Apigian-Kessel: ‘Bagging’ a Trophy Moose

It was autumn and another enjoyable trip to Michigan’s North Woods to spend a few days at the cottage on Mullett Lake in Indian River, a small town just 30 miles from the magnificent Mackinac Bridge at the tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, which connects the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of this amazing state. This is where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron collide into each other and become known as the Straits of Mackinac, pronounced Mack-in-aw.

Looking several hundred feet down from the pinnacle of the bridge affectionately called “Big Mac,” you cannot help but stare in awe at the beauty of the surrounding sights. You can even see Mackinac Island from this vantage point, home to the famed Grand Hotel in the distant northeast. Oceangoing freighters passing beneath look like toys in the vast ocean-like Great Lakes.

God was truly generous when he let the glaciers recede to deposit the bounty of his good nature upon our Wolverine State, also known as the Water Wonderland. Each season fulfills a promise of unparalleled beauty.

Mullett Lake is where we bed down at night, but its main purpose is to serve as a point of departure for Traverse City, Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Cross Village, and of course restaurants specializing in white fish dinners. One of the best is in Leland, also called Fish Town, where you will find the Blue Bird Restaurant. Wonderful food and worth the drive.

This trip caused my compulsive nature to surface. I was in a men’s fine apparel shop in Charlevoix when I spotted a moose head mounted on the wall. It took my breath away. I commented to the salesman how magnificent the moose head was, and he said there was one for sale in an antique shop in Alanson.

I had never heard of Alanson so when we stopped in a nearby restaurant I asked a couple of lunching ladies for directions, and they told me it was just a few miles away near Petoskey. I bit. The huntress came out in me. I was in mission mode. I had my husband head straight for the antique shop with the promise of a moose head that needed to be rescued.

Would it still be there? Perhaps it had already been grabbed up by some gamesman who wanted another trophy to show off his male prowess. I always looked with disdain at the huge bags of carrots and sugar beets for sale along the way up north, for deer hunters to lure their prey into their lair. Not my idea of sportsmanship, but they claim thinning the herd is necessary.

We parked in front of the antique shop with great anticipation. I walked in and unknowingly looked to my right, and lo and behold, there he was. My Mr. Moose. Internally I lost control of my senses. I tried to look casual as I checked the price tag and the shopkeeper approached me. I could not believe my eyes. Most women would pay that much for a mink coat, but I do not believe in killing animals to put them on my back. No, I wanted to give this stately gentleman a good home.

My history contains the mothering of at least six castoff, unwanted dogs that in return received more loyalty, love, and companionship than one could expect. I vacuumed dog hair every day and the number of machines I wore out were legend.

We left the antique shop without purchasing anything. We were miles away and I kept asking Bob what he thought I should do, when I then picked up the cell phone and made the offer to purchase the moose head. The owner was hardnosed and difficult to negotiate with but I was a realtor and held strong. I was told he was brought down in Canada and was over 50 years old. He had a mammoth stretch of antlers better known as a rack. Bob thought I was zany to want such a huge specimen for our house, but the deposit check to secure the purchase was in the mail the next day.

As a young adult with my first car, I used to fill the gas tank at Rowland’s Gulf Station at Woodward and Square Lake Roads. Inside they had a moose head with a football sitting on top, autographed by the Detroit Lions football team. There was something about him that appealed to me. Through the years my fascination with elephants, lions, tigers, polar bears, and of course moose continued. I guess they represent power and strength as well as my love of nature and animals.

I grew up with names like Rosdom, Kristapor, Zavarian, Antranig, and Aharonian. To the daughter of an ARF member, they represented strength and the will to establish a free and independent Armenia. After centuries of subjugation by the Turks, this girl liked the idea of power. The moose head and I were meant for each other.

I would never consider the slaughter of an animal for purpose of display, but the moose head in Alanson needed to be rescued just like all the dogs I adopted.


It was the day of the big game, the Michigan State vs. University of Michigan football game. We were heading back up to Alanson to bring home my moose. We loaded him up in the back of our red pickup truck and prayed it would not rain; the tarp was just in case it did. We stopped at a sports shop and purchased a green and white Michigan State scarf. We wrapped it around the moose’s substantial neck and drove him downstate to his new home.

Cars and trucks honked their horns and gave us the thumbs up sign at the sight of Mr. Moose in the bed of the truck, head-up, scarf blowing in the wind. I kept looking through the back window to make sure he was alright, relishing the thought of my new possession. It did not rain and State beat Michigan just like they did this year again.

It was a Herculean, or should I say a Spartan task, but Mr. Moose was placed high above the fireplace facing the front door. People entering did a double take. Most loved him, a few were taken back, hunters salivated. He fit right in.

Each Christmas he wore Bob’s grandfather’s top hat decorated with a fresh sprig of red berried holly, and I draped his neck with live cedar roping. He looked so grand. Subsequent holidays had him sporting shamrock, Valentine, Halloween, and Easter lights. He was one of the family and will stay that way.

When the house went on the market the moose came down and has since been allocated to resting on the bed in my office. I put him up for sale once, but heck with Ebay. The little grandkids love him and it may not have been the best investment I could have made but it satisfied my yearning for a moose. Never in my dreams did I think it would become a reality.

What’s that grunting I hear? It’s Mr. Moose’s glee that I am finally writing about him after all these years. That’s my story. Wait till I tell you about our shark fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida’s west coast.


Betty Apigian-Kessel

Betty (Serpouhie) Apigian Kessel was born in Pontiac, Mich. Together with her husband, Robert Kessel, she was the proprietor of Woodward Market in Pontiac and has two sons, Bradley and Brant Kessel. She belonged to the St. Sarkis Ladies Guild for 12 years, serving as secretary for many of those years. During the aftermath of the earthquake in Armenia in 1988, the Detroit community selected her to be the English-language secretary and she happily dedicated her efforts to help the earthquake victims. She has a column in the Armenian Weekly entitled “Michigan High Beat.”

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