Told by Willy Claflin
When I was a little boy, living in the woods in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, my father would tell me stories every night. I can vividly remember lying there in the darkness, watching the story unfold like a three-dimensional movie all around me.
When I was eleven, we got our first television. I remember how flat and boring it seemed to me, after those cinematic tales my father told.
I grew up. I got married. I had a son. And like my father, I told my boy stories every night. One day a neighbor of mine came over.
“I understand you tell your boy Brian stories every night,” he said. “My wife and I found this here moose puppet at a craft fair. We thought maybe you could use it to tell your boy stories.” And he handed me a lumpy, friendly and somewhat confused-looking moose.
We named the moose Maynard, and he sat in a little chair by the fireplace. But he didn’t say anything. I couldn’t figure out how I could use a puppet to tell stories. Until one day Brian came home from kindergarten; he was upset, and I asked him what the matter was.
“Well, there’s this kid in my class,” he said , “and he said something really mean about mooses. He said they were really stupid. I thought that would hurt Maynard’s feelings.”
Without thinking, I picked Maynard up, put him on, and sat him in my lap.
“That’s not nice,” he said. “I ain’t stupid. I am distreemely intelligible. Because I have got my education. I go to the Mother Moose Preschool, and we have learned the amphlebep!”
Maynard could talk! We were all delighted, and a family game began. Every day Brian would come home from school and tell us what happened: maybe there was a new kid in school, or maybe he was in a new book group, or maybe they had learned a new song. And then he would ask, “What did Maynard do in Mother Moose Preschool?” And Maynard would get up out of his chair and tell us.
It turned out that for Maynard, story time was the best part of school. And he would tell us the stories he had learned. This turned out to be quite entertaining, because it seemed that moose stories were very much like our own stories in some ways, but very different in others. For instance, here (complete with moose vocabulary and syntax) is the first story I remember Maynard telling:
TURTLE AND BUNNY
Once upon a time, there was a turtle that go real slow: blump…blump…blump.
And a hyperactivated bunny that go real fast: Boing! Boing! Boing!
And the bunny make fun of the turtle: “I’m fast and you’re slow! Ha-ha-ha-ha Ha-Ha!”
That make the turtle so mad, steam come out of his ears. “Oh yeah! You think you’re so special, do you? Well, I challenge you to a race!” “Fine, swell,” say the bunny; “I’ll race you!”
So the very next morning at the starting line in their northern forest habitat, with the skink and the skunk and the vole and the mole, and the porcupine and the white tailed deer, the noble moose said: “On your mark, get set…GO!”
And off go the turtle: blump…blump…blump. And off go the bunny: Boing! Boing! Boing!
And the bunny ran so fast, he won the race before the turtle had gone three feet!
And the moral of the story is: The fastest person wins the race!
When he was done, we said, “Um…Maynard, we have a similar story called The Tortoise and the Hare. But in our story, the tortoise wins.” Maynard said, “That’s silly! You ever watch the Olympics? Guess who comes in first? The fastest person! Or line up and have a race across the playground. Know who comes in first? The fastest person. Know who comes in last? The slowest person! That’s why fast means fast and slow means slow. Don’t let anyone tell you the slowest person wins the race—no; that will just scrumble up your mind! Learn to run fast—it’s good for your body and it’s good for your brain!”
That was a long time ago. We’ve learned a lot of Moose Wisdom from Maynard over the years, and I’m glad to have him as a beloved companion. And I’m so glad I was lucky enough to have a father who remembered to tell me stories every night, so that when I grew up I would remember to tell my son stories every night, and so that a Moose would one day come along and tell us his stories as well.
One single tale told in the dark holds more magic than in all the flat screens flashing in the world.
Thank you, Dad.