Origins of the Old Moose
He was born in a time before humans were aware of a continent on this side of the globe. From the very beginning, he knew he was different from others of his kin. He found himself able to understand the languages of other creatures and he learned these languages quickly. Before long, he was able to communicate with other animals around him. His kindred did not understand his curiosity nor his strange abilities.
Young moose normally stay by their mother’s side for the first two years of their lives, but he liked to wander off and explore the forest, as well as the glacier to the north, often staying gone for days at a time. This was not normal behavior for one so young, but he felt no danger from other animals since he could speak to them in their own tongues.
He learned everything he could in his travels. He came to know the migratory patterns of the great herds of beasts that roamed the plains and where certain types of birds traveled during the colder times. He studied the flow of water and discovered that it could be, just possibly, the most destructive force of nature there was; changing the landscape dramatically as rivers flooded and flowed across the country or as hard rains turned once solid land into quickly flowing rivers of mud. He realized, though, that while flowing water could bring great destruction, it was also responsible for bringing great life to the land; it spread fertile soil for the many varieties of plants that, in turn, fed many varieties of animals.
He was near the great ice shelf, studying the ground beneath it as it receded, when the first people crossed over to this continent. He was amazed by them, but quickly discovered they hunted anything, without care for the intelligence of a creature such as himself. Keeping his distance so as not to end up as dinner, he studied them intently, learning how they spoke. He watched as they evolved from a collection of crude hunter-gathers, to different tribes with different styles of living. Some built log huts, while others lived in tepees covered with hides. Each had their own unique ways. As they migrated across the land, he followed them, studying them as they continued to move down the coast and further inland.
As he followed and studied humans, his wandering took him further from his home. He traveled to what we now call the Grand Canyon and marveled at its splendor; as the ice receded, he traveled north into what we now call Wyoming, to see what new and exciting things he could learn and study there. He found hot springs, and water that would shoot up out of the ground so hot it was nearly steam. He traveled east, eventually looking out over the falls we now know as Niagara and marveled at the amount of water flowing over it.
Eventually, he traveled south again, moving into what we now call South America, watching as great civilizations rose from the jungle with nothing more than crude hand tools. He marveled at these first peoples’ creativity in their building and art. Fascinated, he observed all the varied languages each group of people spoke, and how much they differed from those in the northern tribes. As he continued his travels across the vast southern continent, encountering the different tribes of people, he pondered their distinct beliefs and spoken words. How inventive humans were! So many distinctive customs and behaviors! Humans were always creating something new and unique, whether it was with tools or words.
Later, he was back on the North American continent and was nearby when the first Europeans landed in the wilds of Virginia. He studied these new people as they continued to settle up and down the coast. He was fascinated by the difference from the first people in this land. These people built walls around their homes, built roads, and tried to tame the world around them, instead of living with it as the first people had done. They made permanent changes to their surroundings that were not always good for the native animals whom he had known for so long. The forests were cut down to make room for their towns and the people who were already living in this land were violently driven out. As these new people moved west, he moved ahead of them, trying to warn the other creatures of their coming.
His travels took him far north, into northern Canada and Alaska, where he watched the people that had settled there go about their daily lives in the colder climate, where parts of the year there was very little light from the sun to warm the ground. He went as far north as he could go, stopping to learn from the Caribou that migrated across the frozen tundra, travelling with them a few years before deciding it was time to settle down somewhere.
It was in the forest of the giant Sequoia that he finally found his cabin home and where he learned that he didn’t need to travel on foot any longer; that he could move his cabin through time and space to where (and when) he wished to go. I don’t know how this is done, even though I have asked him many times. He just smiles and says that it’s magic.
He began to collect books. First, he would find them discarded along some trail or crude road, then he began trading for them from a few people that he had found to be honest and trustworthy. It wasn’t very often he would go near a human, but there were times when one was in danger, or injured, that he helped that person and they became friends. His books helped him with his studies on everything; from science to medicine, to everything mechanical; and as man’s knowledge grew on these subjects, his did as well anytime he would get a new book. Soon, every corner of the cabin was filled with his books, and they overflowed onto the floor, table, and often, the chairs as well.
Those that knew him started to call him a wise old moose. Yet, it wouldn’t be for many more years that he was given the name we now know him by. It was a tribe of the First People that started calling him Wiyukcan Hexaka and the name soon stuck. Before long, every creature, and more than a few humans, knew that name and referred to him by it when they spoke about him, or to him.
I asked him once why, unlike other moose, his antlers did not fall off during the winter months and grow back as theirs did. He told me that his antlers were the storage place for all the knowledge he acquired throughout his long life, and if they fell off, he would lose it all. This, I suppose, is why they are so very gnarled and so very large, to have room for all that information.
And that, my young friends, is the story of Wiyukcan Hexaka, our favorite old moose.