Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Chain Link Circus

When I got to work this morning I went through the old plant and through the lab in the back, where we still do our morning tests, to see what everything looked like (Travis had done them when he came in at 6 a.m. and written the results down on our charts). I left the old plant through the side door of the lab, which opens onto the wide alley, directly across from the rear staircase into the back door of the new plant.

As I was walking to the staircase I heard a scuffle on my left and looked through the chain link fence into the enclosed triangle down the hill, where our two waste lagoons that overflow to the river are. The gate has been open since we started pumping the sludge out of the west lagoon, and thrashing along next to the seven-foot fence with three lines of barbed wire tipped outward at the top was a very confused, very young moose.

I couldn't go into the enclosure; he was already agitated enough to try to jump the fence or possibly charge me if I cornered him, so I took off down the hill around the fence -- along the soft dirt bank of one of the drying beds, currently filled with eight feet of septic sludge -- to the far corner of the fence. I figured if I could spook him back towards the gate, he'd find his way out, but I had to climb a fence into the construction zone of a new home at the end of the street and crawl along behind the duplex units of the elderly housing on the road to the plant.

The moose saw me and went where I intended, but he bypassed the open gate twice making laps along the fence and went back down the hill behind the decant structure and tried to wedge himself between the fence and the metal storage shed I've never bothered to open in almost five years. So I headed back along the houses, through the construction debris, over the fence, and along the drying bed; finally I looked up to see him trotting up the hill and out the open gate. He took a sharp right and passed me at the head of the drying bed, and I watched him lope through the meadow as if the tall, thick sagebrush were merely clover. He covered ground like he was trying to win the Derby.

The last I saw of him he was headed off into the sunrise, down the hill to the highway, which, if he managed to cross without getting hit, would have led him straight back to the State Park and the river where he belongs. How the devil he found his way out of the cottonwoods, across the highway, through the meadow, up the hill, into the alley, through the gate and into the lagoons I'll never know.

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