What a summer it’s been!
First a I saw a moose in the water in northern New Hampshire, and now an elk in the wild in northern California.
Spotting the moose required lots of planning and patience, getting up one day before the sun and paddling along quietly in the canoe at sunrise for and hour or so, watching and waiting.
Seeing an elk required none of that.
The elk was just there, in a field, with a bunch of females. All I had to do was get out of the car and take some photos. There was even a sign along 101 near Orick, CA, alerting me: “Elk Meadow, turn left ahead.”
And unlike the moose, which quickly melted back into the woods when I spotted it, the elk seemed to relish the attention, walking around and checking out his females before lying down in the tall grass for a rest.
Once you’ve seen them, moose and elk are pretty dissimiliar. Both from the deer family, moose are larger than elk and have large droopy necks and lips. The wide, flat antlers of a moose are distinctly different than elk antlers, which are thinner and very branched, much like those of a regular deer.
Moose are solitary animals, while elk live in matriarchal herds.
What about the human variety? There are about a million of each and they eat and party and support a number of charitable and social programs.
I’m talking about the Loyal Order of Moose and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, of course.
Both are very serious fraternal/social/charitable organizations, with roots back to the late 1800s.
Dr. John Henry founded the Moose in 1888 in Louisville, Kentucky, as purely a men’s social club. Lodges were established in Ohio, Missouri and Indiana. But it foundered. By 1906 only two lodges in Indiana remained and even Dr. Henry had let his membership lapse. Then, member James Davis, an immigrant mill worker and labor organizer, envisioned the organization as a way of providing a social safety net for workers. He outlined his plan in a speech at the 1906 Moose national convention (7 delegates attended) and was appointed “Supreme Organizer.” The group flourished and by 1912 membership was at half a million and there were 1,000 lodges. James Davis, by the way, went on to become Secretary of Labor in the Harding administration.
Today, the Loyal Order of Moose, headquartered in Mooseheart, Illinois, supports the Mooseheart Child City and School for children and teens in Illinois, and Moosehaven, a 63-acre retirement community for its members near Jacksonville, Florida. Also, Moose lodges and chapters sponsor numerous sports and recreational programs and conduct approximately $75 million worth of community service (counting monetary donations and volunteer hours worked) annually. There are about a million male members worldwide and some 400,000 women in its female auxiliary, Women of the Moose.
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks began as a more fun place. It started in 1868 as a social club for minstrel show performers in New York and was called the “Jolly Corks.” It was established as a private club to evade laws governing the opening hours of public taverns. Early members were mostly from theatrical performing troupes in New York City.
Things got more serious, however, after the death of a member left his wife and children without income. The club took up additional service roles, rituals and a new name, the Elks, by an 8-7 vote. The buffalo was runner up.
Today it is a major fraternal, charitable, and service order with more than a million members, both men and women. It is headquartered at the Elks National Veterans Memorial in Chicago. The Elks has never had an official female auxiliary, but since a mid-1990s court ruling, does accept female members.
Where does all this lead? Right to “The Honeymooners” of course, and Raccoon Lodge members Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton (“An Emergency meeting is an Emergency meeting—never a poker game. An Executive Meeting, that’s a poker game.”).
The rituals and nomenclature of fraternal orders like the Moose and Elks made them ripe for great satire. Here, for example, are some real Elks titles: the Grand Exalted Ruler, Grand Secretary, Grand Esteemed Leading Knight, Grand Esteemed Loyal Knight, Grand Esteemed Lecturing Knight, Grand Treasurer, Grand Tiler, Grand Inner Guard and Grand Trustees.
The fictional Raccoons, called variously in the show the International Order of Friendly Sons of the Raccoons, the International Order of Loyal Raccoons, or the Royal Order of Raccoons, had a great drinking toast: “Fingers to fingers, thumbs to thumbs, watch out below, here she comes.”
And the Raccoon official greeting involved touching elbows (first right then left), followed by a “Woooooo” sounding cry as they wiggled the raccoon tail on their lodge hat. They ended by chorusing: “Brothers under the pelt.” Find all this and more at http://raccoonfounders.weebly.com/index.html.
My only personal experience with either the Moose or the Elks has been slight; as a kid in Harvey, Illinois, I remember a friend whose father spent a lot of time at the local Moose Lodge.
My dad had an association with some sort of civic group, the Jaycees I think, for a short while. All I can remember about that is he got the short end of the stick in something involving them and we ended up with a goat living at our house. For a week.
I thought it was fun. He was not pleased.