THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT and DEAD MOOSE WALKING are two stories from my first book Poachers
Cranberries & Snowshoes that I hope will give you a chuckle or two.
Oh come on now, Christmas is a time for surprises. Some of them we like, some we don't. It's really a matter of perspective. I am of the mind if an opportunity arises, then one must entertain oneself, even though it may inconvenience others temporarily.
The insurance industry says it, the R.C.M.P. says it, anybody remotely associated with crime prevention says “Thou shalt not leave thy vehicle running unattended”......even if it is fifty below outside and you zipped into the Post Office for your Christmas parcels. Thieves apparently hang around everywhere, especially the post office.
It was uncompromisingly winter in High Level, dark and very cold, about 4:30 in the afternoon, and a mere three days before Christmas day. I went off to the Post Office for the same reason I always go to the Post Office. It was a zoo. There were vehicles parked every which way around the building and spilling over into the vacant lot next door. People were bustling in and out with their Christmas mail, all intent on doing their business expeditiously and keeping warm. Almost every vehicle had been left running, unlocked and unoccupied. But there was one very special one, the local police cruiser. And there they were, two stalwart custodians of The Law standing in the lineup, politely waiting their turn. Great!
Judging by the length of the line inside, I had lots of time. Quickly, I parked my truck at the very back of the lot, ran over to the cruiser, hopped in and backed it up, concealing it behind a very large transport truck, one of those eighteen wheel monsters. Yes, I took the keys; after all, I could not let just anybody steal it, could I? That would be too much of a story! I scurried back to my own truck, making sure that I had an unobstructed view of the front door of the Post Office so that I had a ringside seat for the coming action. As if to add to the tension, it was common knowledge that a police car had been stolen in Manning a few weeks earlier, and it was still missing. Manning was just down the road from us.
There they were, now at the front of the line, full of sweetness and light, collecting their mail. Shouldn't be too long now!
Out they came, exiting with a crowd of other people. It was so cold when an unexpected gust of wind blew a cloud of exhaust fumes around the group, they could not see their vehicles nor could I see them. When the cloud had dissipated, everyone but the two policemen had vanished. Truly, it was the Keystone Cops all over again. The uniformed men were rooted to the spot, their mouths agape in disbelief, their eyes wide in desperation, seeking out the car they knew should be there but somehow had gone AWOL.
I could see their mouths spewing a torrent of words, their heads turning frantically this way and that searching for their precious cruiser in the semi-darkness. No luck, no cruiser! This whole performance continued on for three or four minutes, suddenly coming to an abrupt halt. Both men were staring fixedly in my direction. Then they looked momentarily at each other, something was said, a decision was made, and they came marching towards me. Apparently, I had not hidden as well as I had thought. Their haste across the ice-covered parking lot saw what should have been a dignified stride degenerate into more of a semi controlled sliding; either it was the ice or the thought I might know something about their car that generated such an unseemly haste. Finally they made it to my truck, so ever the good corporate citizen, I rolled down my window.
“Now what might you guys be up to?” I said cheerily. The first and only words out of their mouths, and in unison no less, were the words “Where the Hell is our car?” Not “Excuse me sir, did you by chance see our police car?” or any other such polite enquiries, just “Where the Hell is our car?” I must be endowed with a mischievous countenance, otherwise I have no idea why they would have thought I knew anything about their car.
Bad luck struck again! The transport truck behind which I had hid their vehicle suddenly pulled out. There was the car in all its glory, and not ten yards away. They heard the truck and turned, spotted their cruiser and immediately made for it as if it was a long-lost friend.
“You might need these” I yelled, flinging the car keys in their direction. I left without looking back; it never pays to give a man in uniform a second chance- I should know!
There was, inevitably, an unfortunate consequence for me. The officer in charge of the detachment had been a good friend of mine for a long time. The car-hiding caper was one of those stories too good to keep to myself so I told him what happened, but only after he promised he would do nothing. Well, he sort of did nothing. The new directives regarding vehicle security were not vague nor discreet enough to deflect the suspicions of the two officers that I informed their supervisor, and we both enjoyed a good laugh at their expense.
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It was in the middle of supper, it was always in the middle of supper, when the phone rang. Minus 40 degrees F, High Level, and here I was looking forward to a cozy evening at home. "Are you the game warden?" queried the gruff voice on the line.
"Yes. As a matter of fact I am."
"Well some s.o.b. has gone and stolen our moose."
Now this was a new one for me; I did not know quite what to say.
"Are you there?" the voice asked impatiently.
"Yes. Yes, I'm here. How the hell does somebody go about stealing somebody else's moose?"
"Simple. I'm down at the hotel. Some s.o.b. drives up and steals my moose from in front of the quonset that is behind the hotel, you know the one."
"Yeah, I know the one. Maybe you had better wait right where you are. I'll be right down." Another fine meal interrupted. "Goes with the territory I suppose," I thought to myself. At least my truck was still relatively warm from my afternoon patrol.
Five minutes to the only hotel in town, a veritable hive of extra-curricular activity. The bar was about to close for an hour so great care had to be exercised to avoid running over any of the evicted and/or disgruntled patrons. To put this into historical perspective, the incident occurred in those heady days of Social Credit government in Alberta in the sixties. The law stipulated that all drinkers and other likeminded sinners should go home and eat supper with their families; the bar was officially closed for one hour, as if that would do any good! Looking over this motley collection of individuals, I found myself wondering how many of them actually made it home.
I had not taken two steps into the restaurant before three guys approached me, accosted me would be a better way to put it. I hoped one of them was the caller because I had no real desire to hang around this place any longer than I had to. They certainly appeared to be upset. "You the game warden?" That same gruff voice, now emanating directly from a personality that seemed equally as abrasive as the voice.
"Yes I am. Are you the fellow that just phoned my house?"
"I did," barked the man as if even words should be economized.
I took over, and we all introduced ourselves formally and then headed out to the quonset. It turned out these were three hunters from central Alberta who had hunted in the area before. Apparently one of them was part owner of the hotel which they used as a base for their hunting activity.
"So what's the story?"
That was the cue for the second, more pushy fellow to launch into a detailed description starting from the moment they had crawled out of bed that morning. Enamored of his own voice, and evidently quite the man with words, he was determined to leave no stone unturned. Clearly, the others were used to this; they just let him ramble on. Leaving town by snowmobile, they had decided to head west to an area where they were successful in previous years. They had not gone very far before they chanced on some fresh moose sign. They got "real excited", the man said, and abandoned their machines so that they could track their quarry on foot. The words flowed fast and furious with a special emphasis for the dramatic; hell, the way he went on, anybody would have thought they baited a king-size grizzly. For three hours, they had not just walked but battled through two feet of snow. They had toiled over and under scattered piles of deadfall and other debris. They had fought their way through thickets of uncooperative willow when suddenly one of them had been presented with the perfect opportunity to shoot. The moose had gone down and the real work began.
The shooter stayed to field dress the moose while his two buddies went back for the snowmobiles. Since they had to resort to chainsaws to make some sort of a trail through the willows and the deadfall in order to get a snowmobile in and the moose out, they were gone quite some time. Fortunately for them, they happened on a seismic line cut through the bush so their trail building was suddenly reduced to a minimum. What complicated their plan was they wanted to bring the moose back whole, that is only its intestines removed. That way, they figured they could skin and quarter it in the comfort of the quonset. I did not suppose it had anything to do with the minus 40 F weather, or did it? With lots of track spinning, complemented with plain old pushing, pulling, and shoving, they got their moose back to town in one piece… (Continued in the book, Poachers, Cranberries & Snowshoes).
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