Monolithic Moose Lickers


OPINION — About twenty years ago, in Mason, Texas, I bought a 4WD Chevy Luv pickup with Montana plates that looked like it had lost a fight with a Brahman bull. It had, in fact, hit a moose, which was probably worse. There was no part of the body that was not rusted, dented, perforated, torn, bent, deformed, or missing. A lot was missing. It was difficult to look directly at this vehicle without experiencing acute eyeball discomfort.

You would think a moose would be a large enough animal that it would be fairly easy for a motorist to avoid hitting one. After all, they seldom seem to move very fast, and unless you’re driving with your eyes closed, using the Force, it should be pretty easy to spot a moose early enough to slow down or swerve. But since I’ve never lived in moose country, I could be wrong. Regardless, the previous owner of my Luv had failed to negotiate a successful route around at least one moose. I still have no idea how he managed to get the little pickup from Montana to Texas. Maybe he put it on a trailer.

Anyway, my wife named the Luv ‘The Moose,’ and insisted that it was the ugliest vehicle she’d seen since the sky-blue Cadillac Coupe de Ville I’d bought several years earlier, for $100. That one was also mostly rust, with a white vinyl top that was mostly missing. She made me sell it pretty quickly, although I once managed to talk her into riding in it. After dark.

But I recently came to realize the damage to the Luv probably could’ve been avoided, if the state of Montana had simply erected signage similar to that around the Jasper National Park, in Jasper, Canada. The Canadian signs warn motorists not to let moose lick their cars. Seriously.

Now, I’ve seen some strange signs in my lifetime. A friend used to have a sign on his pasture gate that said, ‘This is a private sign. Do not read.’ There’s a sign on the archivist’s door in the library at Harding School of Theology in Memphis that says, ‘Please limit your book requests. I only have access to 10 million volumes today.’ And once, at a stream crossing on a rutted track deep in the Sierra Madre mountains west of Monterrey, Mexico, I saw a sign that said, in Spanish, ‘Don’t wash your car in the river.’ But I’ve never seen a sign that admonished drivers not to allow moose to lick their cars.

My first thought was that the moose tongues would stick to the metal in the freezing temperatures, and they would become angry, and there’s probably not many things worse than an angry moose. But that wasn’t it.

The Canadian highway departments spread salt on the roads, to melt the ice, and the salt gets all over the cars. And moose like salt, and they’ve figured out they can easily lick it off cars. But that causes the moose to become comfortable around automobiles, which causes all kinds of problems, such as highways full of moose, and Chevy Luvs that look like they’ve lost a fight with a Brahman bull.

So the signs actually make sense, when you think about it. But if you think about it too long, you start to wonder, as I did, how you’re supposed to keep a determined, salt-craving moose from licking your car. I’m thinking if a moose wants to lick my car, I’m not going to try to stop him. I don’t want to end up looking like a Texan who lost a fight with a Brahman bull.

But as interesting as the car-licking moose story is, it’s not the most fascinating story to come along recently. That would be the story about the monolith that appeared in the middle of nowhere in Utah, and then disappeared again nine days later.

Some Utah wildlife resource officers were using a helicopter to count bighorn sheep in the wilds of southern Utah a couple of weeks ago, and one of them spotted a big hunk of metal sticking up out of the rock. They landed and checked it out because, well, who wouldn’t? I would. You would, too.

A friend used to have a sign on his pasture gate that said, ‘This is a private sign. Do not read.’

This monolith was a huge, triangular hunk of shiny, polished, silver metal, sticking up about ten feet out of the ground, on public land. It had no inscriptions, and no apparent purpose, except to confuse the sheep counters. They took some pictures, scratched their heads, and left. Pilot Bret Hutchings postulated that it might have been some kind of modern art, or something. So I guess it was either that, or the aliens have landed. It was probably aliens.

And then, about nine days later, it was gone. No one knows who put it there, or why, and no one knows who removed it. It’s a mystery.

All I know is, if I’d been on that sheep-counting crew, I would’ve put a sign on the monolith, telling people not to let moose lick it . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and minister who never licks cars, as a rule. Write to him at [email protected]

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