Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Our Collision With A Bull Moose While Driving Bill, Our VW Beetle Convertible

Due to errands and too much time on the road throughout Tuesday, we set out toward our final walk of the day around 4:00 pm. Since we no longer walk in Jackson for privacy reasons, we drive to the places we stroll. It had been a stormy day, and the dark clouds were still brooding. Sunset was coming at 4:30 and light was not at its best.  

We were nearing Story Land when I noticed a car pulled off on the right side of the road just ahead of us. It wasn’t a smart place to park; no hazard lights were flashing, no turn signal. Someone was behind the steering wheel.  Not knowing what they were doing, or about to do, I gave a wide berth and pulled around it so that I was across the middle of the road. Keeping my eye on the car as we passed, I turned my attention back to the road.

That’s when the bull moose appeared directly in front of us, his head looming enormously, his antlers fully mature and magnificent. Time stopped. Or at least it slowed. 

Don’t ask me why paperwork paralyzes me but life-threatening circumstances don’t faze me. Split seconds appear to stretch into minutes. I cannot always tell you what I’m doing when faced with danger, but at the moment I envision all sorts of things. Conversations take place in my head. Observations are noted.

We were so close, and the bull moose was right above and in front of our windshield that I felt drawn into his eye.



Did I smile? I think I did. 



“Is this how I die? I this how we die? Would Samwise and Emily be better off going with me? Or surviving to live with the people I’ve appointed as their guardians?”



I don’t remember any noise. The radio was on, but the music was not something I paid attention to. 



Now here we were, if it was possible, even closer to the moose; Bill, our little VW Beetle convertible moving at 45 mph.



How stately the moose looked. His massive presence, his long stork legs, the reach of the rack on his head. Majestic. 



I swerved quickly to the right, aware that we did not have much room before we’d hit the trees. It was too late. 

I remember the impact, but not the sound. Perhaps there was not enough room in my thoughts for noise. My head was a busy place. And yet seemingly, eerily calm. 

What I saw was how his body was crumpling toward our windshield, those antlers nearly touching the glass, his eye…



His eye. 



We were looking at each other.



And then his body ricocheted off Bill. And we were still moving.

His shoulder lowered and hit the ground. Then his head bounced on the pavement. That’s when both antlers popped off and bounced behind us. 

The next thing I knew, I was standing outside of Bill and walking to him. He was flat on the road. His enormous antlers ended up about thirty yards behind us. 

He struggled to right his head. Our eyes were married again. My heart was breaking. Shattered and sad for this grand fellow. 



“I’m sorry. So sorry. I didn’t see you.” I could taste my sadness as I spoke them. 



Our eyes were connected. I’ll remember that communion for all my years and into another lifetime if such a thing happens. It’s not unlike the night we slept by the glass door with Aragorn on the other side. Him on our little deck, Samwise and me on the floor. Bear and man's heads separated by the glass, our eyes just a couple of inches away. 

Communion. 



His eyes seemed to be the only thing the moose could move. We were mere feet from each other. 

He grunted. I heard that. Sound was coming back to me now. 

He reached those almost mechanical front legs out. 



“Are they broken?” I asked.



He looked at me again before testing them.



He rocked his body. Once. Twice. Slowly he climbed to his feet. He dropped his head to look at his legs. Then raised it again and looked back at me. 



“I’m sorry,” I repeated. 



He was walking, back the way he came. No limp. Just that impossible long gait all moose have that looks both fragile and powerful at once. 



It was only then that I noticed Emily was standing beside me, watching this enormous soul walking away on his stilts. I picked her up. 

“How did you get out here?”



I opened the door and put her back inside. 

That’s when I finally moved to the front of Bill. 

All that time I hadn’t thought about it. 



There’s a small reflector on the front left corner, behind the bumper. It’s about four inches by one inch. It was half in and half out like the door to a secret passageway swung open. With the heel of my hand, I popped it back in place. 



The woman who had been parked in the car was now standing beside me where Emily had been. She too looked at the front of Bill, both of us leaning around to look and see the damage. 



There was none. 

Not a scratch. Other than the reflector, there was no sign of impact. 



A white pick-up truck was coming from the other direction, and he’d seen everything. When he passed us, he quickly pulled a U-turn and pulled behind the woman’s car. I thought, “There’s something that restores my faith in human kindness. He’s pulled over to check on us.”



He hurried toward us. I waved. Called out, “Thank you but we’re amazingly fine. Not even a scratch on the car!”



He looked at me like I was a fool, before quickly picking up the antlers and racing back to his truck, and tossing them into the bed. He moved like a man who’d stolen a wallet. 



He peeled out. Seriously. A grown man. Human nature, indeed. 



The woman was a quiet sort. I could tell. And yet she looked after the white truck driving off hastily. 

“Asshole.”  That was it.

