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The Old Scout
Moose on the Loose in Palin Country
September 16, 2008

I saw two moose on a bike trail in Anchorage last week and did not kill either one of them, neither the cow nor her calf, though under the Bush Doctrine I certainly had a right to, since the cow could have charged and pinned me to a tree and danced me to death. Should a man wait for the beast to attack and then have to make a difficult over-the-shoulder shot while running hard and loading his pants? Should he not simply level his Munchhausen-Weltschnauzer 480 and blow her brains out then and there, call in support and hold the perimeter? While I pondered whether to stay the course or cut and run, the mother and child lumbered into the woods. And anyway, like so many Democrats these days, I was out in public without a rifle in hand. So there you are.

Fall was in the air, the woods had turned golden and the tourist business was winding down, a few last busloads of retirees trundling over for a look at Mount Denali. In Wasilla, north of the Knik River, I saw no tour buses. The town is a series of strip malls and unless you're unfamiliar with tacos or fries, it doesn't offer much to the outsider. In a little compound near the library, they have preserved a pioneer home of 1936, but we have many 1936-era homes in Minnesota, as well as people born in that year and even before. As for the former mayor of Wasilla, you find a variety of opinions about her there, not many of which jibe with the Clean Government Gal you're seeing now, but you've heard all this before. (Michael Kinsley rang her bell in Time last week; if you're interested, look it up.)

What was exciting in Wasilla was a call from my Merrill Lynch broker assuring me that everything was OK and not to worry, which, like the Current Occupant's use of the term "short-term adjustment," gave me the jitters. Of course a Democrat like myself tends to suspect that lax regulation has enabled demented bankers to play fast and loose with the workers' retirement funds and escape from the crash with handsome rewards, but I never floated a bond issue for a hockey arena and financed it with a big hike in the sales tax, so what do I know about economics?

I am a liberal. I once stood drinking coffee in the stern of a fishing boat on an icy fjord out of Juneau, mists on the water, snowy peaks beyond, and the enormous black bulk of a whale rose up from the deep and glided silently alongside, which like a true liberal I stood staring at until it disappeared into the deep though it posed a clear danger to our boat. Rudy Giuliani would've dove in with a harpoon between his big incisors and driven it deep into the leviathan's viscera. I did not. There is the difference between us.

Another time I rode a snowmobile up the Iditarod Trail, and on my way back to the cabin, I cut across a frozen lake and hit thin ice and there was a splash and the rear of the machine sank a couple feet and I gunned the engine and wallowed my way out — and the next morning, as the ski-plane took off from the lake, the pilot pointed at the dark patch where I had not drowned and said, "Watering hole. The moose keep that open all winter." So they are out there, looking for us. Need I point out that there are no moose on the South Side of Chicago? The skinny guy has never shot a moose and cleaned and butchered it and humped it out on his back. She has.

I love Alaska and think about going there for a couple months and escaping from this election. Find a cabin at the end of a long gravel road, haul in some books, salt and pepper, a sharp knife for field-dressing moose, and a Taser in case people rush the cabin and try to force me to watch the debates and hear Senator McCain, an old deregulator, say he plans to "look into" the financial markets. The president of Merrill Lynch raised a half-million for McCain before the company was sold last week for half its assumed value. But why do I bring this up? Why? You've heard all this before. So have I. I'm lighting out for the territories.

© 2008 by Garrison Keillor. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, INC.



From the Desk of Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor
Photo by Cheryl Walsh Bellville


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