Dirt and gravel sprayed up behind my Chevy Blazer as I jammed on the brakes, locked the wheels, and skidded to a stop. I threw GW (Great White, as in shark, not hope) into reverse and gunned the engine, swerving to a stop in the middle of the road.
Then I rubbed my eyes and shook my head, having a hard time believing what I was seeing. The yellow, diamond-shaped warning sign contained a picture of a moose.
I knew what it meant: Be careful. Moose cross the road here. Hitting one of those big guys or gals (6-7 feet at the shoulder, 850-1580 pounds) could trash your car–and you–so watch out.
Now, this is a sign people might see a lot–if they lived in Canada, Alaska, some Northeast states in the U.S., and parts of the Northwest. It is not one I generally associate with the high-desert basin-and-range land of the Sulphur Springs Valley, Cochise County, Arizona, a dozen miles from the Mexican border.
Cow crossing signs? We’ve got plenty of them. Deer crossing signs? There should be more. Javelina crossing signs? We ought to have ’em. But moose?
I got out of the truck with my camera, but before I clicked the shutter, I looked around the grassland and the swath of mesquite greening up along a nearby wash to see if there were, in fact, any moose. My imagination was already shifting into high gear. Maybe someone retired here from Maine or Michigan or Montana and brought their favorite herbivores.
Unlikely but not impossible. There’s a wildlife preserve in Texas where hunters can bag African big game. If things can get that nutty, there could be moose in southeastern Arizona.
When I got home, I even ran an Internet search to see if there was fossil evidence of moose in the megafauna era of the last ice age. Apparently not here, though in the upper Midwest and East there was an impressively large Pleistocene stag-moose.
So what’s the moose sign about? It’s still a mystery to me, though I’m planning to take down the pertinent information, go to the County Assessor’s Office, find out who owns the land, and contact them, just to satisfy my curiosity. Maybe someone brought the sign back from a northern trip and just wanted to blow the minds of local ranchers and retirees. It sure worked on me.
Beyond the pleasure of telling this tale, is there a point? Surprisingly, yes. Mysteries are great things for writers to encounter. This one jolted me out of my ho-hum commute down Davis Road, which is one of the “freeways” my husband and I drive from our isolated home to the local towns Douglas and Bisbee.
It got my imagination revved up. And who knows, maybe there’s a story in the episode. If the truth turns out to be boring, perhaps I’ll write something much more interesting.