Monday, December 16, 2013

We’re going on a moose hunt

“Seriously?  These scavenger hunts are getting way too difficult,” my sister-in-law Jill replied after we delivered our latest request.  Jill had become a victim of her own success.  Like the child in the old Shel Silverstein poem, if she’d just broken a few dishes, maybe we wouldn’t have asked her to dry the dishes anymore.

“There’s a statue of Granite the sled dog somewhere in the Alaska Regional Hospital.  Can you find it and take a picture?” we’d asked a few months ago, back when our requests were still somewhat reasonable.  Our son Evan had read about Granite, apparently the awesomest dog in the history of the Iditarod, in one of his books, which featured an image of Granite’s regal statue on the back cover.  It’s a pretty impressive feat for a dog to distinguish itself enough to earn a permanent memorial.  If our dog Memphis ever earns a bronze likeness of herself, it will probably depict her running past the edge of the hardwood floor to barf on the carpet.

Three days after that request, Jill texted us a picture of the bronze pooch.  (She works at the Alaska Regional Hospital, a very helpful non-coincidence.)

“I like that picture!” Evan said, briefly appeased.  “Now can she send me a picture of a moose?”

Our family has a thing for moose.  Sure, the animals themselves are swell enough on their own, but for us, their presence has a deeper meaning: If you’re looking at one, that means you’re on vacation.  (One more solid indicator: Your last snack consisted entirely of beer and Oreos.) 

Before Aunt Jill and Uncle Kris moved to Anchorage last year, they promised Evan that they’d be his Alaskan eyes and ears.

“As soon as we see a moose, you’ll be the first to know,” Jill said. 

Granite had stayed put, making him easier to find, but the Alaskan moose were just not cooperating.  And then, one Saturday evening, my wife Kara’s cell phone announced a video chat invitation from Jill.  Kara gave the phone to Evan.  An excited, if somewhat pixilated, Aunt Jill announced, “Evan, look, there’s a moose in our yard!”

She pointed the camera out her window at the giant creature nibbling a snowy crabapple tree. 

Sometimes, I wonder if we should live in a place where cool stuff like that happens.  “Uncle Mike, can you send me a picture of a traffic jam?” is a message I’ll probably never receive.

When Jill ventured outside to get a closer look, the moose wandered off into the woods before it even got a chance to hear the door click shut behind Jill, locking her out in the Alaskan wilderness.  Well, the Alaskan wilderness of their townhouse development, which is at least 97% more wildernessy than any townhouses around here. 

“Oh, no,” she said, and we could do nothing from our end except watch, and congratulate her on her prescient decision to put on her jacket before venturing out.

Smart phones are funny things.  Beyond their primary function of helping you ignore loved ones on the other side of the couch, they can also apparently be used to connect with loved ones on the other side of the world.  What can’t these things do?  Besides unlock a front door, I mean.

After a brief intermission, Jill called back from inside her house, letting us know that her neighbor had given her back her spare key.  Evan had been looking over his moose book in the meantime.

“Aunt Jill, did you know that a moose’s antlers fall off each year?  Can you send me a picture of a moose with just one antler?” he asked.

He might just as well have asked her to get a picture of Sarah Palin speaking at an ACLU fundraiser.

“I might have to grab a picture off the Internet and pass it off as my own,” Jill told us later.  Or maybe she should just go ahead and break a dish.
You can take Mike Todd for Granite at

Update: And of course, the day after I sent in this column, Uncle Kris saw a one-antlered moose, just wandering down the sidewalk.  The moose took off when Kris tried to grab a picture, but he did manage to snag this shot:

If you blow it up and look at the moose's shadow, you can see the one antler (there are also a couple lighter pixels over one side of his head).  We're counting it!  Anyone have any other good Alaska scavenger hunt ideas?  Otherwise, we'll have to run with the Sarah Palin/ACLU thing.  Jill and Kris could probably get it done.


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