It is Tuesday night, 10:30 pm. I set my alarm clock for 4:00 am, Wednesday morning, September 11, 2013. In the morning I am off to a moose hunting trip—got to get me moose b’y.
Not a lot of hours between 10:30 pm and 4:00 am and sleep will not come easily. I am restless and anxious and as I toss to and fro I see moose everywhere—big ones, small ones, bull ones, cow ones and even a few calf here and there.
When I am not tossing to and fro I am wide awake because of my wife’s horrific coughing. At times she sounds like my 1967 Dodge Monaco when it was working on only three of six cylinders. I keep looking at the clock – 11:30….12:15…..2:30…..3:18…..3:59. I reach out to turn off the clock before the B-E-E-E-E-E-P! B-E-E-E-E-E-P! sound really drives me nuts.
I literally push myself out of bed feeling more tired than when I went to bed and I keep saying to myself, “Yes! Yes! This is going to be a great day.” I know I am kidding myself.
I go to the bathroom, banging my knee on the corner of the bed, tripping over my own clothing lying on the floor and striking my elbow on the doorframe.“OUCH!”
I try to squeeze toothpaste on my toothbrush without having to turn on the light and disturb my wife into another fit of coughing. This results in a half tube of toothpaste hitting the bathroom mirror, sink and floor with a small ‘dab’ on my toothbrush. Still with the light off, I pull the toothbrush out of my right nostril and make an effective use of the small amount of toothpaste still on my brush. At least, I think it was toothpaste.
Feeling a little refreshed I step back into the bedroom to dress, the light is still off. I have a real problem trying to find my jeans in the dark and, after trying to zip up the fly and buckle my belt, I discover that my jeans are on backwards. Imagine trying to pee in that predicament.
In removing my jeans I trip over myself and fall awkwardly across the bed. My wife wakes, near hysterical. In the darkness she flails her arms, reaching for her teeth and glasses. While trying to find a comfortable position to sit, she screams, “George, what was that?”
In my calm and controlled demeanor I say, “Aaawww sweetheart, your coughing just started again. Take a deep breath, put your teeth back in the glass. Put your glasses back on the night stand and pretend I am not even in the room.”
She grumbles something about, “That won’t be difficult to do, pretend that you are not in the bedroom.” I start laughing so hard tears were dripping from my cheeks. It is amazing how complicated simple things become when you are deprived of sleep and working in the dark. I finally got dressed and made my way to the deck.
When I step out on the deck I feel a little more energy and taking a deep breath of cool Tumbler Ridge fresh air I reach my arms toward the sky and stretch to the maximum. The stars are bright. The sky is clear. The first quarter of the moon is brilliant and the big dipper is running over with excitement for the day. I think I se a silvery glistening of frost on the ground but, upon checking discover it isn’t frost but a remnant of tears still in my eyes from watching my flailing wife find her composure.
I go into the kitchen and enjoy an early breakfast of Cheerios and orange juice. Orange juice with my Cheerios, not in my Cheerios. I find my nerve again and actually dare to go back into the bedroom to remind my wife that I was now leaving. “I’m leaving sweetheart. I love you.” Her response? “Whatever!” When my wife responds with “whatever” I know I’m not out of the woods yet.
I pick up Uncle Rex at 4:32 am and moose bantering was at the top of our list. The exaggeration of moose hunters is no different than that of fishermen. I know because I am both a hunter and a fly fisherman. We talk about where we are going to hunt the big one, how to identify the small one, who is going to bring down the first one and who will clean the successful one.
Because it is still dark, the bantering is soon reduced to an occasional comment until we fall completely silent. Silence is good because it gives me an opportunity to be deep in thought and do some reflection. I reflect upon previous successful hunts, good bacon and beans, laughter and fellowship beyond measure.
I soon realized that the sky in the east is beginning to brighten just a little. Trees are now looking like trees instead of shadows. The stars slowly diminish in brilliance and the sun starts casting red shadows through slow drifting clouds—it is a dream morning.
By the time I get my little Ford Ranger into the back country we are again in the bantering mode. Our expectation is heightened. Trees, windfalls, stumps and shadows all look like moose but a quick glance through the binoculars reveal the objects to be what they are.
We drive for hours and see absolutely nothing—silence as I slowly drive from road to road. Still nothing.
I finally get to some of my favorite clearings and I am driving down an old gas well road. More silence. A deafening silence except for the sound of gravel being ejected by the truck tires. We glance on both sides of the road and still nothing but that near perfect stillness. However, our sense of heightened expectation is in high gear.
I am relaxed and very calm. I am positive but a realist knowing that we may not see our evasive moose. My window is down and I am resting my left arm and elbow on the doorframe and enjoy the coolness of the morning breeze.
Then it happens! Silence no more! I hear a blood curdling roar that electrifies every nerve in my body to cry out in hysterical fear. Every fibre of my being goes into a defensive mode and I can vaguely hear Uncle Rex cry out as if his voice was muffled by a pillow. “WWHHAATT WWAASS TTHHAATT NNOOIISSEE?”
He just about filled his pants with yesterday’s supper. I looked in my side mirror and standing high on its back paws was the most magnificent silver tip grizzly I have ever seen in my life and believe you me I have see a few. This was not the Gentle Ben you see in everyday movies. She was protecting two cubs and without any encouragement from me she was down on all fours in a no nonsense form of attack to kill and destroy.
When I first see her, she is about 50 meters away from me. I accelerate to 30 kilometers an hour and before I had a chance to scream “Grizzly” she is on my tailgate. I hit the gas pedal hard and reach 40 kilometers within seconds, but she is still breathing down my tailpipe.
She continues to pursue us for another 50 meters until she finally realized that a 2011 Ford Ranger is just too fast—she must’ve thought she was chasing a Chev.
She finally slows down. Stops. Returns to her cubs. I continued to drive to the end of the road, about another 200 meters, and gave some thought to what had just happened.
For a moment Uncle Rex and I are silent and then he says, “George, we have to drive back that road again and I just want to remind you that that Grizzly will be on my side of the road. Don’t slow down.” We both have a very controlled laugh.
We had a awesome rest of the morning. No moose but memories that will never fade. If you are in the bush be careful and remember, in spite of your encounters the sun is always shining.