For the twelve years I was married to Bob, and for some time after I moved to Port Townsend, we sailed together in the summer time.  He kept his boat in Port Townsend and we would board it and leave on a sailing trip whenever we got a chance, sometimes for the whole summer, sometimes just for a weekend.  That is why we bought the house there; so we would have a place to stay near the boat–a jumping off place.  We always sailed north–to the San Juan Islands, the Gulf Islands in Canada, or further still, past Texada Island and Powell River and on up into Desolation Sound

All those sailing years, Bob had an on-going joke. It was that I should buy a large, antlered animal head for his art studio–preferably an Elk or a Moose. There are many of these horny headed unfortunates to be found in the small ports of western British Colombia–usually in antique shops, restaurants or bars. Whenever we saw one looming threateningly overhead, he would start the same old yarn in the same old way: “You’re making gobs of money, and I am just a poor starving artist.  Why don’t you buy that for me for Christmas?”—or “my birthday”?–or “your” birthday” or “the 4th of July” or whatever occasion was nearest.  Once it was because it was Thursday.  The least expensive of the ones with price tags was about $600.00.  He would elaborate on just where it would hang in his studio.  Sometimes it would be low enough to use for a coat rack.  Sometimes it would be majestically high on the wall to have a sense of place!  Poor starving artist indeed!  He always made more money than I did.  He was so starving that he could afford to sail most of his summers and ski most of his winters. I never got him so much as a set of deer antlers.

It was in 1976 that I moved to Port Townsend leaving the Portland house and its adjoining studio for HIM.  I didn’t take anything I couldn’t put in my little blue Volkswagen.  I felt as light as air.  Bob and I remained friends and still went on trips and sailing together.  Now when he suggested I buy him an animal head it would be, “You are a successful architect!  You have your own business!  You are really raking it in!” (gross exaggerations as usual) followed by the same old,  “and I am just a poor starving artist, etc.”

One day I was leaving Seattle for Port Townsend and missed the ferry.  I had time to kill until the next ferry, so I wandered across Alaskan Way and into an antique warehouse.  And right there (!) broadside to my staring-eyed face was a MOOSE–all seven feet of it!  It was HUGE.  One of the things that made it so tall was that it was on a foot high platform and the platform was on rollers.  Rollers!  It was almost as if it had come out of Bob’s own imagination!  Putting strange critters on rollers was one of his favorite art surrealisms.  He liked to paint weird animals, birds and people, and he loved to put them on rollers!  It was practically a trademark.  This was perfect!  And the rack on this beast!  It had a wing spread that would make a California condor weep in envy.  

Better yet, it was a terrible moose.  Its hide had been patched with hide of a slightly different color.  The result was like pictures I had seen in childhood of the gingham dog and the calico cat. Its nose had been patched with plaster and painted black, but not quite in its original shape.  In fact it looked like Bull Winkle in the cartoons, or like a 30 year old roman-nosed horse that had been in a head-on collision with a truck.  Yes, it was perfect for Bob.  I had to have it.  It would be the gift of a lifetime!

The price was $480.00.  What a bargain!–a whole moose for less than any of the moose heads Bob had tried to talk me into!  I found the owner of this magnificent beast and asked him if he would take less considering its obvious derelict condition and probable past sleazy association with outback vermin, namely mice, moths and nose painters.  That was when I was informed of its real value.   It was a masterpiece in disguise!  It was the largest moose shot in Alaska before 1946, and it was the OLD kind of taxidermy with the bones still in situ!  Its rack was only a few inches less than seven feet!  Seven feet high and seven feet wide!  I was liking it better all the time.  It was a famous moose, for heaven sake!  I got it for $265.00.

A Port Townsend friend knew someone in Portland who had a pickup and wanted to get into the act. He volunteered to come to Seattle, transport MOOSE back to Bob’s house in Portland and help unload it right at his door– a feat made possible by the iconic wheels.  He sent measurements of his pickup bed and I took measurements of the moose platform. Yes!  It would fit!  But when I saw his vehicle pulling up to the warehouse I thought I was looking through the big end of a telescope.  I thought it might possibly carry a rather large dog. The only way these two could get to Portland together would be for the moose to fly and carry the pickup in its claws.  However the measurements were correct.  Friends helped load, brace and tie the behemoth into the back of that poor emaciated conveyance.  Did it look top-heavy? It looked so top heavy I feared the whole thing might flip.  It looked like an elephant sitting on a circus drum.  It looked like a ship beached on a desert island.  It looked like a whale with its nose in a minnow hole.


We were a sensation on the freeway as we tootled slowly along in the right lane. People laughed, waved, honked and shouted. One passenger saluted us with a can of Moose Head beer.

Portland friends had collaborated by taking Bob out for tennis. When they returned, Moose was ensconced on the footbridge that crossed the ravine from the garage to the house. He was wearing very large dark glasses plus a huge red bow with a two foot long tag that said HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOB. It was not his birthday.


When Bob walked through the gate between the parking area and the bridge he stopped for a least a full minute.  A moose facing him on his entry bridge was not what he was expecting.  Then we, hiding behind the fence, clearly heard him say, “JEAN DID THIS”!!!  How could he have thought that?  I had never bought a moose before.