The Star-Herald

Spiriting a moose

The County is lucky. While at times it appears to be forgotten, overlooked, snubbed or otherwise insulted, it has a few things that make it stand out. There are days when the blue skies and long horizons far outshadow issues like jobs and growth. Lots of open space, plenty of animals and slightly interesting weather make for a great place to stay awhile and visit.

Many of the communities that made the County what it is today are now shades of times past. Crouseville is one such community. Long ago when families were larger and there were all sorts of factories and processing plants along the Aroostook river, Crouseville ranked high on the list of places to visit between Washburn and Presque Isle. It reached a point where it was given its own postal code and served as a stop on the rail line. Time moved on and gradually the houses and barns have gone.

It was built on a bend in the river. As it got old families grew up, moved away and other people moved in. All the residents valued the easy access to the river. There were plenty of critters around. Creatures like deer, bear and moose all found that with a bit of patience they could inhabit the same stretch of water with few problems. Today, these same creatures still share the space. This is something that in many of the areas of the world no longer exists.

On that riverbend back in the 1970s lived Mr. McKay, gunsmith. Fixing things that went boom and bang, created lots of smoke, and provided cheap entertainment for a living were always exciting for a kid. Mr. McKay would test some sort of firearm or allowing one of his customers to use the sighting range to tune in a new gun or check out a repair in a typical afternoon or evening. Often this effort would scare out some critter coming down for a drink of river water or some food along the bank — simple, low-cost entertainment.

Mr. McKay left us long ago. Now other families live in that same stretch of river. It is a beautiful patch of ground. The fishing is reasonably good and fairly easy to get to. Moose are plentiful.

This past spring a moose cow had a calf down in the neighborhood. The calf and mother did pretty well munching on moose stuff and traipsing through the fields, puddles and eddies of the river.  The families living in the area and the moose were good neighbors. In the fall, mother and calf became separated. Mother disappeared. Calf stayed in the neighborhood and soon made friends with the Doak family.

Curious about how people live, the young moose soon began following members of the family around. Not too scared and with a bit of gentle fussing, the family and moose became fast friends. The young calf, perhaps missing its mother, would rest its head and accept some petting from members of the family. It was a good exchange. Nothing like a wholesome friend who cares little for anything more than a comforting shoulder to rest its head upon. Everyone needs a friend.

The calf wandered around the neighborhood and managed until the recent storm. It became trapped in the vast seas of white snow. The County teaches us to help each other when stuck. One day the calf was discovered stuck in a drift. Perhaps exhausted with the depth of snow, it was unable to move and was stuck. Seeing this, the Doak family dug it out. They could have left it. Friends do not leave friends behind. The pictures and story of why one helped the other made the evening newscasts in Bangor and Portland.

Moose suffer many problems. Flies, cars and weather take their toll. The young moose was rescued and yet was already weakened. Soon its humble fur and bones were found nearby. The only memories: a few pictures of happier times to be shared with friends and neighbors. Those stories are priceless touchstones of happy times along the banks of a river in a small town far away.

Mr. McKay was a legend. Now his legend is joined with that of a moose who befriended a family.

In the brilliant darkness found at dusk you can find the shades of time past as man, moose, and nature range through our memories. Perhaps that is the greatest treasure of living in The County.

Orpheus Allison is a photojournalist living in The County who graduated from UMPI and earned a master of liberal arts degree from the University of North Carolina. He began his journalism career at WAGM television later working in many different areas of the US. After 20 years of television he changed careers and taught in China and Korea.

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