Friday, April 25, 2008

Rocky and Bullwinkle

Wednesday evening, I recorded the newest Mythbusters for later viewing and found the time to watch it last night. The show was interesting, in that they were tackling Alaskan Myths.

I lived in Alaska twice for two years and loved every moment of the time I spent there. I spent most of my time in the Anchorage area, but I did work for short periods of time in other areas. As I said, I loved the state. Alaska is definitely the land of extremes and amazement.

In the Mythbusters show, one of the myths they were tackling was whether or not you could lessen damage to your car if you speed up when hitting a moose in the middle of the road is the only recourse a driver has. They sort of proved it wrong, and I sort of knew they would. Moose legs are really long and most cars would go under the moose bringing it right into the windshield. As they were discussing their experiment, I thought back to one of my first moose encounters in Alaska.

It happened shortly after I arrived at Elmendorf AFB. I was tasked with driving an F-6S fuel truck containing low grade aviation fuel to Six Mile Lake. Once there, I was to refuel several Civil Air Patrol de Havilland Beavers. The lake was called Six Mile Lake for a reason...it was six miles from main base area along a dirt road cut through some of the thick on-base Alaskan wilderness.

I went out to my truck, inspected it, climbed in, did my radio check and drove off. The trip was uneventful for the first couple of miles and I was enjoying the scenery around me as I drove along. Most of the other workers in my job didn't like the Six Mile Lake run as it was long and dirty (dirt road, remember?), but it gave me the chance to get out and about and see things I wouldn't normally see. As I neared the midway point on the outbound run, I came across a sweeping right turn with woods on the left and an open prairie on the right. I also noticed a moose just entering the open field. The moose was on a fast run away from something, or wanting to go somewhere mighty fast.

As I watched the moose heading towards the road, I realized there was a very good chance that if both of us remained at the same speed we were going, that a collision would occur. Not wanting to damage government equipment, I decided I would slow down and let the moose cross in front of me. But as I began doing that, the moose also slowed and the collision again seemed likely. I decided the moose was slowing to eat or something and again applied pressure to the gas peddle and sped up. By this time, I was halfway through the turn, the moose was off to my right requiring me to lean forward a little and turn my head far to the right to see it and I needed to concentrate on navigating a washboard section of the turn.

I hadn't gone fifty feet, when BAMM! and the several ton fuel truck I was driving, began rocking. I knew what had happened and slammed on the breaks and came to a stop at the apex of the turn I was making. I immediately leaned forward and to the right and looked out the passenger side window of the cab. There, 20 feet away, I saw the moose. It was heading back into the woods from the direction it came, but it wasn't running. It was walking...slowly walking...and staggering. It's head was down and swaying from side-to-side as it walked. I got out of my truck and walked around to the passenger side, keeping an eye on the large creature heading away from me.

I wasn't much more than 40 feet from it, but it was ignoring me and my truck. I watched it for a moment and then looked at the side of the truck. There in the passenger's door, was a large dent. It wasn't there when I checked the truck out prior to departure...and my stomached cringed. How would I explain this to my boss? I looked closer at the dent and realized there were moose hairs around it. That would help, I thought. I went back around to the driver's side, reached in for my radio and keyed the mike.

"Fuels 4 to Control," I said.

"Go ahead four," came the reply from the dispatcher.

"A moose has hit my truck and damaged the door."

There was a long delay and then a new voice came on the net.

"Say again, four?" said my boss.

I repeated what I said and after a few seconds, came my boss' voice again.

"Where did you hit the moose?"

"I didn't...it hit me."

"Is the truck operable?"

"Yes."

"Finish the mission and bring the truck back to dispatch when finished."

After acknowledging the order, I glanced back at the moose who was now reentering the woods from where it came, started the truck and drove off. I finished my job and made my way back to the dispatch office. When I arrived there, everyone came out to see for themselves just what happened. I showed my supervisor the dent the moose made. While looking it over, they had also found moose hairs in the area of the dent and shook their heads in amazement. After I explained to them in more detail what had happened, we all retired to the office area where I got a cup of coffee.

As I stood at the bar sipping the hot liquid, my section chief, or boss, walked over and said, "Jones was able to pop the dent out with little effort. There was also a little damage to the pump section of the truck. You think it just didn't like yellow trucks?"

"Either that," I said, "or it was blind or just plain stupid."

That wasn't the last encounter I had with Alaskan wildlife. Stay tuned for more moose stories from The Last Frontier.

1 comment:

Tammy said...

Good thing it was a big truck or else you both could have been killed, you and the moose. Cool story!