She started walking back to her car, stopped and said, “I don’t know why there’s nothing wrong with your car. Why you’re all still alive. Even the moose.”



She drove off, leaving me standing with Bill. 



We drove up the hill in the direction the moose went. The windows were down, and Emily and Samwise were scouting for him with me. We never found him. 



We drove to the woods and walked, and I thought of how those antlers popped off the great bull moose’s head. I felt terrible about that, even though they would have fallen in the forest over the next month or two.



It wasn’t until the following day I began to absorb everything. I wrote to a friend, “One inch. A split second. The tiniest difference. Things would have been disastrous.” 



It’s taken me some time to put down my thoughts, and I will tell you now what stays with me and always will. His eye. Calm and large looking into my eyes, before the impact, then when he was on the ground, and finally while standing. 





55 comments:

Sgagnet said...

Wow Tom...that is amazing

Wendy Willis said...

Wow. What a remarkable experience you all had. It is being added to my gratitude list this year. Feeling extraordinary love and marveling at how beautiful life can be.

Mickey said...

Awe. Held my breath for all four of you.

Sandy Z. said...

Amazing story! Glad all 4 of you -and Bill - are fine! A once in a lifetime experience...

Unknown said...

Oh my goodness. I'm glad you, Emily and Samwise are fine and yes even Bill. WOW

kathy rhode said...

That is a holy WOW!!! Amazing! I’m grateful no human or animal was hurt, stunned maybe but otherwise ok.

Cam01 said...

So glad you guys are safe and ok.

Unknown said...

Amazingly scary and magical! So happy all of you came through okay. What a story! Thank you for sharing. Could have been a totally different story!😊

gebbyfish said...

I so want to see a moose, but not that way. I am so glad that all of you, including the moose, walked away from that one. Great telling of the story!

Janine said...

What a horrifying and amazing connection all at the same time. So thankful the three of you were not harmed and Bill escaped as well!

Job4rox@gmsil.com said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dandlmoney said...

My heart is thankful for all of you.

Dusti Rhoades said...

Pleased to know you, Sam, Em, and Bill(!!!) are ok.
Connection like that is so impactful, and not in a physical way... More of a mystical one! That Moose won't forget you, either! Be well, and amazed, as we are, reading about your encounter. 💕


Robin W. said...

Amazing! I've also had a moose collision, but we didn't fare so well... Glad to hear you all made it through safely, minus a couple antlers.

Putman Lake Designs said...

I've been waiting for you to post this. As more time went by I began to worry that maybe that were some residual effects of the encounter.
What a truly amazing experience. I'm not sure this could have happened to anyone other than you and your wonderful companions. Looking at his eye and looking into his soul.

Colleen said...

So so glad all creatures great and small survived for the telling of this amazing story.

Karen Ward Smarkola said...

What a story you have there. I'm so glad you all are safe and sound and the bull moose is hopefully recovering in his forest

Kathy S said...

Wow. My heart stopped twice and shattered about 4 times while reading that! But, in the end, relief on so many levels. I'll think of this story every time I get into my own beetle convertible.

Unknown said...

Absolutely mesmerized reading this. I saw his eye through you. So grateful all are well.

Joanne Grdinich said...

We are so very grateful the 4 of you are O.K. We have been praying so hard. We were imagining a much different story. Your experience with the moose is astonishing - maybe he was saying he was sorry too for running into Bill. So glad he was able to get up & go back into the woods. Stay safe, especially in our upcoming storm.

Diane Elsner said...

Tom, this is an incredible story!!! I am truly grateful that all of you survived this ordeal. God is with you all! Happy Thanksgiving!!��������

Lady_Of_Honor said...

Wow! Gives me goose bumps to think about the "what ifs." So glad to read that everyone including Bill and the moose are doing okay. Thank you for sharing.

P said...

This is an encounter for the ages - grateful you all are well. Maybe a moose is your patronus..✨

Dave Woodford said...

Tom,
I’m glad that you and the Moose are ok.
Woody

Jenny Murry said...

I am beyond moved by your encounter - Thank you for sharing it -

Terry Metayer said...

I held my breath and felt nauseous as I read this. I was certain that at least one of the four of you would have a serious injury or worse. First, I am so thankful that all four of you are fine! Second, your writing has a way of bringing me right along with you. I was swerving and looking into the moose's eye right along with you. Thank you for sharing this with all of us and again, I am so very thankful that you all experienced this blessing of surviving what could have been a devastating accident.

Unknown said...

All of you are "charmed" - whatt an eincredible experience - so happy! that you are all O.K. - your souls were intertwined - thankful for having this soul enriching experience and your gift for translating a miracle into words.

George G. said...

I don't think i even breathed while reading this. Masterfully written.

Donna Safford said...

So amazing! Thankful that all of you, including the moose, are ok. Your words and story held me right to the end.

Carol West said...

