It was near the middle of December. The terrible cold was yet ahead. Shepherd wanted to make certain he remained ahead in splitting wood. He enjoyed the challenge and exercise. Pal looked on in confusion and chased chips of wood.
Pal pranced and appeared agitated. He looked toward the woods behind the cabin. He let out a muffled bark toward the trees. Shepherd stopped splitting and looked in the direction Pal was looking. He moved to peer from another angle. He saw nothing. Pal continued disturbed and moved forward. He raised his nose and stretched out.
Shepherd dropped the maul and grabbed his rifle that leaned against the stacked wood.
He positioned himself to see what Pal was looking at. Winding through the trees plodded a mammoth moose. Pal charged. The moose dropped it’s head and charged Pal.
Pal suddenly realized that his barking and snarling had little effect on frightening away the intruder. He scurried back toward the cabin. The moose continued his charge.
Shepherd held the rifle to his shoulder and squeezed one round into its forehead. The moose’s front legs buckled. It fell to its knees and skidded to a halt on its chin.
“Food, for Daniel and his family,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd made a crude sled from unused boards from the cabin’s construction. He tugged and pried the moose onto the sled and hitched the snow machine to the sled and headed toward Daniels.
Shepherd pulled in front of Daniel’s cabin. He knocked on the door.
Daniel greeted him with a warm smile and handshake. “Come in, what brings you this way?”
“Food,” Shepherd said.
“Than we will fix you something to eat!” Daniel said.
“No!” Shepherd said. “I brought the food.” He pointed to the moose behind the snow machine. “It’s all yours.”
“I can not take a man’s food,” Daniel said. “It is yours.”
“I have plenty of food,” Shepherd said.
“I’ve seen what you eat,” Daniel said, “It’s all canned.”
“To tell you the truth,” Shepherd said. “I’ve never cleaned an animal or gutted it. I wouldn’t know where to start.”
“Nan!” Daniel said. “Come here!”
Nan came to the door.
“Look!” Daniel said. “Shepherd shot a moose and brought it to us. He says he doesn’t know how to clean it. Will you show him?”
“I don’t know if I can stand it,” Shepherd said. “I have a weak stomach.”
“You only get sick on the first one,” Nan said. “If you want to live out here you better learn how,” she smiled. “Are you a sissy-man?”
“Yes,” Shepherd smiled, “and proud of it.”
Nan grabbed his hand and led him inside. “You start with good sharp knives.”
Shepherd helped Nan, but walked off into the trees a couple of times to vomit. By night fall the moose was completely dressed out.
Maggie cooked steaks from the moose and they all had a sumptuous meal at Daniel’s home. They played cards afterward. While Shepherd was involved in having fun Nan wrapped about forty pounds of meat in a burlap sack and tied it to Shepherd’s snow machine.
Shepherd said his goodbyes near six o’clock. Daniel walked with Shepherd to his snow machine. Shepherd saw the meat.
“I got plenty,” Shepherd insisted.
“It is not right for you to not take at least some of the meat,” Daniel said. “In a strange way it would make my family feel as if they were eating from the hand of another. We know better, but it‘s a tradition that sticks with us, you understand?”
“Sure,” Shepherd said. “I understand. I didn’t come up here to run a hot dog stand.”
“Careful going home, my friend,” Daniel said. “That was a good moose.”