The cow moose didn’t back off like she normally does. I give her credit; it’s hunting season, and she knows she’s relatively safe close to our house. She’s alone, without this year’s calf, who was big enough that it might have been a hunter’s score.
I was out feeding before sunrise. I first knew she was around when my young stallion didn’t come for his feed bucket. When I went deeper into his paddock to find him, I could see he was looking intently towards the woods. Before long I made out the large brown shape that was the object of his attention, but I couldn’t tell its gender. When it moved off a little, I got a treat because Asi moved off too, at a collected trot that was eye candy.
While feeding in the next paddock, I found out it was a cow. She was right over the fence, and when my dogs tried to push her away into the clearcut, she came towards us instead. That’s when I realized she wasn’t in a yielding mood, and that summer had been good to her – she was enormous! I modified my feeding plan to avoid that part of the fence line.
It was well below freezing, so footing was icy. I decided I would ride my mare Shelley down the driveway to the final paddock rather than walk and risk falling (Shelley’s four-wheel-drive is better than my two-wheel!) I filled the feed buckets and mounted Shelley bareback with them, just as I’d done the day before, and we headed off. I knew we might encounter the moose, so I was watching. Nonetheless she surprised all of us by emerging from a clump of trees right by the road. The dogs barked, and Shelley spun and headed back up the driveway fast. It’s amazing how time slows down in these sorts of situations. I remember grabbing for mane and realizing that the feed buckets were in the way, so I would need to drop them in order to stay mounted. I give Shelley credit, too. She didn’t try to buck me off with the buckets bouncing, and not even when the feed buckets descended along her side. Very soon I felt the panic leave her body and just as I was feeling comfortable sitting out a gallop, she slowed and responded to my verbal command to slow down and stop.
The feed buckets were empty, but the ponies down below really didn’t need them, so after dismounting and letting Shelley go up the road without me, I started walking down the driveway, assuming the cow had finally moved off. Nope. I’d learned the strength of her intentions, now, so I turned around and went to the house to finish other chores. Then, for the first time I ever remember, I fed that lower paddock by driving my truck down the road to avoid another encounter. The cow had moved off a little, but she still watched as I fed the ponies there. I kept the dogs close so they didn’t further agitate our neighbor. I don’t know why she was so different today than past encounters we’ve had, but I give that cow credit for standing her ground. She might be the same one we encountered this spring (to read “Two Mamas Face Off,” click here). Back then, Shelley won the standoff. Today the moose gets credit.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2018