So grateful you are all fine, even Bill - one more thing to add to my “thankful list” for Thanksgiving this year! You have an amazing gift for drawing your reader in to every situation, but I sometimes feel your true gift is your sacred connection to nature and animals. I know you’ll never forget this experience; I doubt the moose will either. Stay safe and have a happy Thanksgiving!

Suzanne Bryant said...

Omg! Wow! How different that could've been. So happy and relieved that you all survived such an encounter!

Lisa B said...

So grateful all of you and the moose are well. I marvel every time that I read your writings, of how connected you are to the animal and human spirit. I compare your abilities to convey this with Wendell Berry’s unique connection to nature and how he covets that in his writings! God speed to you, Samwise, Emily and Bill- and The Moose!

Jbr said...

Tom I live in northern mi. About ten years ago I was driving in the dark right before deer season and all of a sudden in my headlights stood a huge buck, someone's trophy and the same thing that happened to you happened to me . HIS EYE! I can still feel that connection and like slow motion wack. And off he ran into the woods,hopefully to live another day. The front of my car however was not as lucky as yours .but that eye.... I will never forget that moment of connection.

Jbr said...

Tom I live in northern mi. About ten years ago I was driving in the dark right before deer season and all of a sudden in my headlights stood a huge buck, someone's trophy and the same thing that happened to you happened to me . HIS EYE! I can still feel that connection and like slow motion wack. And off he ran into the woods,hopefully to live another day. The front of my car however was not as lucky as yours .but that eye.... I will never forget that moment of connection.

Wendy Morgan said...


Wow! All's well that ends well my late mother used to say. Nice to here that the 4 of you and Bill are OK.

Maribeth said...

What a miracle! All around. I have had friends severely injured by Moose, another who walked away, but his car was destroyed, and another who was killed.
I do love the majesty of Moose, but I am also so aware of their being with us. (I'm in NH)
This was so well written. Thank you for sharing, and again, so glad you are all well.

Kay Kelly said...

I am so thankful that everyone is OK! God has more for you to do. You make a big impact on many lives.

Chris Pellegrini said...

Glad you all are okay!

Unknown said...

You are a gifted writer. Please don't ever stop!!

Carolyn Banks said...

I am so grateful you are all in one piece ( except for the antlers). And thank you for using the term "faze".....I have been annoyed often when I see it spelled "phaze". Problem with being an old schoolteacher.....

Megan Cate said...

“Our eyes were connected. I’ll remember that communion for all my years and into another lifetime if such a thing happens.” The feelings run deep in these two sentences. Thank you for sharing this story. It gave fresh meaning to “Onward, by all means.”

Unknown said...

Glad that this turned out okay for you and the moose.

Unknown said...

This is exactly why I follow you and read everything you write. You, sir, have the gift of words. I think I held my breath reading this amazing story. I was transported by your side and felt the same emotions. Glad you are all safe and continuing to press onward!

Mary said...

Holy crap!

Shilo said...

Sorry to be redundant, but WOW! So glad you are all okay. It was not your time. Continue your adventure but please be safe!

anonymous said...

Had you not collided with the moose, that truck driver might have. That would have been a disaster, quite unlike the beautiful, miraculous connection you had. -Mary

Ingrid said...

Profound communion. Deeply moved.

Kathy Stanton said...

So thankful that all involved are not hurt or worse. Just amazing.

Philip Werner said...

Glad you weren't hurt Tom and that Mr Moosey was able to walk away, even without his rack. All the best.

judy smith said...

So happy you are all okay. I do believe that we all have someone watching over us. That's an amazing experience.

Eileen Cheney said...

Tom, reading this just now, I could see your ethereal experience in my mind’s eye. Your writing is magical. I am so happy you, Samwise and Emily AND the moose were not hurt. And Emily...needing to check on you and see up close, the creature on the ground. I wonder what she thought as the moose slowly rose to stand in front of you both.

Some things just cannot be explained.

Anonymous said...

Another WOW ! I too held my breath throughout reading - then that big sigh of relief as I could finally breathe again !!! Adding my thanks for the safety of all of you and I know you'll have a blessed, warm, loving Thanksgiving. Also glad to read another story by you ! I've missed you sine months ago when you made your "Confession"... I don't do Facebook so look forward to your postings. I now know all is well - hoping another book will soon be available ! ?? Blessings, Bea

Anonymous said...

I hope you know you all are blessed!

Beth Schell said...

I have never heard of an encounter like that turning out so well. It us said that animals can sense our feelings, our hearts. I am sure the moose knew what a kind heart you have Tom. God bless.

As for the guy who took the antlers...I firmly believe in karma.

AnnO said...

Oh my, what a story. And, as usual, your words always put me right there. Although I'm glad to be "right there" from my couch on North Carolina! So glad all turned out well, for all involved. Quite remarkable, really.