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I have a lifelong affliction which – in my line of work – is rather embarrassing. I have never seen a moose.*

I’m fortunate enough to live in one of the most blessed spots on earth, scenically: the Black Hills of South Dakota. We have just about every kind of wild critter you could hope for and then some – we are home to one of the largest publicly owned buffalo herds in the country, and dozens of private herds. But moose? No. I’m told that moose need a swampy, marsh-like environment, and God knows we don’t have anything like that here in western South Dakota. In fact, there never were any moose here. But no matter. I travel plenty, and have had many opportunities to see them. But, no!

This has been going on for a very long time. I’ve been in the travel business for 34 years, and wasn’t exactly a stranger to the road before that. Yet, I can’t sight a moose for the love of me.

My ex-husband once sent me a picture postcard from the road, with a moose and the inscription: “This is a moose. It is a common wild mammal in the western United States. Have seen several on this trip!”

Ya gotta love him!

As far as I’m concerned the moose and the unicorn belong in the same category – both mythical.

My groups have naturally come to know this failing as we travel through the scenic west, and often try to help me out. Once when we were enjoying lunch at Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park, two or three breathless passengers came rushing into the dining room declaring that I HAD to come outside RIGHT NOW, because there was a moose on the grounds and I couldn’t miss it! I abandoned my repast and followed them out to where they swore there had been a moose only seconds before, but – you guessed it – there was nothing there but scenery. Foiled again.

Bus drivers often helpfully point out moose in the brush by the side of the road. Several passengers will chime in that yes, they see him. But I’m convinced they’re just pulling my leg.

Once when driving through the lush fall foliage of western Colorado someone in the back piped up that he had seen yet another moose – over yonder. We dragged out the binoculars. “Look” he said, just left of that rock jutting out. Two o’clock!”

Nope.

“Oh, he just moved! Now he’s heading downhill toward the creek. Don’t you see him??” No, of course I didn’t see him. There is no such thing as a moose.

*This post was written before my most recent tour to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, where – miracle of miracles – two young moose by the side of the road detained us for a full half-hour. The historian in me objects to posting this online in light of these recent developments. However, it would be a shame to pass up a good story and besides, it was all true – right up until the last paragraph!

 

Shebby Lee is a historian, writer and tour operator specializing in the historic and cultural heritage of the Great American West. Her early training was in the theatre and she served a tour of duty as an entertainer with the USO. She is also an Admiral in the Nebraska Navy.