As I tooled through the winding roads of the Adirondack Forest in my 1972 Volkswagen Super Beetle, dusk was fast approaching. I was still a good two hours from my final destination, Canton ATC College near Potsdam, New York. My girlfriend was waiting for me to arrive and we planned a wild and crazy weekend. Not only was I excited by the thought of seeing her but I was proud of showing her my polished new ride. It was my first car and I had spent many hours rebuilding the engine and tuning it to top performance. Every inch of the exterior was refinished and sparkled to perfection. It was in near showroom condition.
The first hour and a half of the drive were uneventful but I soon noticed that the path I had mapped out took me into some very dense forest regions. The roads were narrow, winding and very treacherous. You had to be very conscious of critters darting out in front of you at any moment.
As I took the long left arching turn around the base of a mountain, I couldn’t help but notice the rather steep drop off to the right. This was no time to fall asleep or drive carelessly. Large trucks continuously wound their way up and down the mountain pass; sometimes having little concern of staying in their own lane – so you always had to be cautious of what was coming at you.
Then all of a sudden at the apex of the turn, I saw it. A large huge brown mass came leaping from the tree shadows from over the guard rail. Before I could even react, it came crashing down atop my hood. The weight of this beast stopped the car instantly; making the rear tires lift and smash down hard on the ground. While I regained my senses of what had just happened, the beast timbered off the front of my car. Like a huge rolling pin mashing through the dough, everything in its path was smashed beyond recognition. Where I once had a front end and a hood, it was now removed from sight. I was in a state of shock and the car was dead. My eyes started to dart around in desperation. A dark realization gripped me as I pondered how helplessly alone I was in the middle of nowhere. I shuddered at the thought of having to find my way back to any semblance of civilization.
I was still in my car wrestling with what to do when I noticed far away lights flickering against the tall pine trees ahead of me. As the vehicle came closer, I realized it was a large tractor trailer barreling down the hill toward me. Somehow the driver had the wherewithal to notice the debris ahead of him. He started his downshifting patterns, the torque of which jerked his cabin side to side as he initiated his final braking. As he came to a crawl fifty feet in front of me, I heard the air brake pressure valves release and make that impressively loud, “Puh-cheeeee” sound as he rig came to a halt and his brakes engaged. He sat there for a minute and turned his emergency lights on; which filled the interior of my car with the blinding amber flash of his lights.
The driver jumped out and I saw him walk gingerly past the mass of hairy flesh that was in front of my car. He raised his hand and shouted, “You alright son?” I remember nodding but I knew deep down I wasn’t. I knew my nerves were broken and my muster of confidence was diminished. My car laid in ruin and I knew my girlfriend would be worried. As the driver came to the side of my car, I rolled the window down and poked out my head. “What the heck happened?”, I said.
“Seems you hit a moose!”, the driver said with a bit of concern. “Look at the size of that son of a bitch. That’s a huge rack.” After a quick moment to access the animals fate, he turned his attention back to survey the damage to my car. “Wow! You’re lucky to be alive.”
I tried to open my door but the mangled metal had tweaked the doors off kilter. After delivering a few hard shoves with my shoulder, the door begrudgingly opened with a continued amount of resistance as the metal door bent against the other disjointed foreign pieces of metal that was placed in its path. I didn’t care what I was bending at this point. I just needed to be out of the car and soon I found myself free. Bringing myself erect on the roadway, I could see the massiveness of both the beast and the soul deflating and sobering damage that had befallen my car. In what was mere seconds, the hood was completely destroyed and the wheel fenders had smashed down upon the wheels themselves; which would prevent me from ever turning them.
Even after seeing all this damage, I remember the truck driver came up and patted me on the shoulder and said he could probably get it in a running state if we could just get the fenders off the wheels. Everything else seemed fine! Even the glass remained intact. At this point, all I wanted to do was leave this wretched place and fall into the arms of my girlfriend. His plan was worth a shot. I would deal with the aftermath of putting my car back together again, at a later time.
At some point during my obvious haze, the driver came back with a six foot long steel tire iron of some sort. We proceeded to hack away at the fender bolts and figured out we could easily pop the metal fenders off over the bolts with a little bit of brute force. Soon devoid of the fenders and headlights, we began rigging up a lighting system because the Sun was starting to go down. It’s amazing what two men can do with a little bit of ingenuity, duct tape, and wire. Once satisfied that we had engineered an effective alternative, I meandered back to the driver side and started up the car. Surprisingly enough, it started right up and purred like a cat. I felt a renewed sense of relief that I could finally be on my way and get back to civilization.
I went to the truck driver and thanked him for his assistance. ‘It’s okay son. Glad, I could help you out.”
“What should we do with that?”, as I pointed back at the bloody moose that was blocking my entire lane.
“Nothing we can do. That thing is too damn big to move! I’ll put some reflectors out so people will be warned.” Satisfied with the plan, I went back to my car. I took the parking brake off and let the car slumber backward away from the fallen beast. “Poor fella”, I said to myself. I shoved my gear into first and started to slowly make my way around the animal.
