It’s 5:32 a.m.
My wife, her dog, and three grandchildren are sleeping in the basement. The sun is coming up over the slough and there are at least five different varieties of bird songs floating through the open window. I wish I could identify what I’m hearing. You know, the guy who cocks his head and says, “Oh, listen, it’s a red-breasted warbler. They’re early this year - they migrate from Morocco to Winnipeg…”
Yeah, I’m not that guy.
I know geese, though. I like geese, but while what comes out of their mouths is entrancing…singing it is not. They’re really kind of awkward animals and it starts early. The babies are cute, but all babies are cute. The thing about geese, though, is their cute phase is so short – about a week of fuzz and then ugly little feathers poke through and their run turns into an ungainly wobble. They look like 13-year-old boys during that phase when they can’t run without tripping over their knees. I bet if you could part the cheek fuzz on a month-old goose, you’d see pimples and a bad haircut.
A couple decades ago, when my own knees still worked, I was hunting geese and started sneaking up on a huge flock that was resting on the slough one early morning.
Sneaking isn’t quite the right word. Wearing rubber clothes, shoving through cattails, in two feet of water and another foot of mud underneath, I had to stop every few minutes to catch my breath. Plodding - that’s what I was doing.
I had to get through about fifty feet of cattails, thick and towering over my head. It was still early, and even though there were thousands of geese, all I could hear was a faint murmur.
I was feeling kind of triumphant. Geese aren’t particularly smart, but they are wary. In large groups, it seems some are always on guard, checking the perimeter for predators of all types. No wonder my hunting career had consisted largely of geese honking triumphantly as they sailed effortlessly out of range.
I stopped to catch my breath. There was only a thin screen of cattails in front of me now, and I could see the shadowy shapes of geese paddling back and forth on the still morning water. The murmur was getting louder. They didn’t know I was there, but definitely seemed to sense that something was amiss. Surrendering to impulse, I pushed my way through the last clump of cattails and into full view of the wild geese a few feet away. In a burst of anxiety, the whole flock, thousands of birds, leapt into air simultaneously. I was close enough that I could feel the air pressure of their wings against my face and I just stood there, my shotgun dangling at my side. Simply pulling the trigger with the gun pointed in almost any direction probably would have hit a dozen birds, but being in the moment was more than enough. I didn’t feel the need for any trophies.
Just a sweet fall memory, remembered on a spring morning with the sun coming up over the slough and the murmur of wild geese floating on the morning breeze.
Copyright 2019 Brent Olson