The Whittier Moose

ALL RIGHT, I agree with you. A moose doesn’t sound like the most romantic of anniversary gifts.

If you’ve ever seen a moose in the wild and lived to tell the tale, you are both lucky and well aware that moose are ugly, ugly, ugly, and mean. A moose will chase you through the Grand Marais underbrush along Highway 61 for no reason other than he just wants to see you break a sweat. And sweat you will, because moose are huge, galumphing things which have legs up to here and no real manners at all.

A moose on the move looks like a Yule log with improbably long toothpicks stuck into it, as if you’d glued tent poles to a dachsund and expected the beast to perambulate anyway. A moose’s head is half the size of its body and is a gosh-awfully oversized thing, as any one of them hanging over a mantel demonstrates. And the head shape itself, a sort of stepped-on Tootsie Roll, ain’t no Barrymore profile.

But Uptown sculptor Don Lindgren improved on God’s moose plan, hewing out of metal a more kindly proportioned animal. Lindgren’s moose has the curvy tush and well-shaped legs of a racehorse, with a little sideways cant to the head, as though Bullwinkle is being evoked. Lindgren displayed one of his life-sized moose sculptures outside the Quality Auto Body shop at 34th and Lyndale last summer, and after an appropriate period of mocking its non-mooseness, I took to the thing.

My husband, being an observant fellow, noticed and commissioned Lindgren to make me one of my own for our tenth anniversary. I came home to find the enormous sculpture installed on the lawn, like the Chicago Picasso.

It is an interesting business to live with public art, as I’m sure those folks who work around Daley Plaza can attest. Passersby who remain strangers to me have a relationship with our statue that seems quite warm. “Hello, Moose!” a father walking his bike-riding toddler yelled, ignoring me as I sat here on the porch, right in front of him. “Do you want to stop to see the moose today?” I heard one elderly woman ask another as they maneuvered their walkers down the sidewalk. One early morning, I heard giggles and looked out the upstairs window to see a neighbor running figure eights around the moose with her dog. I told an acquaintance where I lived, roughly, and she asked, “Is that anywhere near the Moose House?”

On the first warm day this spring, a gaggle of motorcycles vroomed around the corner, star-spangled bandannas and leather fringe flying, and one of the impressingly mustachioed, beefy riders yelled to his friend, “So! How d’ya like the moose?”

The residents of one of the group homes near us take a daily walk, and I heard one fellow muttering, over and over to himself, as he stared down at the sidewalk in front of him, “Cars. Cars. Cars honking. That’s OK, that’s OK. Oh. A moose. Oh, a moose. Could be a deer. Could be deer. Oh, a moose. Oh, a moose.” “It’s a really nice moose,” I found myself yelling after the group. Sure, lady.

I came downstairs one day and heard my son saying into the telephone, “Turn east off Lyndale, go a few blocks, and when you see the moose on the corner….No, a moose. It’s on the corner….Really. A moose. On the corner….Yes. I mean it.”

You can’t really sit on the moose; he’s made of rusty sheet metal and you’d surely slice something off and later develop lockjaw, so people keep off his back. I was worried the moose might be stolen, defaced, graffitied, or otherwise humiliated, but it hasn’t happened, and I’m grateful.

We have yet to name it. “The Moose” seems pretty self-explanatory, I guess. And it’s what the neighborhood has named it, anyway, so who are we to interfere with public opinion?

This was published in the Southwest Journal.



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