Inter-continental conflict ends peacefully as Norway agrees Canada's got the bigger moose
After weeks of intercontinental conflict, two leaders have walked back from the brink, declaring a detente that brings to an end what amounted to a very cold war.
In the dark days of international diplomacy, as Brexit looms and talks between the United States and North Korea sour, peace lovers and politicians the world over can look to a pair of unlikely new comrades as beacons of hope.
On Wednesday, March 6, heads of cities in Saskatchewan, Canada and southern Norway signed a compact that concluded their spirited standoff - over a moose statue. The two cities, Moose Jaw and Stor-Elvdal, were feuding over the right to claim the title of world's tallest moose statue, a fiercely-coveted prize that the Canadian city boasted for three decades until its erstwhile rival in Norway topped it.
Canadian comedians Justin Reves and Greg Moore, along with admitted Yankee Steven Colbert, fanned the rivalry until it devolved into city leaders trading broadsides in Facebook Live videos.
But now, they have lowered their antlers.
Fraser Tolmie, mayor of Moose Jaw, and Linda Otnes Henriksen, deputy mayor of Stor-Elvdal, signed a document they dubbed a "moosarandum of understanding," though onlookers preferred the term "moose truce."
Either way, The Washington Post obtained a copy of the historic accord, which outlines the terms of the armistice. International negotiators take note: each side - or, "Moose-ipality," per the moosarandum - offers a concession, and both agree to further, ongoing discussion.
The city of Moose Jaw's statue, known as "Mac the Moose," currently 32-feet, will reclaim the title of tallest moose in the world, pending the cosmetic enhancement of his antlers. But that victory doesn't come without compromise. Stor-Elvdal's, "Storelgen," which is a 33-foot silver fox of a moose, will "forevermore be known as the shiniest and most attractive Moose in the world."
Then, in a sign of enduring bonhomie, the cities established new holidays, Norway Day in Moose Jaw and Canada Day in Stor-Elvdal. They also agreed to discuss the possibility of officially consummating their relationship by becoming "twin cities."
The dignitaries signed the agreement in front of the flags of Canada, Saskatchewan and Norway - and, of course, a framed hockey jersey from ex-Moose Jaw player and local hero Ryan Smyth. It was the culmination of a days-long tour of good will that brought Henriksen halfway around the world to the moose summit. In that moment, it was possible to look back warmly on the months that led her and Tolmie to the negotiating table.
Words were said.
For nearly two years, Norway's aggression went largely unnoticed. Then came Reves and Moore's stirring call to arms. Canada must stand with Mac the Moose, they said, and "stick it to Oslo."
"You are a city famous around the world for the glorious name of Moose Jaw," Reves said, "and everyone that comes by knows that this should be the world's tallest moose."
The two called on Canadians to donate money for Mac's antler-lift.
Colbert's derision - he compared the moose to a "papier-mâché dog from an abandoned theme park" - only raised Mac's profile. Moosehead Breweries (no relation) said it would donate $25,000 Canadian dollars, or about $19,000, to the cause. And, as was probably inevitable, the effort spawned a GoFundMe page, where donations will go to Mac's account with Tourism Moose Jaw, the entity responsible for statue maintenance.
Tolmie, he said at the time, meant business.
"There are things you just don't do to Canadians," he told Global News, a Canadian TV network. "You don't say Hockey Night in Canada is a chat show, you don't say we can't put maple syrup on our pancakes. You don't water down our beer and you don't mess with Mac the Moose."
Norway better watch out, he told another TV channel, because "you don't want to get into this race because you will bankrupt your nation."
But Henriksen wasn't backing down either.
"We're not letting this one go," she said in a Facebook-video-cum-diss-track. "Not a chance. We're going to do whatever we can to make sure this is the world's tallest moose - or biggest moose in the future, as well,"
This wasn't the first time Mac faced adversity.
He has weathered 30 years of brutal winter on the Canadian plains. Vandals have defaced him with graffiti. And, in an accident that was almost too on-the-nose, Mac suffered an injured jaw.
But this week, Mac may have pulled off his greatest feat of survival yet. When all is said and done, this intercontinental tiff will only have made the moose from Moose Jaw stronger. And a little taller, too.
This article was written by Reis Thebault and Emily Rauhala, reporters for The Washington Post.