A Guy Named Otto and a Moose
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Now, a story that we assure you has lost nothing in the retelling. When we hear from the storyteller Kevin Kling, we usually hear about his experiences. Today, he's going to tell us the true-life tale of one Bill McGee, a legend in the North Country.
KEVIN KLING reporting:
Strange things happen up in the North Country. I remember one time, I was ice-fishing up north and it was really, really cold, and I decided to hitchhike back home, and there's a trick to hitchhiking when it's cold out. Make a sign with your destination, and that'll help you get a ride really fast, but another hint is to take off your coat so that you look really, really cold and then a car will stop right away.
The only problem is you really will be cold, so I'm standing out there with my sign and my jacket off, and sure enough, the first car that comes by, it's this robin-egg blue pickup truck, stops, and the door opens. I look inside, and there's a guy in there, must be 80 years old if he's a day. He says his name's Otto and to get in, so I do, and we started driving back to Minneapolis. We're going probably 30 miles an hour, and I'm thinking, ah, man, it's going to take all day to get back.
And all of a sudden, Otto kicks it down, and now, we're going 90, and we're blowing by these cars that passed us earlier, and then, Otto kicks it back, and we're going 30 again. Now, the cars are blowing by us, and then he kicks it down, we're going 90 again. Now, we're blowing by these cars. The drivers are looking up at me. I'm thinking, I don't know, he's driving here.
And then Otto kicks it back, and we're going 30 again. I'm thinking, man, what the heck's going on? And about that time, Otto says, I bet you're wondering what the heck's going on. I say, yeah. He says, well, when you get to be my age, he say, the first thing to go are your knees. And I'm thinking, man, Otto, your knees are running a distant second here, pal. And he says, and the first thing they do is they take those old kneecaps out, they aren't any good anymore.
He says, and then they put in these new plastic jobs, he says, I had this done a couple of weeks ago. It works pretty good. About that time, I see his leg straighten out, and we're going 90 again, and I see him pounding on the bottom of his knee, pounds her back, and we're going 30.
So we're going down the road, 30 or 90, and I start telling Otto, man, do you remember it being this cold out ever, Otto? He says, no, he says, yeah, he says, when I was nine years old, he says, I remember it being this cold. He said, I was out hunting the first time in my life, he says, as a 9-year-old, and I was out moose hunting, and sure enough, I hadn't been out there a half a day, when I seen this big moose. He says, I pulled out my gun and boom, I dropped him.
He said, and then I walked up the moose, I grabbed him by the antlers, now always drag the moose by the antlers, he says. Never drag a moose by the tail. If you drag it by the tail, the fur goes the wrong way, and it just won't slide, so he says, grab the moose by the antlers, and, he says, he started to pull it through the woods, when it started to get dark.
And it got really cold, he says, as cold as it is today, he says, and he goes, I was only 9 years old, he says, I didn't know where I was, I was lost, he says. I knew I was going to die, when he said, I remembered an old trick the old guys from up north did. He says, I took out my knife, and I cut that moose open, and I pulled out its insides, and I crawled in there, where it was nice and warm, and I shut that moose down.
He says, I stayed there all night, and in the morning, when the light was coming up, I was still alive. It saved my life, but the only problem is during the night, that moose had frozen shut. He says, and I was stuck inside this moose. I was freezing to death, and he said, I could just think of my friends saying, oh, yeah, that's how old Otto would want to go. No, it wasn't. That's not how he wanted to go, no. He says, I got to figure something out, and about that time, he heard these French loggers coming over the hill.
He tried to get their attention. He tried to yell, but they couldn't hear him, so he took his shotgun, and he shoved it out the rear-end of that moose and blew off a couple of rounds, and, sure enough, the loggers heard him (unintelligible) what's going on? And they ran over the hill, and there was this moose, a moose already cleaned out, and they thought, wow, this is great. Otto thought, man, I'm going to just be quiet here. I'm going to pull a trick on these guys. I'm going to get them to drag me all the way back to the logging camp.
So Otto remained quiet inside that moose, and, sure enough, the loggers grabbed the moose by the horns and dragged it clear back to their camp, and they laid it upon a table, and just before they were going to saw into it, Otto think, oh, now I'm going to really have some fun. I'm going to scare these guys, so right before they cut onto it, he started, moooo, moooo. The loggers, oh, they ran out. Loggers, as we all know, are very superstitious. They ran out into the next room, oh, leave us alone, oh, the haunted moose.
And now, Otto's laughing his head off, and then he thinks, all right, that's enough. I want to get out of here. He says, okay, you guys, it's just me. Let me out of here. Let me out. No, they said, you're not going to fool us, old moose, oh, no, you don't.
I said, Otto, I says, what did you do? And Otto turns to me, and he says, well, now, there's two versions to the end of this story. He says one is I cried out, I says, please, please, loggers, please, cut me open and let out this child, and I will give you three wishes. One of the loggers took out his chainsaw, sawed the moose in half and let me out, and then I grew up and found myself driving down the road and picked you up just a few minutes ago.
I said, well, Otto, what's the other version? He said, well, about a half a mile from where I picked you up, there's a gravesite and there's a gravestone with my name on it. 30, 90, 30, 90 all the way back to Minneapolis.
BLOCK: Storyteller Kevin Kling lives in Minnesota.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.