhile.

            What puzzled the moose the most were gold and red vines around the fence, and a big creature's face topped in red with white trim.  Children of the creatures came up to the fence and pointed.  They seemed very happy to see him.  No one had ever been happy to see him.


            When the ordinary moose was first brought into the Maine Zoological Park, the staff treated him as routine.  A smaller than normal, unexceptional animal, who likely would have died in the wild, but with the cast for his broken leg would be released into the woods again in a couple of months good as new.          

            But . . . this was just before the Christmas season.

            "What kind of Christmas display can we put up this year?" asked the veterinarian setting the leg.  "Let's do something different."

            "Yeah, last year's tinsel is getting pretty droopy.  Besides, we need something that will make the newspapers," her assistant said.

            "Maybe we could do something with this moose," the vet wondered.  She thought a second.  "He's helpless and in need.  He's a little runt.  People like that."

            "I don't know.  He's pretty ordinary, and he's no reindeer," said the assistant.  "We could decorate his area with Christmas tinsel though.  We'll call him the Christmas moose."

            "Wait.  I've got it," said the vet.  "Let's call him Chris Moose."

            And that's what the big banner above his area said, "CHRIS MOOSE."  The newspapers loved it, and printed the story of the little orphan moose with the broken leg.  TV ran all sorts of pictures of him.  And the kids came out by the dozens.  Chris Moose became the most popular animal in the Park.

            The ordinary moose didn't know any of this, of course.  He didn't read newspapers or watch TV.  Though he missed the woods, and the other moose, even those who didn't treat him very well, he enjoyed all the attention, especially from the baby creatures.  The food was great, and he didn't have to hunt in the snow for it.

            The zoo printed Chris Moose t-shirts, and had little furry dolls made with Chris Moose in a Santa hat.

            Then Christmas was over.  One day, the ordinary moose suddenly noticed that the vines and the big sign with the jolly face was gone.  Kids still came and pointed, but not nearly as many as before.

            "By next Christmas this moose will be big and grown up.  We can find another small moose, and it can be the new Chris Moose," said the vet.

            When summer came, the ordinary moose's leg was completely healed and he felt great.  He loved his new life in the small meadow.  He was much bigger, tall and strong, with growing antlers.  One June day, however, the creatures forced him into a cage.  The tree leaves passed so fast he could hardly see them, again. 

            The creatures released the moose from his cage into the same meadow by the Maine woods where he had been found, six months before.  He stood and watched them drive off in the truck. 

            Though he felt sad to lose all the attention, this time he didn't panic, because he had confidence.  The sun brought so many delicious leaves on the trees, and he felt strong.  For days he missed the pink creatures, especially the little ones who called him Chris Moose, though. Another group of creatures had abandoned him.

            When at last another moose came into the same meadow where he was eating, he trumpeted the challenge, and the moose trumpeted back, then left him alone.  He had won, because he was bigger, and knew he could survive on his own, like a grown up.

            And that fall, when the leaves had changed to red and yellow, another moose entered a meadow where the ordinary moose stood.  This moose's trumpeting sounded familiar, so eagerly he trumpeted back, not a threat but a hello.  It was his father.  With him, edging from the woods warily, were his mother and one brother.   They could hardly believe their eyes.  The ordinary moose was even larger than his dad, with more points on his antlers. 

            Now he held his head high.  Did he ever have a story to tell his family.

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