Moosechief

The moose, depending upon which standard you use, is either the largest or second largest known land animal in North America. This aspect of the moose, as well as its general docility, has often spurred me to the northwoods in search of the elusive beast. Those of us with few tracking skills, however, often must be approached by the greater party rather than finding it. My trips to Maine have seldom yielded moose, but in my periodic forays to Idaho the creature sometimes makes an appearance. This past summer I spotted two of them in the west. In their ungainly way they are beautiful animals. Large they may be, but intelligence is not a necessary corollary to size.

Moosing around.

From about the 1840s, up to its formal passing into law in 1919, prohibition ranked high in the list of evangelical Christian concerns. A distinctly Protestant issue—Catholics still recognized that any tipple good enough for Jesus was good enough for them—the outlawing of alcohol was understood to be in keeping with the Gospels. Some groups even suggested that Jesus had been quaffing Welch’s, or the first century equivalent thereof, rather than Mogen David (the shield of David, after all). Latest research seems to indicate that fermentation was known before the Sumerians ever appeared, and we all know what happens when cavemen have too much to drink. Strangely, this became a religious issue along about the time Fundamentalism began to appear. But Fundamentalists considered neither the practices of Jesus nor the moose.

A story in today’s New Jersey Star-Ledger concerns a moose in Sweden. Known for their liberal social values, the inhabitants of Sweden are often presented as champions of free lifestyles. A moose near Gothenburg apparently had trouble steering herself after eating several fermented apples that had fallen from a tree. The inebriated moose lodged herself in a tree fork. The rescue involved bringing a crane to the scene to release the trapped, and slightly disorderly, animal. Such a story makes me wonder if prohibition should not be among the laws of the jungle. After all, the observation of nature often calls the certitude of many religious doctrines into question. If God prohibits alcohol, we might rightly wonder, why are there moose in Sweden sleeping off a hangover?

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