| If you're expecting guests 'from away' this summer, I hope you know all the dos and donts of entertaining house guests. Back when he was putting up folks from away at his fine old sea captain's house, my grandfather believed that guests should be entertained while at the same time doing some useful tasks - like helping weed the large garden he always had out back and harvesting some fresh vegetables for the noon and evening meals. Then maybe he'd have his guests help dig a mess of clams and help make a nice chowder. If they liked to fish he'd show them how to dig blood worms and the extra ones left over he'd take to the worm dealer in town and sell them to help defray his entertainment costs. Yes, Grandfather was a frugal one.
Grandfather would explain that such rigorous activity from his visitors was not only helpful for the running of his household, but the hard work his guests did - from sun-up to sun-down - was healthy for them. It gave them some well-needed exercise and made them so tired at day's end they never had trouble sleeping at night, using retiring before eight. He also admitted that the work made it a lot easier for his guests to pack up and leave his place when their visit was finally over.
But at the end of each day - after all the the fresh vegetables had been harvested and clams and worms dug and sold and firewood had been split and stacked and the supper dishes had all been washed, dried and put away - his weary gusts would gather in the front parlor for some stories. Often, my grandfather would tell about going to sea as a cabin boy on a ship out of Searsport when he was only fourteen. Then, he would throw the assembly open to anyone who wanted to tell a story.
It was on one of these occasions that I first told my first moose story. Grandfather used to say that all Mainers should have a few good stories polished and ready to go for tourists or house guests who expected them. He said you should have at least one good fish story and one good moose story for these occasions.
My first moose story actually happened the summer I turned 16 and got my first real job, working in the kitchen at a nearby kid's camp. My schedule called for me to arrive in the kitchen as breakfast was winding down. I'd wash breakfast dishes, do prep for lunch, do the lunch dishes then have a few hours off before coming back to help with supper.
On one beautiful warm, sunny August afternoon (remember warm, sunny days?) as I was walking out our long dirt driveway, I looked up and saw a large bull moose, with full rack, thundering toward me at full speed.
Immediately sizing up the situation I said to myself: This is not good! - or words to that or words to that effect. I agreed it was nice to see such a magnificent animal at close range but I took issue with where this fourteen-hundred pound animal was headed - which was right at ME!
As I turned to find a suitable tree to climb, the moose veered off the driveway and galloped up on the lawn of our British neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Street, who were (I swear) having tea and biscuits (cookies) on their front porch. Frightened, the Streets dropped everything and ran into their house as the moose galloped across their lawn toward their back field and the main road beyond, creating quite a stir among all who saw him.
I found out later that the moose had been enjoying a quiet afternoon on a secluded island and decided to swim back to the mainland, coming ashore in a field down below us, where he encountered dogs who began chasing him. He galloped up the peninsula causing lots of excitement as he went.
Fortunately, there were no injuries, although they say the Streets were never the same after the experience. I recovered immediately and have been telling this story ever since.
That's my moose story, and I'm sticking to it.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.