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Moose Encounters of the Stupid Kind

by Paula Shablo 2 months ago in Teenage years · updated 2 months ago

The Whole Day Was a Bunch of Bull

Bull Moose. Magestic. Not handsome. Also, huge.

No one has ever accused me of being a social creature. That it could even be suggested would cause those who know me to double over in fits of laughter.

For context, you should know that I once ran away from home, and until I came back, no one even knew I was gone!

(I wrote that story once. I should look for it.)

Anyway, my father was a great lover of the outdoor life. He kept an impeccable yard. He liked to hunt and fish. And he loved to take us camping.

Me, on the other hand? Allergic to nature; literally. Allergic to grasses and trees, flowers and shrubs—even sunshine! Wherever I go, it is big hats, long sleeves, sunscreen, allergy pills, asthma medication and the good old rescue inhaler.

But I loved our camping trips; as a rule, anyway.

But there was that one time…

We went up to the mountains, heaven knows where. Well, Dad knows, but he’s in heaven, so—

—I digress.

There was a certain place a few miles above a sheep ranch where a brook ran through the whole area. There was a small pond fronted by three ancient cabins that had been invaded at some point by skunks, so we set up downstream from there and only made the trek to the pond to use the old pontoon boat someone had left docked there.

There were plenty of trees to keep me shaded from the sun. I had all my various plans of attack covered—just in case.

Stay away from the wildflowers.

Don’t touch anything.

Basically, take shallow breaths and hope for the best.

My camping plan was always to find a shady spot, throw a line out to catch some brook trout and read my book.

Not this trip. Other families had been invited along.

Kids wanted to play!

I don’t play. I am an angsty teenager with limited batteries for my tape recorder and only two books for the weekend. Plus, I have been forbidden to get in the water because I have been visited by the red devil. Leave me alone with my music and my book and my fishing pole, and stay out of my space before you scare all the fish!

No one could say that my siblings were anti-social. They loved having other kids around. It was noisy and boisterous and if I hadn’t been suffering with menstrual cramps and a general sense of "14-years-old-so-I’m-too-old-for-this-shit-itis", I might have deigned to enjoy myself.

Nope. I didn’t feel well, I couldn’t breathe and I was a monstrous grumpy grouch.

I sat in a lawn chair at the edge of the brook, listening to Alice Cooper and reading some horror book or other, when my sister snatched the book out of my hand and her friend Estelita pushed me into the water.

Great! Just great! Now Mom was going to bitch at me for being in the water.

Wrong. She laughed.

I was pissed. I was more than pissed. “I’ve had enough of this!” I yelled. I pulled my dripping self out of the brook, moved my tape recorder and book to the camper, and grabbed my fishing pole. Taking a couple of likely flies and a little extra line from my tackle box, I shoved the works into my creel and announced, “I’m going fishing. Alone!”

“Aren’t you going to change your clothes?” Mom asked, still giggling.



“Let her go cool off,” Dad said.

“Wear your hat!”

As I stormed off, I yelled at my sister: "You're damn lucky you took my book so it didn't get wet!"

She was, too. And she knew it.

I went upstream about a mile or so and pulled down my pants, peed, removed my sanitary napkin and buried it. Then I got in the water. I figured what the hell, I was already wet, and who cares? I took baths when the scarlet bitch came to call; what was the difference?

I tied a fly onto my line, adjusted my hat and started walking upstream, against the strong current. It felt good to push against something, and I stayed close to the shoreline, making sure I didn’t get in any deeper than my armpits. I cast and danced my line on the surface of the water.

I caught some fish.

The brook twisted and turned its way uphill, and I became almost hypnotized by the sound of water splashing over rocks. I twisted and turned my way, too, trying to avoid getting sunburned by the reflections off the water.

I’d been there before. Not a lovely experience. Sunburns off the water may be the worst of all.

There were plenty of high bushes along the shorelines to shade me, and that was great.

That next turn was going to be an eye-opener!

Until I rounded a corner and a great bull moose came nearly nose to nose with me from the other direction!

I jumped and turned to run downstream.

He jumped and ran to the other side of the brook, clambered up the edge of the shoreline and disappeared into the woods.

I waded out on the opposite side and decided it might be in my better interests to head back downstream to the camp.

It didn’t escape my attention that I had just had a near-death experience. Had it been a cow with young, she’d have stomped me into the bed of the brook.

As it was, I startled him as much as he startled me, and I was a lucky girl. No need to press my luck.

