The story of a Moose and Grandmother Agnes.

Dead Moose & Grandma Agnes

I don’t think much of it, but once in a while, when I have time to take a deep dive into my photo archive, I realize that I do have a fairly well-rounded body of work. Not even sure if I can call it a career, but if I did, I’d say that the best part of it has been that I’ve been able to visit and experience so many places and meet and get to know so many interesting people.

But I’ve also been privileged to encounter some truly magnificent animals. Like this majestic moose that I saw chilling somewhere in a thick forest of southeast Sweden.

My grandfather Eskil was an avid hunter and spent much of his autumns hunting in the mountains of Halleberg and Hunneberg near Vänersborg in southwestern Sweden. I remember one afternoon in the late fall of 1973 or 1974 during a prolonged visit to Sweden, when I saw the bloody carcass of an enormous moose lying on old newspapers on my grandparents’ cold, cellar floor.

The dead moose was cut in half, and my Grandmother Agnes was bent over the front end of the animal’s body, cutting and slicing it with surprising precision and strength. She was like a master butcher, and her enthusiasm was a little scary. Agnes was wearing an old fur hat, yellow gloves, grey, knee-high boots, and an old wool coat. The coat was buttoned down, but its lapels stood upright and probably provided some protection from all the blood and fluids from the cuts and tears she was accomplishing with Grandpa’s sharp hunting knife.

Now and then, the knife’s blade would sparkle in the bright light from the cellar’s naked lightbulb.

Even though I was completely captivated by my grandmother’s remarkable strength and determination, I just had to leave the basement and the smell of death that stifled the room.

I ran upstairs where I opened a window and breathed in the crisp autumn air coming in from Örtagårdsvägen, the peaceful suburban street where my grandparents lived just outside of Trollhättan.

None of my friends on the street below knew what was happening right then in Grandpa and Grandma’s basement, and even though I had made it up to the second floor, I could still clearly hear Grandma’s chopping and puffing as she worked her way through the dead moose.

That the half-corpse in the cellar was Grandpa’s share of the moose he and his hunting buddies had shot was obvious to me. But I wondered if it was my Grandpa who had fired the fatal bullet(s) that killed the moose.

I’m guessing that there’s considerably more meat on the back half of a moose, so maybe Grandpa Eskil wanted the head as a trophy and let his pals take the rest.A few days later, my Grandmother asked me to fetch a bucket of ice cream from their giant freezer in the cellar. The smell of death was almost gone by then. When I pried open the freezer’s wide lid, I saw several neatly wrapped white packages of what I assumed were meat cuts from the dead moose.

As that winter transitioned into spring, there were fewer and fewer packages in the freezer. I checked almost daily, even when ice cream wasn’t on Grandmother’s mind or menu.

I don’t remember that we ate a whole lot of meat that winter. Then again, maybe I’ve just suppressed the memories of too many moose meals. But I’ll never forget the slaughter in the celler and my grandmother Agnes unmistakable carnivorous demeanor.