C.W. Gusewell


Geese are worth another gander

Our urban geese have flown north to Canada, and I miss them greatly.

It’s sensible behavior, of course, when the thermometer here on the prairie’s edge is lodged around 100, the sun is a fierce brass plate and the afternoon wind is like a dragon’s exhalation.

I’d already have fled north myself, if obligations hadn’t kept me planted.

I’m well aware that my fondness for geese in the city is not universally shared. One hears complaints that they foul sidewalks, damage golf course greens, soil the shoes of civil folk and generally make themselves a nuisance.

In fact, I saw a recent editorial calling for action to deal with these pests, lest they make a bad impression on crowds of fans arriving here for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

I suppose it would be regrettable if a visitor were to step in a bit of poop. But surely goose droppings rank far down on the list of potential urban perils.

Where untidiness is concerned, human beings hardly are blameless. We pollute streams, poison lakes, set forest lands afire and make the very air unfit for breathing.

So, in a way, the geese are only getting even.

This past spring, a proud gander and his hen brought off their hatch beside a decorative pool in the median of a boulevard near where I live.

More pairs and their goslings could be seen paddling companionably in the pond of a pretty park in an upscale residential neighborhood.

Larger congregations grazed happily along the broad, grassy banks bordering an open storm drain that bisects a stylish shopping area.

In early morning, and again at evening when the sun had slipped down behind the trees, one often could hear their song as they passed overhead to and from their night’s resting place.

It shames me to remember that I used to hunt geese avidly. But while shooting a goose for reason of need might be acceptable, to kill one purely for sport strikes me now as quite another thing. It’s an activity I willingly gave up when I learned they mate for life.

Running several far-flung errands around the city on a recent day, I kept a keen lookout for any pairs or family groups of Canadas that might have stayed behind.

Not a one did I see.

But when the season eventually turns, the days shorten and the first winter gales rake across what were their summer breeding grounds, the geese will ride the sharp winds southward again – endless V’s of them dark against the yellow harvest moon – to spend the best part of another year with us.

And I’ll be glad to see them.