Sunday, December 10, 2006
How I lost the Great Goose War
This is a Canada Goose. Ages ago evolution stripped the pitchfork, horns and pointed tail off this devil and left behind this grass-chomping poo machine. This demon is swimming happily in my pond. We were at war.
I live comfortably in the city limits of the third largest city in the state. I share my pond with others. We formed a Homeowners Association and are a close community. Everyone enjoys the pond. While only 1/436 of the pond is legally mine, I feel perfectly comfortable walking the trail around the whole of it and communing with its abundant wildlife.
We have a nice assortment of white farm ducks that live on the pond. I'm not sure where these domestic ducks came from, but more seem to show up after Thanksgiving for some reason. Everyone in the Homeowners Association brings the ducks cracked corn and healthy grains to eat. We try not to feed them bread - even though they love it. Children love to feed the ducks and play on the playground equipment we've assembled in the park that we built beside the pond. The Homeowners Association buys cracked corn to feed the ducks to make sure that they get enough to eat every day and to keep them happy and healthy. Wild ducks often stop by and glide through the calm waters of the pond.
One day the devil birds, the Canada Geese, showed up. They are big birds. A full-grown Canada goose can grow up to 40 inches long, with a wingspan of up to 70 inches and can weigh between 7 and 14 pounds. A single bird can produce as much as a pound of feces per day according to the biologists. I think that estimate is conservative. They are aggressive at feeding time, and show no remorse when savaging their smaller cousins, our beautiful ducks.
One day I was feeding the ducks. They like it when I broadcast the grain by hand. I was raised on a farm, so I am familiar with the technique and am happy to oblige. A fat Canada Geese stomped up to me and stood on my right shoe. I ignored it and continued feeding the ducks. Then it started honking. I ignored it and continued feeding the ducks. It covered my shoe with poo. I lifted the stupid bird off my shoe and tossed it aside. I continued feeding the ducks. It came back. The Canadian eyed the sack of grain and then my clean left shoe. It flapped its great wings and honked. I caved. I offered it a handful of cracked corn, and the awful beast ate it all from the palm of my hand. Then it stomped off crowing its victory. My hand was wet with goose slobber and my shoe stunk.
I got on the telephone and called the State Wildlife man and complained. He said that there wasn't much that really works to get rid of the Canadian devils - other than hunting. I haven't hunted anything at all since the war, but it was personal now. This goose had violated me. Maybe if I did teach one of the birds as lesson, the others would fear me and respect my pond. I could go to the pond with sweet cracked corn in one hand and a meat cleaver in the other. One quick stroke and I'd be back on top of the food chain. What would I need to make this … legal?
The state wildlife man said the first thing I needed was a state waterfowl hunting license with a Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. I was certain that I wouldn't need anything like that since the migratory extent of these beasts was from one side of town to the other. I'm sure they don't even know where Canada is anymore. The state wildlife man said "yes, it was stupid, but it was a federal thing with penalties that include fines and/or prison sentences." Given who's running the federal government right now, I could see the logic in just paying for the ridiculous stamp.
The state wildlife man said that the state legislature didn't approve of using a meat cleaver to hunt geese. He suggested a shotgun. I imagine myself dressed up in camouflage, sneaking between trees to the duck pond. There would be a renegade goose gorging on our homeowner's association lawn grass, slickening the footpath with poo, and laughing at our pain. I would lift the gun, breathe steadily, and then hold the last one, relax, lower an aim onto the bird, and squeeze the trigger. The gun would roar and all 436 homeowners in the association would simultaneously call the police. Nope, there had to be a better way.
The state wildlife man said that a bow and arrow were the only other legal method for "taking" a goose. I confess the idea has some appeal. Although I'm no match for Legolas Greenleaf the Elf, I did hit the archery target at summer camp with all three of the arrows they gave me. Of course, I was 12 then and hadn't practiced a bit since. But that target was still and the Canada Goose would be moving, intentionally making his profile as small as possible. What would happen if I merely wounded the bird instead of killing it? It would start screaming, flapping its wings, and then all 436 homeowners in the association would simultaneously call the SPCA.
I needed something manly, mean and silent. Something that would the geese would respect. I had to go Rambo on their feathered butts.
"Do you have to *shoot* the arrow with the bow?" I asked.
"What do you mean?" the state wildlife man stepped through the words like broken glass.
The telephone line crackled. The state wildlife man hadn't a clue.
"What if I just take the arrow and stab the goose?"
** click **
This morning I again feed the ducks by hand. This is the Canada Goose that crapped on my shoe. He is still very much alive. The war between us is over. I lost, and as you can see, the only animal harmed in the making of this story was me.