Tales From Montana ~ 6-4-00


Am I in a Hitchcock movie? For the last week, the robins who are usually so calm and look so cute hopping around in the yard have been trying to fly through my living room window. The first morning it happened, one little guy spent three hours flapping up to my front window and then sitting on the porch railing. He didn’t stop until I put out my fake owl (with the rotating head – it’s more lifelike). Then he moved around to the back door and I’ve had to put another owl out back. Either he’s attacking his own reflection, or he thinks this house is totally hip and he wants to hang out inside. He doesn’t know about Boots the Bat Killer, apparently.


It’s a brand of Montana-brewed beer, and it’s also the sad fate of my newly planted Golden Chain Tree, which was gummed by a moose early this morning. Mr. Moose showed up last night on the back five while I was walking the dogs. Luckily, Charlie was on a leash and although Cowboy Joe was free he didn’t challenge the moose too much. I looked up, and there he was, about forty feet away and walking towards me. I got a little worried because a moose will charge you if he’s in the mood, and I’m not up on moose body language so I couldn’t tell if he was in the mood. I got the dogs herded back to the house (including Tazz, who I’m dogsitting, a deaf boxer who isn’t easy to herd since he can’t hear – Jenn, he looked like he wanted to chase the moose!), grabbed my camera and got some shots of the big boy. He’s a teenager with 8-inch, fuzzy antler-ettes. He got tired of posing and hoicked himself off toward the mountains.

He came back an hour later when my friend Marlene was here for coffee, so we went outside to check him out. He trotted into the front yard right in front of the house and Marlene thinks he was going to bed down for the night, but Charlie spotted him and started barking, and he ran back across the driveway to my neighbors backyard and plopped himself down over there. When I let the dogs out this morning, Joe ran to the front of the house and immediately started barking. I went out to investigate and here’s Mr. Moose ambling up the driveway toward the house. I snapped a few more pictures of him and Joe barked some more, then Mr. Moose decided he was hungry and went over to munch on my poor little tree. He rubbed the side of his head against it, lifted a front leg and rubbed his nose in his armpit (don’t ask me why, maybe Marlin Perkins would know) and then started to chew on the trunk.

Well, nature-lover or not, I didn’t want him to destroy my tree, so I tried to shoo him off, which is not effective when he’s six feet tall at the shoulder and I’m barefoot and in my pajamas. Technology won out, however, because I jumped in the car and drove it past him and he spooked. He gave up on the tree but started to eye my newly planted garden, so I backed the car up and he took off behind the barn and into the backyard. I haven’t seen him since, but people tell me that a moose will get on a visitation schedule, especially if there are good munchies around. I fear for my tree. :-)


As if fighting the racetrack wasn’t enough, I’m now involved in a water rights dispute with the Wicked Witch of the West. Our wealthy rancher neighbor-lady has for years been diverting water from Kootenai Creek that’s supposed to flow to 5 properties on my side of the street. Apparently she’s old and cranky and likes to sue people. So, we’re fighting her in Water Court to get access to the water again. People apparently get into extended blood feuds over water rights in Montana. I don’t think I’ll go that far, but I am learning all kinds of things about headgates, flow rates, pipeline systems, ditchriders and other stuff I’ve never heard of. If all goes well, which it will, we’ll have a ditch or a pipeline on the front of the property that we can use to irrigate the pasture. That spells a watery end for the obnoxious knapweed, which won’t grow if it’s watered a lot (another of nature’s mysteries!). If I could just get the moose to eat the knapweed….hmm….


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