Aug 3, 2007
OK folks the topic this time is moose—encounters while in Nfld.I also asked if there are any snakes or squirrels in Nfld?
So here goes. Let’s start off with a poem written by fellow classmate Bob Pelley:
by Robert Pelley
He broke off a branch, iced, speckled with sun, and carefully brushed the snow off his gun.
The moose nibbled on a low-lying spruce and hungrily tasted its woodsy juice.
The hunter used his glasses to scan the scene, looking for signs where a moose might have been.
The moose listened, his eyes glancing, and then still, his ears dancing.
To the young hunter, very proud, the whispers of winter seemed very loud.
Snow falling off trees, a squirrel's chatter, all sounded like things that matter.
But the moose, alert and woods wise, counted on more than just ears and eyes.
He sensed a danger that was very near, though its direction was not yet clear.
The man felt frozen right to the ground, but dared not move, making no sound.
But the shivers he felt were not from the cold but a hunter's sensation, from times very old.
The moose moved slowly, his antlers low, instinctively insuring that nothing would show.
A couple of steps. Long moments of wait. Silent movement. Not risking his fate.
The hunter thought that he heard a sound, a slight compacting of snow on the ground.
He adjusted the gun strap and made it tight. The sound seemed to come from off to his right.
The moose stopped short and froze where he was, he didn't know why, just because.
Something not right, felling queasy. A noise or a smell that made him uneasy.
An anxious look at the sky, a now darker gray. Darkness would soon make him call it a day.
He pulled back his hood and cupped his ears. The cold was bringing his eyes to tears.
Mercury falling, wind shifting direction. The moose was now getting a different perception.
The young hunter, a gentleman they say, had used a very nice fragrance that day.
The moose knew well the smells of the wood and he knew even more that this was not good.
Gun oil and perfume made him tense. He eased back slowly to the wood more dense.
The hunter waits about ten minutes more. He thought he heard noises but was not really sure.
He put up his hood and picked up his gun. Too bad, he thinks, my day is done.
And neither knew how close they had come.
Faye, here is a moose story. It's from a winter night in 1959.
“This guy was driving toward a level crossing just outside of town. There was a train coming. He thought he could beat the train so he sped up. Just as he was about to cross the tracks a moose's fully racked head crashed through his front windshield. The animal had jumped out of a ditch on the other side of the tracks. The impact turned the car sideways, throwing open the driver's door. The driver was ejected from the car and slid across the tracks under the passing train. He ended up in a snowbank on the other side unharmed. The train carried the car and the moose some distance down the tracks. Both the car and the moose were expunged.
“I should add in retrospect that the driver would not have been wearing a seatbelt. Seatbelts had yet to come along. Good thing for him. Probably saved his life.
- Dave Naish, Class of 1960
Does anyone else remember this story above? I’ll bet the guy who escaped without injury does...
- Faye Lewis Raynard
One thing we all had to be aware of was moose on the highway .
We have no moose here on PEI, where I live now (we have skunks though). But there has been a few moose walking on our Confederation Bridge, linking us to New Brunswick. There even has been a few accidents when drivers just crossed the bridge and hit a moose just off the bridge.
But here is my Gander moose story:
“I worked in the Royal Bank after graduation from high school and one of our favourite dance bars (after Square Pond ) was the Junction Club which was at the turnoff to Lewisporte.
“An older graduate was back home visiting and he, a girl from the Royal Bank, Rolla and I drove to the Junction Club. The bar never closed and we had a great time dancing to about 3 AM (How things have changed for us !! )
“Driving home, Rolla and I were in the back seat and the older graduate and his girl in front. He had one arm on the steering wheel and one arm arround his girl. It had been a great evening.
“When we hit the turn at Twin Ponds, there was Mr Bull Moose right in the centre of the road on the turn. Mr older graduate, with one hand on the wheel, mnaged to swerve arround the moose. Still don't know how we missed because we were doing the speed limit.
“That is the closest that I came to having close contact with a moose.”
- Morley Smith, Class of 1959
Faye, you are correct, there were no snakes or squirrels in Nfld. However, some time ago the squirrels managed to get in. It seems they always do! As far as I know though there are still no snakes, perhaps St. Patrick paid a visit to Nfld. after he wandered away from Eire.
I can't think of any moose stories off the top of my head, however if any come to mind I'll send them on.
- Dave Robertson, Class of 1961
“I remember when I was on the Gander Academy track team I used to train by myself for the high jump, in an old sawmill I found in the woods a mile from my house. It provided a great landing area and it did help me win the finals in Bell Island that year.
“Also, I remember I used to run as fast as I could down a long trail behind Cy Rowsells house which I considered to be training. The trick was to go as fast as you could without missing the sharp turns in the trail.
“So one day while running in my gym shoes and shorts I rounded a corner and ran smack into the ass end of a moose, a big one with huge antlers who was happily munching on the trees. I ran like hell back the way I came and heard a huge thrashing noise from the bull moose. I ran a while longer then realized the noise was getting quieter, he was going the other way as scared as I was. I remember the noise lasted half an hour.
- Ken Barnes, Class of 1960
And on moose hunting, RG Pelley isn’t sure if this is more about food, or more about moose. You be the judge.
“It happened when I was about 10 or 11 when we were still living in old Gander in the mid 1950s. While this was probably just any ordinary day to the adults, nothing to be remembered, to me at that age it was something special!
“It was a nice day in very late autumn and my father, Calvin Pelley, figured it would be a good day to go moose hunting. As I remember it, the conditions were what a pilot might have called CAVU - ceiling and visibility unlimited, with a light covering of snow, just enough to see any tracks a moose might leave.
