Some people carry an empty feeling in their chest- the spot where God used to be when they were children. A similar phenomenon occurs in the hearts of Chicagoans when it comes to Moose.
Once- as recently as the 1920s- moose in Chicago were as common as squirrels. But then, during the Prohibition era, when bootleggers trained hordes of moose to smuggle Canadian whiskey across the border into the Midwest by hanging bottles on the moose’s antlers, so that the bottles would clink and dangle as the moose carried them across the countryside, which was worth it (the clinking) considering a single bull (nomenclature for male moose) could carry an average of six hundred bottles at a time, and also led to the 1933 hit by Ella Fitzgerald entitled Clink! Clink! It’s the Moose (Everybody Get Loose)… Elliot Ness, Herbert Hoover, and other martial prohibitionists responded to the ruse in a truly ruthless fashion: they cut off the antlers of any moose found south of Green Bay.
It worked. Chicago went dry. The lawmen reckoned that the moose would simply regrow their antlers, quit the mafia, and return to their lives, sauntering in and out of the Art Institute, chewing on the ivy of Wrigley Field, and taking dips at North Avenue Beach. That next fall, the moose retaliated with nothing short of supernatural hostility, on par with the Old Testament Yahweh, in what’s come to be known as the Days of Rut.
To get what happened, you need to know certain facts: Male moose have been hardwired by millions of years of evolution to fight each other each fall (rutting season). They smash into each other with their antlers, competing for territory and the right to reproduce. This is so ingrained in the moose, in their DNA and their consciousness, that the thought of them not doing it is frightening. Can you imagine what would happen if that energy/ libido/instinct were not expressed? What if the moose decided not to fight each other, to not mate? What would happen if that energy were turned outward?
That’s exactly what happened. The moose’s most basic urge was sublimated into a terrific display of violence upon Chicago and every semblance of society, order, and good-will amongst people. They destroyed banks, parking lots, animal shelters, nativity scenes, water fountains, fountain pen stores, art museums, concert halls, Kiwanis Clubs, schools, churches, homeless shelters, furniture stores, traffic lights, mail boxes (a federal offense), fences, hamburgers, painted lines, cradles, graves, podiums, desks, dictionaries, zoos, cafes, and cars. Their frenzy was so total, so god almighty unnatural, it might’ve been the first and only hurricane to ravage the windy city.
Whatever moose didn’t kill themselves in the process collapsed with exhaustion and soon perished. They already had, in commencing the Days of Rut, given up their will to live or reproduce. The cows (nomenclature for female moose) emigrated en masse to northern Minnesota.
After a few years, when Chicagoans had a chance to rebuild their city and forgot their well-deserved fear of the moose, they began to yearn for the sight of moose digging through their garbage; they even missed the occasional inconvenience of having to wait 0n the el for a moose to get off the tracks. Soon, prohibition ended, and alcohol returned to Chicago… but no moose. Delegates were sent to Canada, offering amnesty to any moose, beckoning them with reservations and a promise that what happened would never happen again. But they had little luck, not only because the moose had no comprehension of the English language, but because- and this is pure speculation on my part- because after that event, when an entire generation of young moose slaughtered themselves-,when they went against the grain of nature- something happened.
You know how salmon can find their way up a stream they’ve never been to. Well, this is like that, in reverse. Chicago became a land of No Return for Moose. On a biochemical, magnetic, and even spiritual level, moose cannot come south of Green Bay. That is the consequence of their departure from the natural course of things.
But truly, the ones who suffer are Chicagoans. Every time you wake up anxious, are nervous to make eye contact on the train, avoid saying hello to someone on the sidewalk, or feel an emptiness in your chest you cannot heal- you’re feeling it: the missing moose.