The Mooseman

When I was in high school I had a crush on Bill Silliker, Jr. He played drums in a local rock & roll band, and I suspected many other female classmates had similar feelings for him. I was sure Bill never knew my name or that I existed other than to nod and say hello as we approached the school bus. He graduated a year ahead of me, and I didn’t see him again until just before he passed away.

I found his wildlife photographs when I was designing the moose warmer and hunting for pictures to study. Searching for a real moose to photograph was out of the question. I didn’t have the interest or patience to track and wait for one to show up and lacked the necessary camera skills even if one did appear. Bill Silliker guided people on photo expeditions in the wild, camping out in order to be in the right place when that magnificent moose appeared. Maybe I should have gone on one of his guided trips, but I like to camp at the Holiday Inn – preferably one with a hot tub and paintings of wildlife.

Looking for a moose is a lot like trying to find love. It never shows up until you turn your attention to something else. Then, BAM! It steps right into your path.

Bill was a well-known advocate of wildlife preservation, a writer, and photographer. USES FOR MOOSES and WILDLIFE MAINE are a couple of his books. My sister-in-law, Betsy, had one of his books on her coffee table at camp and was also an admirer of his work.

In the spring of 2003, while I was at the New England Products Trade Show in Portland, a woman stopped at the Maine Warmers’ display and said she was interested in buying a Moose Warmer for a wildlife photographer who was at the show signing books. She asked if I knew Bill Silliker and said that I might be interested in meeting him.

As soon as I could get away I hurried to the Down East Books’ display and introduced myself. He was as easy-going and pleasant as I remembered. He had no recollection of who I was or that we had lived in the same small town. The crush disappeared like a moose into the Maine woods. Only a sweet memory of it remained. I was grateful for having the opportunity to tell him how much I admired his work. We had a nice chat, I wished him well, and stepped back into the show.

When I told my sister-in-law a few weeks later she said I should have told him about the high school crush. “He would have thought it was a riot,” she replied, “and it would have made him feel good.” She was right, I shouldn’t have felt embarrassment, and decided that when I saw him again — maybe at the next year’s trade show — I would tell him.
In October of that year, while guiding a group of nature enthusiasts on a wildlife photo tour at Sandy Pond in Baxter State Park, Bill Silliker Jr. had a massive heart attack. After his death I learned that he was nicknamed the “Mooseman,” and — not surprisingly — beloved by many.

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