One of the best things about living in Watson Lake is the stories I hear.
The ones I overhear are often unsatisfactory because I can hardly ask questions or demand details when the speaker isn’t addressing me — but the ones I get told are excellent.
Folks are good and patient, as I ask things that must seem obvious to them.
It’s been too cold to get out much, but I still managed to get hold of a great Yukon story this week, thanks to the magic of e-mail.
Last summer, while wandering around Wye Lake Park, I met a woman named Rhonda who was also wandering around the park. We began chatting because we were both interested in local plants.
My interest was casual. Hers, it turned out, was passionate. She’s an expert on local flora and makes her living as a consultant on that very subject.
Even more compelling to me, she and her husband live all by themselves in a cabin they built on a lake that is so in “the bush” that they have to charter an airplane to get themselves and their supplies there.
And they’ve been there since 1976!
Rhonda and I ended up having tea together at Tags a couple of times when she was in town between consulting trips.
She is a veritable gold mine, not just on information about the indigenous plant life but about living in the wilderness.
We struck up enough of a friendship to exchange e-mails once in a while, and she’s been really generous taking the time to answer what must seem to her like an endless stream of questions about life in the North.
She sent in some moose meat for Pete and me.
We’d eaten moose meat before, at a dinner party in Newfoundland years ago, but I hadn’t cooked game before (or anything else, I can hear you thinking) so I asked her for a recipe.
She obligingly e-mailed me a simple recipe for moose roast. One moose thing led to another and last week, at my request, she e-mailed me with her best-ever moose story.
It happened last winter.
Rhonda was snowshoeing on the lake near their cabin, accompanied by one of her faithful dogs.
As she passed an island in the lake, she spotted a cow moose coming towards her, looking rather intent. When waving her arms and shouting didn’t deter the moose, Rhonda unslung her rifle and prepared to fire a shot over the moose’s head in an effort to make it go away.
Aiming into the sky, she pulled the trigger — nothing happened.
In a split second she realized the loading chamber must’ve gotten plugged with snow when she’d fallen earlier in the hike.
By this time, the moose was too close for Rhonda to do much more than recognize it was going to either run over or into her — and it did, sending her flying off the trail and into the snow.
The moose carried on, luckily, while Rhonda struggled to her feet, amazed she wasn’t dead.
She was also amazed to discover that the faithful dog was, by now, a tiny spot on the lake heading homeward.
By the time she reached the cabin, she knew she’d not escaped without injury; her mouth felt funny.
There was no more pain that could be expected from such a blow, but once inside, examining her face in a mirror, she saw that her upper front teeth were slanting inwards, like a barracuda’s.
None were exactly loosened to the point of falling out but they were definitely altered in position and not in a good way.
She was understandably concerned, and not just about her teeth.
It costs $500 to charter a plane to take her to the nearest town — Watson Lake.
Watson Lake, while having the great good fortune of having three doctors, has no permanent dentist. Rhonda would have to get herself and her strange new dental arrangement from Watson Lake to Whitehorse.
Before calling Angus Air, she radio-phoned Dr. Said Secebergovic in Watson Lake to see if he had any ideas that might save the bother and expense of such a journey.
This doctor has a solid reputation around these parts of being a quick and creative field doctor.
He is credited with saving many a life, both human and animal, using what was available at the time and place of emergencies.
After hearing her description, he suggested to Rhonda that she try to gently pull the teeth back into position. She did, positioning her thumbs behind the teeth and exerting a steady, small pressure, doing it several times over a period of hours.
The teeth resumed their places, her cut lip healed, the rifle barrel was checked and cleared, and the deserter-dog made to feel appropriately disloyal and cowardly.
Life went on with one lasting reminder of the event; Rhonda no longer trusts those front teeth to bite into an apple or do other similar teeth chores.
She also reports they seem to be going grey; the nerves were likely killed.
As to the moose, Rhonda and her husband, Tom, snowshoed out to the island the next day and found signs of the cow and a calf, and traces of blood in the snow.
They figure the moose were being menaced by wolves, and maybe Rhonda’s passing by with a dog was the last straw for the stressed cow: yet another moving thing in that frozen landscape to harass and threaten her.
I Googled “moose attacks” — omigod!
A snowmobile trashed by a stomping moose, a man treed by an irate bull moose, a team of sled dogs attacked while pulling a sled and a moose swimming after a couple canoeing on a lake, to cite a few of the tales of terror in the trackless tundra.
Is moose rage recent?
Is it yet another result of climate change, or an environment made toxic by man’s activities?
Man’s activities are like man in the Yukon — scarce, and not all that noticeable on the face of what looks to be endless miles of short trees.
Uma, have you been listening to me? Or reading these messages?
Trust me, I have no need of a little black dress though it fits perfectly and is very chic.
Thanks anyway, for the always-appreciated thrill of getting a parcel in the mail.
Give that baby a sugar cube from me.