As I glanced back at the truck driver, I noticed something out of my right peripheral vision. Like the rising of the Krakken, I saw the moose’s head begin to peak up from the ground; it’s massive antlers arching into my view toward the sky like the massive hands of a giant. It was alive! I continued my stare as it shook it’s head violently. Like a prize fighter recovering from a pummeling overhand right, it was now clearing the cobwebs from his head. I was in shock.
Shock quickly turned to terror, as the massive beast got back up on its feet. Finding good footing underneath him and becoming aware of his surroundings, the massive moose took notice of the puttering Volkswagen Super Beetle that was crawling slowly past him. He purposely bent his head down to get a better look of the silhouetted figure in the car. Being fixated on him, I watched in horror as he turned his head slightly which exposed the bloodied side of his head. Glaring into the car with his blooded face, his eye darted the interior of my car and with a sinking and numbing feeling grip me, watched as his eye focused and his eye brow drop menacingly. It saw me!
The moose took two large steps in front of the car and blocked my exit. It bent down once again and peered at me again through the passenger side door window. Blood dripped down from its face as it let out a resounding snot-laced grunt which grazed the side of my window. It followed up by wiping it around with his nose. I turned my head and locked eyes with the truck driver, who had now retreated back to the safety of his cab. We had the same expression on our faces. We wondered what would happen next.
All of a sudden, the car jerked violently. Before I could even react or scream, the car was now tumbling over on its driver side. I was pressed against the door and found my face mashed against the window and gasping for air. I could now see the truck driver, this time he was running from his cab with a bat and running out of view but toward the now exposed under-belly of my car. As he ran out of sight and I wondered whether or not he would live. A two hundred pound man against a fourteen hundred pound rabid animal was no fair fight. After several moments of scraping and bumping and shrieking screams, I heard nothing at all except my labored breathing and my heart which was now racing with a full dose of adrenaline. Then out of nowhere, the truck driver was back and tapping at my windshield. “You okay in there buddy? Let’s get you out of there!”
After reclining the front seat and getting my legs cleared of the steering wheel, I found myself capable of reaching up to the now opened passenger side door and scampered out with the assistance of the truck driver. I was completely bewildered and began muttering, “What the hell” but before I could finish my sentence, my now very excited friend began blurting out the play by play of how the moose stuck his huge antler right under my running board and rolled me over like it was a toy. I didn’t have the heart to curb his enthusiasm, considering the fact I was there and lived through it firsthand. He continued his version of events with fervor as to how it gave my underside a whack and a scrape with its antlers and then after seeing his bat, the moose decided to just jump back over the guard rail and run back into the woods.
I sort of had to chuckle at that particular point. “So you’re telling me that after getting hit by a car, waking up, then rolling my car like a Tonka toy, that the moose – was scared of you – because of your bat?” We locked stares and simultaneously started to snort and laugh. “Yea yea yea!” he said with a coy smile, agreeing without outright admission that it wasn’t his finest and smartest moment of bravado. Still, I was thankful nonetheless. I patted his shoulder and muttered through the last gasp of chuckle, “Thanks. I appreciate it!” We walked over to the guardrail and searched for any sign of the monster. It was gone; vanished into the woods as if it was not ever there. There was no noises or sounds other than the bristling tweets of birds in the far distant trees.
After a moment of reflection and realizing we probably both needed that laugh, the driver lightly grabbed the back of my neck with his large hand and shook my body playfully, “Alright buddy. I’m pretty sure he is half way to Vermont by now. Let’s see what we can do with that car of yours.”
Luckily, my car was resting against a small angled edge and with some doing, we were able to right the car back on four wheels. My driver side vent window was busted now and I had some additional body damage, but it was still in running condition. We chuckled a few more times about the whole experience and knew that our better halves would be quite enthralled with our story. Once back on all four tires, I turned the key with reservation, thinking this time I would be met with a catastrophic result. Once again, the engine turned over without fail and began purring like a kitten. We said our goodbye’s and I half happily started to readjust my seat and put my car into gear but waited with baited breath on my buddy.
I watched as my friend climbed up into his cab. He threw that bat into the back and after belting himself in on that bouncy air-shocked seat, cranked his huge behemoth diesel engine over. Three or four seconds, that engine roared to life. Black smoke billowed from the large stacks as he pressed the accelerator several times to clear the engine’s lungs. Placing it into gear, the truck lurched and strained to move the fifty-three foot trailer behind him. With every gear change, the cab would torque to the side as his truck began the strain of moving forward foot by foot. As he passed me he waved as his trucks raw power surged his ascent down the road at an increasing speed. With one final blast of his air horn, he disappeared around the corner. It was at that point I realized that I had never got the driver’s name.
I let out my clutch and I started my journey down the road. With my haphazardly configured headlights bouncing and flickering in front of me, I meandered in a gimped fashion down the road toward my girlfriend’s college campus. Before I got there I called her from the first payphone I could find when I got into town. She was a very miffed that I was so late because we had plans to go downtown that evening with her friends. Instead of telling her outright what had happened, I decided to just say, “I have a good reason for being late. Trust me.” She muttered back, “Well… It better be a good one, mister.”
I wish I had the hindsight to have a camera prepared as she came out to greet me. A snapshot of her twisted and surprised expression of seeing the carnage that had befallen upon me and my car, would have framed the perfect Kodak moment.