Tracks in Concord

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(Host) Commentator Alan Boye took a back-woods walk recently and came upon a short story – written in the snow.

(Boye) I stand at the edge of a snowy road in the wilds of Concord, Vermont looking up into the dark woods. I’m having second thoughts about this walk. It’s not that I’m afraid, it’s just that I feel a little uneasy about how remote these hills are. I fuss over my snow shoes, and hesitate before I finally plunge into the woods.

Even this thick stand of fir and hardwood trees hasn’t kept out the howling snows of our long Vermont winter. I had come here hoping the remote location would be good for seeing wild life, but not even the familiar tracks of a squirrel break the surface. That’s all right because soon enough I’m huffing and puffing, making my own trail up the hill. The tips of my snowshoes toss clouds of deep, snowy powder into the air. Step after step I climb up the hill.

I stop to catch my breath. I peel off the outer layer of my mittens and unzip my coat. There are no sounds. I’m far from any well-traveled road, far from the busy streets of any village. I look down the hill, and trace the clumsy, zigzag line of my large, oval-shaped tracks.

Just then, I see another set of large prints just beyond my own trail. I make my way over to them. At first I think someone has walked up here wearing only a pair of boots. Deep round holes puncture the snow.

A moose passed this way not long ago. The tracks are so fresh I can see where each hoof dragged over the snow as the beast made its way.

I follow the tracks up the hill as they meander from one tree to another. For the first time I notice that the gray twigs on many shrubs have been clipped clean, where the moose has browsed them off.

The tracks lead toward a small fir tree. I trudge over to it and find a deep indentation where some great disturbance has spoiled the snow. Small traces of red blood dot the white. I study the clues for a long while before I understand what has happened here. The moose crashed through a downed tree that had been hidden by the snow. At the edge of the snow are scrape marks that look like the prints of some huge fingered claw. They mark where a massive antler brushed the snow as the moose thrashed its head struggling to escape. Then apparently the big animal regained its footing, because just beyond the trampled snow the tracks resume and disappear into the wilderness ahead.

This is Alan Boye just walking the hills of Vermont.

Alan Boye teaches at Lyndon State College. He spoke our studio at the Fairbanks Museum in Saint Johnsbury.

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