Cumberland Times-News

Columns

June 28, 2014

The moose is loose, and it’s coming for you

So how would you like to look out your kitchen door window onto your porch and see a moose looking back at you from close range?

It wasn’t a big moose — just a baby, as my friend Marie put it — but it was big enough to make most folks in these parts say, “Holy (smoke)!”

Marie is my friend from Alaska. She grew up in Cumberland and moved north to be with her kids some years ago, but returned for a visit.

It was her kitchen door window and her porch. While we were having lunch, she showed me several photos of the moose on one of those contraptions that opens and closes like a hard-bound paper-page notebook, but you can take pictures and do computer stuff with it.

I was tempted to stick my money and the bill in it and hand it to the waitress, saying “This is good,” just to see what she’d say.

Marie said Cumberland hasn’t changed much. The people still drive like they’re crazy, particularly on Mechanic Street. Uh-huh.

She also made the mistake of trying to go up Baltimore Avenue and asked me how long it had been torn up. I said I had no idea, but it has been a while and will be a while longer.

I asked if she had traveled across the overhead bridge that takes Interstate 68 through Cumberland, and she had not. It’s being renovated, which often reduces traffic to one lane, sometimes both ways. Eastbound traffic has been backed up to the top of Haystack Mountain, and it can be even worse westbound.

This has been going on for close to two years. I looked it up, and during World War II it took less time — about a year and a half — to build a 33,000-ton, 888-foot-long Essex Class aircraft carrier. (There admittedly was a different sense of urgency back then.)

Marie and I became e-mail buddies a while back, around the time she wrote to say that she reads my column and wanted my help in finding a story about the bicentennial celebration the city had at Constitution Park in 1955.

There was a pageant called “Redskins and Redcoats,” with a cast of about 1,000 people. Marie was a student at Fort Hill and took part in it, and she said it was fun.

Yep, I know perzackly what you’re thinking.

If Cumberland tried to have a “Redskins and Redcoats” pageant today, conscience-stricken politically correct Palefaces would come war-whooping out of every seam in the woodwork, looking to take our collective scalps.

(Not all Native Americans took scalps. Those who did learned the practice from the White Eyes, who scalped Indians for purpose of collecting bounties on them. What do the people of the Indian nations think about the Redskins name? Their opinions are what matters. White men can be prone to speak with forked tongue, particularly when they are politicians.)

I don’t know if Cumberland has a patent or a trademark, but the Yankee Government probably would try to revoke it.

Maryland’s state government — a model for the progressive movement (not sure what word I’d use to describe it, but it wouldn’t be progressive; my late grandfather would be able to suggest a few) — might even try to deport Cumberland to West Virginia.

Or maybe not, considering the fact that most of Maryland’s officials usually ignore us (Comptroller Peter Franchot being a notable exception), unless they want our tax money or our votes.

When Marie called a few days ago to tell me she was in town, she didn’t have much good to say about the weather here. My recollection is that it was about 82 and mildly humid.

I took into account where she now lives and didn’t remind her that Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy have worn woolen uniforms in Gettysburg when the heat index was 100 degrees.

I observed verbally that it seems even Alaskan women wear sandals.

Marie said they actually do, and that a woman back home wears them all year long — even on one occasion when there was six inches of snow, and then she complained about being cold.

Marie and I are contemporaries, so we’re on the same frequency in many respects. What amazes me, I told her, is that when it’s cold, some of our young girls wear big bulky sweatshirts with shorts and flipflops and no hats. She said they do the same thing in Alaska.

A few years back, there was a short-lived TV show about a taxidermy shop that’s right down the street from where Marie lives. She and I both watched it and enjoyed it.

Someone who shot a bear took it to this taxidermist and asked if she would pick up the finished product and put it in the mail.

I had to ask: Was this a stuffed and mounted bear that was to be mailed, or just the hide? You think moose are big? Alaskan Brown Bears are just as big, only they are what Snuffy Smif (Smith) would call “clawhawkus.” This one weighed 1,500 pounds. Only the hide was to be mailed, and it filled an enormous box.

Marie formerly worked in the men’s clothing section of a now-defunct local store, where I bought my dress trousers for $8 or $9 instead of paying $40 or $50 for the same britches somewhere else. So our paths may have crossed, but we didn’t realize it.

A package that came a few years back puzzled me until I opened it and saw the note. It was a Smithsonian Institution book about the Civil War, and it was from Marie. Given what I do for a hobby, it has been invaluable.

When she came to Cumberland, she brought me a book called, “The Civil War State by State” and a Moose Brew glass, which displays a drawing of a bull moose with huge antlers and the words “Mountain stream brewed in ALASKA. Enjoy This Mating Call Favorite.”

Don’t know about you, but back in the day, my buddies and I drank our share of Mating Call beer ... not that it often did us much good.

I’ve developed a number of e-mail pals over the years, people I’ve never laid eyes on. Maude McDaniel was one, and when our paths did cross, I had to ask who she was.

The best thing about meeting Marie for the first time is that we already were friends.

I’m looking forward to continuing that.

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