When I was young, my father went away for one week with a group of his townsmen to a hunting lodge east of Huntsville near Algonquin Park during fall deer season – when the government issued permits allowing for deer, otherwise protected, to be hunted – and then often returned a few weeks later during moose season for another few days.
I was way more upset about the deer hunt than the moose hunt. There was no Disney movie then about a moose, but I was well Bambi-fied and horrified at the thought my daddy would kill a gentle deer. I’m sure I ate some moose meat in the winters after hunting season – the moose carcasses would be brought to a butcher and what wasn’t suitable for carvings into roasts and such would be made into Summer Sausages.
I remember these hunting season weeks at home without my father most clearly for when my mother would make Kraft Dinner Macaroni and Cheese – not the regular kind, but the deluxe version that had a can of Velveeta-like cheese to open and stir in with the noodles. My father as a younger man had an Irishman’s distaste for a dinner composed of a bowl of noodles (no-one in our household called it “pasta”) so mom and I have would have this as a once-a-year supper treat, in his absence. I may be the only person in Canada who, when I see a moose, get a Pavlovian-like craving for cheesy noodles, but there it is.
Moose are, in a sense, supersized deer. They thrive across most of Canada – moose population estimate settles in between 500,000 and 1 million in the country – living everywhere in the wild except in the farthest Arctic north, the coast of B.C., the southern Prairies and the southernmost triangular dangle of Ontario. They are bigger than the biggest horse, can weigh up to 1,500 pounds, are notable swimmers, and have a natural life span of eight to 12 years.
And if artist Charles Pachter had his way, the mighty moose would dethrone the industrious – and often annoying – beaver as the country’s No. 1 national beast.
Pachter, in a 2011 story in the National Post newspaper about national Canadian symbols, argued that the moose should be Canada’s main mammal. “Why the moose?” he asked, then answered: “It’s awkward, majestic, a survivor in the cold.”
If Pachter were a composer, he’d be known as the king of the musical form, Variations on a Theme. He returns again and again to re-imagined images of the Queen of England, moose, and the Canadian flag – sometimes all three at once.
He runs a private gallery adjoining his downtown Toronto home called the “Moose Factory Gallery” and has a second display space at MOFO – Moose Factory of Orillia- a former car repair garage he renovated: his online biography credits him with being the architectural designer behind more than 20 restorations of derelict downtown Toronto buildings. There are billion-dollar corporations with less-assured branding than Charles Pachter. He is well-honoured and well-represented among the country’s top galleries. A biography by author Leonard Wise, Charles Pachter: Canada’s Artist, is set for release in June 2017.
No matter where you travel in Canada, there’s a chance you’ll see one of Pachter’s steel moose sculptures. There’s one on the campus at the University of Toronto’s downtown campus. A couple years ago, we were on a winery tour in Prince Edward County in eastern Ontario, and there was a Charlie Moose at the Oneo Gallery, Huff Estates winery.
One year, my father retired from going hunting: it was too much to walk in the woods and sit outdoors all day in the damp cold, for him. A couple decades later, tucked away among my mother’s recipes, I found this, written out in my dad’s ALL CAPS PRINTING hand.
Main photo of a Charles Pachter moose sculpture at the Oneo Gallery, Huff Estates Winery: Kelley Teahen