Near Roadkill

Near Roadkill

This post is contributed by Barnaby Porter from his archives. Read the previous post here.

My wife, Susan, ran into a moose the other day, in the driveway. She was late for work and must have had a lot of stuff on her mind, not to mention she was probably pushing the 10-mph speed limit I suggested the last time she nearly ran over the cat. She was going too fast for the conditions – a frosted-up windshield with a few fingernail scratches for visibility doesn’t quite do the trick, not when hurtling through piney woods harboring huge creatures with dark fur, dewlaps and hooves, lumbering around on legs the size of tree trunks. It’s no small coincidence, I think, that her car was long ago dubbed the “White Bullet.”

She came tearing back into the house only moments after I had heard her drive off. I was just putting on my coat. “There’s a moose in our driveway!” she blurted, and blurted on, “By the woodpile! Right there!” as she pointed out through the open front door with the most heightened air of urgency I’ve witnessed in some time.

It’s funny how dogs pick up on the excitement in these situations, running around, barking and dancing and getting tangled between your legs. That’s what happened. Max, our shaggy woodchuck-mop mix, and Winnie, my partly grown and inexperienced yellow Lab, sort of carried me out on their backs as I stumbled through the door on top of them. They of course had no idea what the hell it was all about, and I can only imagine their states of mind if they had – hysteria fanned by confusion, heightened alarm and instincts never before unholstered.

“I was just going up the driveway, and there he was, BAM, right in front of me!” Susan shrilled. “He came out of nowhere!”

“Nowhere?” I said. “Where is he now? Did you really hit him, or did you go through his legs under his belly?” I was checking the car for damage, looking for scraps of fur, maybe clinging to her roof rack.

“I didn’t actually hit him, but, brother, it was damned close! He was just there! I stopped and backed up to get you, and he went the other way up over the hill.”

It’s something how a little wildlife in the yard can liven things up. I wanted to see this moose for myself and trotted up the drive after him, dogs nipping at my heels, to the top of the road. I rounded the last bend by the sand bin, and there it was, not a he (though big enough to give that impression) but a good-sized cow moose, very dark with white blazes streaked across her rump, head raised to keep an eye behind her as she put distance between us.

It was only a short moment of mutual assessment. I never heard a sound, just my own breathing and that of Winnie is he snuffed the road vigorously, practically inhaling every pebble that wasn’t frozen to the ground. Max still had no idea what was going on; he just stood there in the middle of the hill, looking for all the world like a bewildered old man in a shaggy coat, who just got whuffed by a passing bicycle and didn’t know which way to look.

The White Bullet caught up to us, still late for work, its windshield showing evidence of a few extra frenzied fingernail scratches on its frosted surface – a precaution against running into more mooses in the piney woods, no doubt. “Did you see him?” its driver asked.
“Her,” I said. “He’s a she.”

“Aaaaaw,” said Susan. “Poor thing,” the near-roadkill victim’s true gender eliciting a new tenderness that vaporized all the visions of 1400 lbs. of moose roasts and tenderloins that had almost landed in her lap a few minutes ago. “I probably scared her to death.”

“Pretty close,” I said.

“Well, I’ve got to get going, Hon.” And with that, the White Bullet bore off in the same direction the moose had gone and who was most likely now standing still in the frosty shadows in the woods, her hoofs pressed into the cold moss, watching from the side of the gravel road to let the traffic pass.

Barnaby PorterArtist and author Barnaby Porter has had a varied career in marine research, aquaculture, and woodworking, among others. Most recently he partnered with his wife Susan as co-owners of the Maine Coast Book Shop & Cafe in downtown Damariscotta. On October 7, 2021, Barnaby completed his tenure on Coastal Rivers’ Board of Trustees after six years of service.