Moose was an old timer from Fairbanks and was a good friend of my Grandmother, Iris Bayless. I have looked and can’t find any pictures of him (maybe someone who knew him will read this and post one). Moose would come to Anchorage from time to time and visit my grandmother, mostly around Thanksgiving.
He was a big man with booming voice and a huge personality to match. He looked like he came out of a Robert Service poem and should be playing bass for ZZ Top, or piano in the malamute saloon. He would love to sit around and tell us kids stories about Alaska back in the day. He had to be 6-6 and he was the kind of storyteller who used his whole body to tell a story. He’d wave his arms, pacing back and forth like a caged wolf looking for a way out, with fiery eyes and always that long beard moving back and forth. Well, needless to say, we kids loved Moose and looked forward to his visits and stories.
On his 80th birthday he made a bet with a no doubt equally drunk friend that he could swim the Tanana River. Well… he could not. Moose died that day, and his death was about the most fitting poetic death for one of them old timers. A man like that needed to be spared the wires and machines of a hospital emergency room. He went out of this life as big as he lived it.
His daughter came up from Montana to take him back with her. That’s were they chucked him in the clay.
Moose was not 80 years old when he died he was 70. He told everyone he was 10 years older then he really was. I remember him standing in my grandmother’s living room, eyes all ablaze with some story he was telling us (OMG he loved an audience), and he would beat on his chest with his open hand and say: “Look at me! I’m almost 80 years old and look what kind of health I’m in. Fresh air, good food and the clean Alaska countryside. That’s all you need. Just look at me!”
Although we loved Moose, he was more than a little bit scary. Everything about him was so big and over exaggerated that as a little kid I often found myself intimidated. He was kind of like Binky at the zoo. A Majestic animal that if you weren’t too careful you may find yourself hiding in a corner, with him pacing around the living room with your shoe in his mouth.
One of the best parts of living in Alaska is hearing the stories from the locals who grew up here. Have one to tell? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be featured in a future edition of Alaska Nuggets.