“We left early, maybe about 07h00, with our car parked roughly 10-15 minutes (from memory) up a road from the end of the runway on what is now Garret Road. We headed generally north-west up a trail. Seems to me we crossed the railway tracks fairly early on and kept on going in the same direction.
“From looking at a map of old Gander, it is likely that the trail was headed out towards the old Navy site. From looking at a map of new Gander, we were probably headed a short ways north of what is now Baird Ave.
“We had planned to go in for about 2-3 hours and come back out around noon. The trail was easy to follow and the snow on the ground was just enough to make everything quiet, almost religious.
“Since we were planning to come out early, we didn't bring anything special to eat, just something to munch on when we boiled the kettle, which we did in the middle of the morning just before we turned around to come back. The fire seemed to be more than welcome because the temperature had dropped and the wind that came up was very humid.
“Our CAVU weather quickly became RAWU - rain and water unlimited ! We would have a long wet walk in front of use before we got back to the car. We walked on for quite some time with no evidence that the rain would let up, but luckily my father knew of another trail that should led us to an old building, maybe an old hunting camp, built during war. If the camp was still standing we'd be able to find some dry wood and put in a fire and at least dry ourselves out. As we got to the old camp we could see it was still in good shape. Even better, we could see smoke coming the chimney... someone else had had the same idea and had already got a fire going in the 45-gallon drum that served as a stove.
“When we finally got inside, we found two other men who had been planning to stay out all day...which means of course they had brought along a bit more food than we did ! By this time I was ready to try anything. And, hunger aiding, I had what was the simplest but simply the best meal I've ever had. It consisted of one slice of bread toasted over the fire and one very large piece of codfish roasted the same way. Just a touch of salt. Coldfish eaten in little sections. Mouthwatering.
“ Just the best meal ever, a great reward after a hard day's work. From that day, I seem to have developed a taste for smoked fish - once every now and then I drive out to Ile d'Orleans near Quebec City and fill up on smoked salmon, smoked sturgeon and smoked eel. Not as good as the cod from the old Gander camp but will do in a pinch!.
“I don't hunt any more but still have a feeling for what it is all about. It has even inspired me to do a it of poetry…
Robert Pelley, Class of 1962
OK, look what the moose drew out of the woodwork. A fellow classmate from St. Joe’s.
Bob McKinnon lived in Gander from 1951 to about 1961 and recalls the following. (Note, you may have seen Bob sign-in on the guestbook log on this site. He’s been following our antics for some time now and it is nice that he let us in on some of his fun while in Gander…Welcome Bob…
“Faye, the first and only time I went moose hunting, while in Gander, was to a place I think was called Square Pond. It was a very long trip into this place so we had to stay overnight in a cabin that was built by some guys dad knew at work. We drove down a long dirt road in the old townsite, past a junkyard owned by a Walt Baldwin. Beyond there we had to park the car and walk a very long distance on a logging road that was almost impassable for most vehicles. We eventually arrived at the cabin.
“After a long night of shivering from the cold, we got up, had something to eat, and set out to hunt moose. Dad had one of those 303 Lee Enfields that he bought at the Army surplus for $10. We followed a trail around the pond until we came to a very large clear cut. Right in the middle of this I saw something that appeared to be a very large mushroom. When it stood up we could see it was a cow moose. Dad took a shot and missed. This was a guy that just served with the Canadian Army in WW2, the most feared fighting force on the western front, and he couldn’t hit the side of a barn with his Lee Enfield.
“Luckily, the moose was very patient and gave dad a second chance.
“While we were dressing the prize, the inevitable happened. The bull moose that we had heard calling the cow all night, suddenly jogged out into the clearing. Dad didn’t want to shoot any more moose that day but had his gun ready. There were no trees in the clearing that we could climb. I threw a few sticks at him, and after a lot of eye contact, snorting, and digging in his heels, he decided to cut his losses and look for a new girl friend.
“So here we were, in the middle of nowhere, half way to Hare Bay, with a lot of moose meat. I looked at dad and thought, “OK big guy, what do we do next?” He scratched his head a bit and decided to backtrack to where the logging road reached the pond and borrow a raft that was tied up there. As I waited for his return, I wondered what I would do if the bull came back.
“Dad eventually returned and we loaded the meat and floated the raft over to the road. From there he decided to take the meat out in relays. We would carry half of it about a couple of miles and return for the other half, repeating the process until we reached the car. I was a pretty skinny kid in those days and I can still feel the bone digging into my shoulder and my knees buckling under the weight.
“We were about half way out, I was totally exhausted, and it was getting dark when we heard something coming down the road. It was a couple of hunters in a pickup truck, braving this horrible road in the hopes of seeing a moose before dark.
“For us a miracle just happened. We put our moose in the back of the truck, and after what seemed like a very long bumpy ride we arrived back at our car and eventually home. I often thought that if dad ever asked me to go hunting with him again, I would definitely say no. But he never asked and he never went himself.
- Bob McKinnon, St Joseph’s student, (Gander resident 1951-1961)
You know it's HOT in Newfoundland when...
So that’s it for this time. Next time, lets talk about shows or lessons learned beyond high school, i.e. music, dance, performances. Maybe your first time on stage or brush with stage fright. I understand there was a group known as the Avian Players? Any of you ever perform with them? Or how about learning to play the guitar, drums, or another instrument. Who was your teacher/mentor? Be sure to share your memories by writing to email@example.com