Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Winter of the Goose

On the mornings I go walking without my dogs, I often pass Baxter Pond. Baxter Pond is man-made, I think, but lovely and natural-looking. There are weeping trees and hearty indigenous plantings all along its banks. A small bump of land in the middle is homebase to several clans - mallard ducks, sea gulls (visitors from the bay next door) and, especially, Canada Geese.

These geese are a lot of fun. They are not afraid of people, either pedestrian or automotive. In the spring, when goslings have hatched and the gaggles are especially close-knit, it is common to see those geese families crossing the road to get to the bay where, I assume, the menu selection is better. With one parent in front and one in the back, the geese babies walk carefully in a straight line across four lanes of stopped traffic. Most of the time people are very good and patient. They stop, roll down their windows and smile affectionately as the geese waddle their way across. Some crabby people try to weave around them or, even worse, try to muscle the geese out of their way by driving real close and honking their own horns. We don't like these impatient, heartless people.

Usually, the waterfowl of Baxter Pond keeps to itself. But one winter, a few years back, there was an odd bird (sorry, had to) living in the pond. He was a goose, but not a Canada Goose. He was brownish-gray and had one of those bumps over his orange bill. He was extremely friendly and openly solicited snacks from passersby.

I named him Harry. Since I was walking nearly every day at that time, I saw Harry quite often. It got to the point where I would stroll by, call his name and wait, knowing he would appear out of the rushes momentarily. And he did, honking and flapping. I fed him cracked corn (I know I shouldn't have) and talked to him for a few minutes before continuing on my way. Harry ate from my hand. He didn't seem to have any friends among the others. He was the only gray-brown goose and all the other birds pretty much kept to their own kind. I felt sorry about that. Such a friendly fellow deserved a few buddies.

These visits continued into the spring, until, after several straight days of not seeing a trace of Harry, I decided he was really gone. I never saw him again. It is interesting how powerful an impact even small interactions with other living things can have on us. I can still see Harry popping through the reedy grass upon hearing his name called. I can still hear his insistent honk when I took too long getting his snacks out of my pocket and how he would try to help himself, nosing in and sometimes getting my fingertip instead of corn.

A friend later suggested Harry may have been someone's pet at one time. That would explain his lack of shyness and his only-ness at the pond. Part of me wished I had taken him home, however impractical that would have been. I wonder and worry about him, even now. Does he know this? Can he remember these moments in his life? I wish I knew.

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