Road Signs and Elk on The Oregon Coast

Bengal cat

A Bengal cat in Florence, Oregon, stares at her nemesis, a dog along the Siuslaw Riverbank.

A little unnerving are some of the road signs in Oregon. Some of them contain only one word. Which is OK, I suppose, because you don’t really need a lot of words to explain yourself if one word will do; however, I can’t help feeling it’s like using the F-word without the You: alone, the emphasis remains but without its companion pairing, it’s meaningfulness and impact seems to wane. Not to mention, it can leave you a little confused as to its actual intent. Somebody could be upset, for example, but why. When you add the “you” to the F-word, well, it becomes crystal clear what the problem is.

One of the signs that seems ubiquitous on the Oregon Coast is the one-word sign: ELK. Now, that raises all kinds of questions. You might say to yourself, does that mean one elk or a whole bunch of them? Will they be in the road or are you supposed to enjoy the view of elk in the distance? Is this another roadside attraction? Another one-word sign is ROCKS. It’s like the guys at the Oregon Transportation Department are people of brevity. At least the word is plural. Perhaps it is meant to build awareness of one’s surroundings? As my husband pointed out, at least it’s not Elk Throwing Rocks. Or is it?

Which brings me to thoughts of that elk head that is sitting in my family room on our floor, horns splayed into the view of our television screen. It’s a real elk with 5 points on a shoulder mount, and it’s in excellent condition. I first spotted him on a wall at my seller’s house in Winters. She shot Elkie herself and then had him stuffed, attached to a board in the shape of a crest and hung him in the living room of a house she bought for her dad. I’m not really a big fan of stuffed animal heads on the walls, but since I’ve been selling a few homes lately that have these prized possessions on display, I’ve become more tolerant and intrigued by them. My mother would roll over in her grave. My younger self would join her.

When my seller said her next-door neighbor had offered her $700 for Elkie, I couldn’t ignore my competitive nature; I offered her $500 if she’d let me take Elkie home. I couldn’t help it. Besides, the elk head was too big to fit into her car, and her new home in Coos Bay, Oregon, was not large enough to offer a space on the wall anywhere to accommodate him. On top of all of this, it’s not like we could call him a fixture and just leave him there. For real estate sale purposes, it would be better for Elkie to go live somewhere else. That somewhere else, I decided, against all signs of logic, was in my home.

After much pleading with my husband, he finally acquiesced and agreed Elkie could come live with us as long as she didn’t live over the sofa. Her long neck would separate us from each other and make it difficult to pass the remote or receive a foot massage while watching TV, anyway. Getting Elkie to my house proved to be more difficult than I had imagined.

Elkie would not fit in my car, not even with the top down. My team member, Dianne, tried to squeeze him into her SUV, but his horns almost punctured her stereo speakers, and after much twisting and turning, she gave up. Then, my other team member, Josh, offered to bring Elkie home. This involved a 90-minute drive all the way to Winters and back to my home in Land Park, but he was successful, and that’s how Elkie came to live on my family room floor. He is way too big to even try to hang over our sofa, which is out of the question anyhow.

There is no spot in my house for Elkie. We can’t even hang him from the ceiling, which I had considered, like that goofy movie theater restaurant and lounge in Lodi. I asked my seller if she could put an ad on Craig’s List or eBay to sell Elkie, which is when she pointed out to me that it is against the law in California to sell an elk head. You learn something new every day, don’t you?

Fortunately, my husband came up with a good idea. Perhaps an Elk’s Lodge would like a donation, and then I could send the tax deductible receipt to my seller, which she could use to reduce her tax liability next year. I called a bunch of Elk Lodges and left messages. Then, yesterday, as we cruised into the town of Florence, a CEO from one of them called back to say yes, the Sacramento Elk Lodge would be delighted to give Elkie a new home. We are driving down from our vacation resort in Yachats to Coos Bay today to visit with Elkie’s previous owner. Her home in Winters is closing in two days. This gives us several things to celebrate.

Photo: Bengal cat, Adam Weintraub

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