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Bonkers Honkers

You may have heard it on the street, but apparently, it's true. Those Canada geese you see these days almost everywhere? --they mate for life. Seriously. Divorce is just about non-existent. This time of year, couples break off from those massive v's and look for a place for the kids almost anywhere along the route. If you live around them, you’ll know it's not at all unusual for them to choose a place brazenly out in the open. Often, year after year, they’ll do the whole family thing in the exact same spot. Like all of us, creatures of habit.

They're here now and in abundance. Yesterday, they seemed almost quiet--it was the Sabbath, I guess; but hundreds of them were out in the stubble corn behind our house--hundreds, really, sloshing and slipping and sliding in the thin mud along the river.

Around our place at least, they keep their distance. Even if they're all the way out at the river, if I take a one step out back, they poke up their heads and grouse a bit about that lousy humanoid across the field.

It's great to have them around again, but I don't mind them keeping their distance. After all, as everyone knows, they litter thoughtlessly, recklessly, and their waste is more than is implied by “droppings.” Who hasn't walked among them in some city park and not tippy-toed through the unholy mess? They're commitedly old-fashioned. When the eggs appear, Mom keeps the nest while Dad stands guard, he never changes a diaper.

They’re remarkably tender, I’m told. Bald eagles have been known to kick kids out of the nest if they don’t take leave on their own; geese keep the kids around for a year, as if parting is, in fact, sweet sorrow.

I’m going to speculate a bit, but I can’t help thinking they're Democrats, not simply because they're awkward on land and impossibly messy. They're Democrats because they’ve long ago adopted Hillary's notion that "it takes a village." When goslings get to early adolescence, families often simply meld into flocks. "Why are they called Canada geese?" our third-grade grandson asked us some years ago. Nobody really knows; after all, they show up in every state of the union and don’t do hockey. They just are "Canada geese" and have been since the early 18th century, so says the Oxford English Dictionary. If, at your peril, you look past their abundant fecal matter, they make good neighbors. Out back of our house, they meal on what remains from last fall's harvest, harm no one nor anything, even bring the place alive with their persistent honking. But they're known to be crabby, even hostile. YouTube features some gangster geese, as well as ordinary people trying their best to outrun some bonkers honkers in the park.

Even as far north as our own Floyd River, some families decide to homestead. I’m told they used to migrate more and farther than many do today. Experts aren't sure why that's true, but it's meant an increase in population. Today, they number between four and six million—that’s more do-do than I care to imagine. I should be more accepting, but I can’t help thinking they're not particularly good singers. What manner of blessing is it that human voices are not designed to honk? Can you imagine a high school gym full—or an all-goose House of Reps? It's nice to have them around again, maybe especially when they’re in the air in those remarkable hanging triangles. If I don't have to clean up their dirt, they're pure blessing. Still, "good fences make good neighbors." I hope I’m not a bigot, but I prefer them out there in the back forty. Just as soon not have them light on my lawn.

Dr. Jim Schaap doesn’t know what on earth happens to his time these days, even though he should have plenty of it, retired as he is (from teaching literature and writing at Dordt College, Sioux Center, IA). If he’s not at a keyboard, most mornings he’s out on Siouxland’s country roads, running down stories that make him smile or leave him in awe. He is the author of several novels and a host of short stories and essays. His most recent publications include Up the Hill: Folk Tales from the Grave (stories), and Reading Mother Teresa (meditations). He lives with his wife Barbara in Alton, Iowa.
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