Fiction Meets Reality

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I spent the previous week at Wild West Women’s Week at Mountain Sky Ranch in Montana. This was the second annual WWWW for me (and my third time at the ranch), and it was amazing and tons of fun, as usual. Since the food is incredible, I would go for a three-mile run on the Forest Service road next to the ranch every morning, in order to ensure a day of guilt-free eating. I actually don’t mind the jog, since the ranch sits at around 5,000 ft, about half of the elevation I’m used to at home. That means that there’s a crazy amount of oxygen in the air, so I feel like I can run very fast (in reality, I’m not running that fast).

Just after sunrise on my first morning at the ranch, I set off on the gravel road, talking to myself, singing off-key and clutching my bear spray. A whitetail deer nearly gives me a heart attack.

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Once I’ve recovered from the scary deer, I run the mile and a half to my turn-around spot. I’d just started back toward the ranch when I saw something standing in the road about a hundred feet in front of me. My mental conversation with myself went something like this:

Me: What is that?
Me: It looks like a horse. Did one of the ranch horses get out?
Me: Don’t be an idiot. It’s not a horse. It’s a moose.
Me: A moose!!!
Me: Calm down. Back away slowly. Put some obstacles between us. Trees will work.

I did not take this picture. I was not thinking about taking pictures of the moose. I was thinking about getting away from the moose.

I did not take this picture. I was not thinking about taking pictures of the moose. I was thinking about getting away from the moose.

A few months ago, while writing Book 3 in the Search and Rescue Series, I included a moose encounter. Why a moose, rather than a bear or mountain lion or something scarier, you ask? Because, in all honesty, nothing freaks me out like a moose does (maybe–maybe–a badger in a bad mood, but that’s it). Moose are huge, weird-looking and unpredictable, and I’m just waiting for the horror movie featuring rabid attack moose. I won’t go see it. You can’t make me.

Anyway, I did a bunch of research on moose before I wrote that scene, and I learned all sorts of interesting moose facts (if you see a moose is licking its lips, 1)it’s feeling a bit rage-y and 2)you’re standing too close). With that information in mind, I watched (from behind a big tree) the young moose walk off the road to the right and disappear into the trees. Keeping my eyes on the spot where the moose disappeared, I crept down the road a few feet, planning on taking a detour to the left in order to make a wide circle around the place where the moose had been standing (and could very well still be lurking).

There was a grunt to my right. Really, really close to me. Not even fifteen feet away was a huge moose cow. The only thought that darted through my head was, “Here’s mama moose,” before I was gone. I’d reached the top of a steep wooded rise before I’d even realized that I’d run. I wouldn’t have been surprised if a cartoon-like puff of dust remained where I’d been.

Mama Moose did not follow, thankfully, but I still ran really fast back to the ranch. Really, really fast.