I headed back. My fishing pole was slung over my right shoulder, so my elbow was up nearly level with my neck. My creel, in my left hand, thumped against my leg as I walked. I slowly came to realize I had lost my hat, and sighed. Sunstroke, sunburn—all too inevitable.

Could this day get any worse?

I stepped forward and went—down!

A hole? A stupid hole?

Apparently, the day could get worse!

Not only worse, but…really worse.

My left arm and shoulder were wedged in the hole. My right arm, luckily, was out. Thank God for my fishing pole.

My feet were dangling. I had no idea how deep the hole was, but it was at least deeper than I was tall, which was a huge problem.

I tried to pull myself out, but I was stuck fast.

I let go of the creel—goodbye, fishes! I listened for a splash or a thump, but even in the relative silence of the woods, I didn’t hear anything.

All the bad mood flew out of me and was replaced by fear.

How deep?


I was surrounded by brush and bushes. I could hear the brook, but couldn’t see it.

How long before someone came looking for me?

I was wearing sandals. I pushed my toes into the soil—it was damp and malleable. I started kicking and twisting my foot into it to make myself a little step ladder. Unless I could get my left arm free, pulling myself out was going to be impossible.

With the opposite foot, I used my heel to do the same thing.

Carefully, I created toe and heel holds. The holes I made with my heels were inclined to collapse more often than the toe holds, but I was finally able to squirm and wiggle my arm up my belly to my chest.

There was a moment of pure terror as I plucked it free from the edge of the hole and threw it straight out to my side. One second of delay could send me straight down—all the way to hell, for all I knew.

Once both arms were free, I wiggled around to get a good grip on my fishing pole. I wedged the butt end into the ground for a little extra leverage and using more kicked-in foot holds, I slowly pulled my way out.

I don’t know how long I lay on the ground, panting and gasping. My lungs were on fire. Finally, on hands and knees, I dragged my pole and my body back to the brook and crawled in. I drank until I came close to vomiting, coughing my way through what thankfully didn’t turn into a full blown asthma attack.

My throat was sore, but my breathing got back to normal.

After I—and my precious fishing pole—were free of mud, I stayed in the center of the brook and headed downstream until I got to camp.

Once there, I said nothing to anyone. I went straight to the truck and climbed into the camper. I stripped off my soaking wet clothes and put on dry ones.

I took my wet clothes and draped them over a bush to dry.

My father watched the proceedings without comment. He took my pole, propped against the side of the truck, and put it with the others.

Mom said, “Come and have something to eat.”

Still silent, I put food on a plate. I sat down. I realized I was thirsty, and put my plate in the empty chair next to mine. I got up, grabbed a soda from the cooler, came back and sat down again.

In my plate.

Without a word, I stood up, went back to the camper, climbed inside and slammed the door.

I had no more clothes, so I yanked off my dirty jeans and sat there in my underwear.

After a couple of minutes, I heard a knock.

“Go away,” I ordered.

“It’s Dad.”

I opened the door. He handed me a plate loaded with food. He also handed me my hat. I guess it floated downstream.

“Are we going to talk about this?” Dad asked.


“Are you okay?”


“Did you get your soda?”


“Goodnight, then.”


He started to close the door. “Dad?”



“You got it.” He paused. Then: “We all have those days, sometimes.”


“Mom’s getting you something to wear, if you want to come out later.”


I ate. I drank my soda. I blasted some Alice Cooper tunes.

Later, dressed with Mom’s robe over my t-shirt and a too-big pair of Dad’s socks, I went out to the campfire and sang songs with everyone. I toasted marshmallows and fed them to anyone who wanted one. I took pride in my perfectly toasted marshmallows, but I didn’t eat them. (Yuck!) I played the guitar. I laughed.

Music fixes everything

Estelita apologized for pushing me in the water, and I forgave her, even though for hours I had secretly blamed her for everything.

But she was just playing, and nothing that followed was anyone’s fault.

Well—I could have been more gracious in my reaction, I supposed. I resolved to do better.

Bad days don’t have to end on a bad note.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I learned how to get out of a hole after encountering a scary bull moose.

May you NEVER have a day like that.

This is a true story of a grumpy teen who should have just laughed off the first incident of the day and called it good. But, no! She had to stomp off in a fit of temper. Well...that's what happens!

Anyway, I just wrote it; so I lived.

Several months ago I published a fictional piece featuring a hole, and promised to explain how I knew how to get out. I figured it was high time I made good on that promise.

If you'd care to check it out, you can find it here:

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Teenage years

Paula Shablo

Daughter. Mother. Grandma. Author. Artist. Caregiver.

(Order fluxuates.)


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