National Geographic : 1949 Oct
('apt. Rolert A. Biartlett Puppies Replace Dolls and Teddy Bears for Eskimo Youngsters near Angmagssalik First visitors to treeless Greenland always wonder where the natives get the wood from which their crude shelters are built. Much of the timber, like these big logs, is driftwood, probably from Siberia. The boy wears sealskin bootees and a furry cap made from the soft fur of a newborn seal. Sled dogs on the island rarely molest Eskimo children. out for a morning's sketching in the hills back of Cape Stosch. A small herd of musk oxen was grazing on the plain at the foot of the mountains. Having lots of meat, we weren't interested in hunting. A lone bull on outpost guard stood motionless, as if cut in granite. Weclimbedamileorsotothetopofa small plateau. On my drawing block I started to sketch in the bold lines of snow-patched peaks. Labb snoozed at my side. Suddenly I heard the clatter of hoofs be hind me. Wheeling about, I saw a musk ox charging head down. The animal's heavy chocolate-brown hair quivered with each stride. Musk Ox Charges, Gun Jams! With a single motion I dropped my crayon, swept up my rifle, and slammed back the slide to cock it. In my frightened haste the shell jammed in the chamber! Perhaps some special sense told Labb that something had gone wrong. Anyway, revers ing his timid character, he flew to meet the oncoming musk ox, barking like a mad demon. He leaped for the burly creature's throat. The musk ox slid to a stop and shook his shaggy mane to throw off his attacker. Labb danced around him. Distracted by the dog, the musk ox forgot me. I cleared my jammed rifle, stepped up close to avoid any chance of hitting Labb, and fired into the beast's ear. Labb was frantic with delight. He dashed back and forth between the slain musk ox and his master, growling at the animal and jumping up on me to lick my face. "Labb, old boy, you saved my life!" I gave the dog a mighty hug. The musk ox was a female. We followed her tracks back over the brink of the hill. Part way down the slope a set of small tracks turned from the big ones and trailed off. It was clear what had happened. Sniffing Labb and me up above, the mother had warned the youngster at her side that danger lay ahead and sent it off back down to the herd. Then she rushed up to the plateau, determined to destroy the enemy that she fancied threatened her calf (page 547). A year later, when I was back in Greenland, I met Alwin Pedersen, authority on the musk ox. He was with the Danish expedition under Count Eigil Knuth. I told him about the incident narrated above. He just laughed. "Absurd!" he said scornfully. "No musk ox ever charged a man. You must have dreamed it."