While interviewing my brother, Alan Pacholok, months ago about funny things he's experienced on the farm – so I could include those stories in the new book Fun On The Farm 3 – Alan told me about an encounter he had with a moose. I wrote the story and then decided it didn't quite fit for the Fun on the Farm book series. It seemed like the perfect story for a blog post. Enjoy!
|Two of my younger siblings, Alan and Leanne Pacholok (far left and far right),|
|laugh at the antics of some cousins during a Pacholok family reunion, 2015|
The farm I grew up on is in a forested region of central Alberta on land that required my ancestors – and me as a kid – to clear away trees to create usable farmland. Wild animals, especially moose, are common there.
My brother, Alan Pacholok, owns and operates that farm now and he has been known on many occasions to improvise in the maintenance and repair of farm equipment and buildings. For decades, my sisters and I have teased him that he’s a “duct tape and binder twine” kind of repairman.
This use of ingenuity and adaptability is common among farmers, who have limited time in which to get their crops or cattle production accomplished due to weather, finances, and distance from other resources. So farmers sometimes have to make due with what is in the garage, barn, or vehicle just to get the job done. It’s a skill every working farm kid learns early on.
One sunny Saturday afternoon in the late 1990s, my brother was returning from a road trip he took to a farm near a neighbouring town, where he had gone to do some prep work on a granary he’d purchased. As Alan drove back towards our town, he saw a young moose stuck in a barbed wire fence that was beside the highway.
Vehicles were passing by this scene and my brother did too, but only for a split second before he turned his half-ton around, drove into the ditch, and got out of his truck to peruse the situation.
This wasn’t the first time Alan had seen such a predicament. He’d rescued a couple other moose from a similar fate before.
When moose try to jump a barbed wire fence, Alan told me, their front feet go over the top wire, but sometimes their back feet catch on the top wire, pushing it forward so their feet go down in front of the second wire of a four-wire fence. That second wire moves up with the force and acts as a lasso with the top wire, trapping the animal in place.
This particular moose was trying frantically to move ahead and was pulling on the wires, which were not budging. Alan knew that without help, this animal would perish.
Unlike our dad, who enjoyed hunting in almost every year that he could, my brother was never interested in this form of wild game. But this poor moose didn’t know that.
As Alan approached the frightened creature, he saw the fear in the animal’s eyes. And those eyes only got bigger when Alan started up the only utensil he could find in his truck – a power saw.
“The only tool we really had in the truck back then was a tire wrench,” Alan said. “We never took tools in the truck and I didn’t need them that day anyway. I had to take a couple two by sixes to Boyle to brace up a granary I bought and look at how to haul it home. I just had a power saw to cut the boards. To get this moose out of the fence, all I needed was a pair of pliers to cut the wires or two rocks, but I couldn’t find those anyway. The power saw was all I had,” Alan said with a grin.
“No nails, no wrenches, just one moose caught in the top two wires of this fence,” which, coincidentally, happened to be on the property of one of our uncles – but that’s rural Canada for you.
So, my brother grabbed his power saw and walked toward the hung-up animal. Alan could see that the moose had been fighting to get free for awhile before he arrived. The wires had rubbed some hair off its hind ankles, but there weren’t any cuts on the animal’s legs, which was comforting for both Alan and the moose.
By now, they had an audience. Several vehicles had stopped on the highway and people were standing on the roadside, waiting to see what this man in the pickup truck was planning to do with this 600-pound handy bundle of Grade A moose meat.
With his power saw in hand, Alan stood as far away as possible from the trapped moose – which was only about two feet given the 10-foot distance between fence posts and the mid-sized moose in the centre. Alan tried to start his power saw. It made a quick, loud broooomm noise, and then stopped.
The noise startled the moose. It squirmed faster and tried harder to get away – with no success. It looked at Alan from the corner of its bulging eyes.
Alan tried to start the power saw again – with no success.
Several times, Alan tried to start the saw. Each time, the noise frightened the animal even more and its shaking intensified.
The moose kept turning its head toward the offending – but possibly helping? – human at its side, no doubt wondering what would happen next.
Finally, Alan got the saw going and began to cut the first wire. Sparks were flying everywhere, adding further to the moose’s fear and the spectacle for the onlookers.
There were about a dozen vehicles stopped on the side of the highway by this time. There was no mass use of cellphones or YouTube videos in those days, just human eyeballs watching a man with a moose and a power saw.
After Alan cut through the first wire, it did not free the moose, so Alan started sawing the second wire. The moose was still desperately trying to get away.
Now there were about 20 vehicles on the side of the highway, watching this commotion.
Alan finally got the second wire cut and the moose was loose.
It walked away slowly, with a slight limp. “It kind of looked back to thank me and was probably wondering if I was nuts, getting that close to it… I had to do it because it was suffering,” Alan added. But yes, there are those of us who would say Alan is a little crazy.
As the moose stopped shaking and regained some energy, it slowly trotted further and then ran across the field. The bystanders drove away and Alan put his power saw back in his truck and drove away as well, thinking about the moose and the look in its eyes.
“As I was cutting those wires, the poor thing was shaking. Later, I realized that probably everybody watching was laughing, thinking, ‘What is he doing with the power saw?’ ... That poor moose didn’t think it was funny.”
No, my brother will never forget that moose. “I think he smiled at me. He was probably thinking, ‘Thanks for not turning me into a sandwich.’”