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Kittredge: Gone Goose

For several years I have watched a particular pair of Canada Geese build their nest and raise their young on an island in a small pond near our house.  Having spent many cold spring mornings crouched down with my binoculars, I know it’s the same couple.

The gander is strong and dominant and readily scares away other hopeful geese that seek to settle on his island.  He steadfastly guards his mate as she shelters, through biting April storms, her clutch of unborn promise.

Then early this summer a whole flock of geese decided that our lawn would be the perfect summer vacation spot. As anyone who has been to an urban park can attest, they can wreak havoc.  Each goose produces two pounds of excrement a day. Really? That’s a lot of vegetation processing, and a lot of mess.  Having rushed at them with waving arms only to watch them wheel and return, I fled to my computer.

 For $489 I could buy a solar powered gismo that would flash light every 30 seconds around the clock.  That wouldn’t be very nice on a dark, star gazing summer night.  But I had a thought and went to the old CD closet, retrieved some discordant somewhat irritating modern compositions, a collection of bombastic marching songs and, with a little fishing line, hung the flashing discs from a nearby tree.  The geese took flight immediately and never returned.

Canada Geese are beautiful; they have a lot going for them.  They mate for life and we all find this tender and reassuring.  They are some of the first harbingers of spring and as their honking symphony dims through the fall, we know that the first snows aren’t far off.

But their numbers are out of control.  They can destroy a newly seeded field in short measure and seriously pollute lakes and ponds. So it was with mixed emotions that I witnessed what I did one recent morning.  

Opening the door to head out for my early constitutional, I heard a flurry of gunfire.  “Is it hunting season already?” I wondered.  As my walk continued, the barrage of gunshots increased and soon it became clear what was happening.  This wasn’t a hunter or two out for a morning shoot; this was a focused attempt to eradicate a flock.  In the field across from the pond with the island in it, four men were efficiently eliminating the geese from a newly sown wheat field.

It wasn’t hard to do.  Crouching down among the already felled, they simply waited for the rest of the flock to return.  Remember they mate for life? The geese kept circling back to find their mates.  I wanted to warn them, “No, no! Fly away!”  But they didn’t; they simply glided gracefully to their deaths.

As the debate continues about launching military strikes against Syria, it’s painful though good for us all to be reminded of the toll of any calculated and deadly attack.

Susan Cooke Kittredge is Associate Pastor of the Charlotte Congregational Church.
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