Archives for May 2014

The Ninth Gosling (from “Growing Up and Other Stories”)

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From a gosling’s perspective:

I am a two-week-old Canadian goose.
Nine of us follow momma across the lake in search of food.
I feed near momma in tall grass along the lake shore on this early spring day.
I am still eating when I notice my family is not in sight.
I can’t hear momma’s voice.
Where is everybody? I am alone!
I rush around the yard, squawk and search, but no one hears.
I waddle through the grass to the lake shore and scan the water.
My family is gone!
Alone I swim away from shore and squawk for momma. She warned us not to swim alone for fear of hungry fish who want to eat us. I paddle near a covered dock and between the floatation. My family is not here so I muster my courage and swim out into the lake.
A motor hums and a man in a boat heads for me.
I swim in circles and flap my wings.
A net catches me. I struggle but can’t get free. I squawk in vain.
I am trapped in the net!
The motor buzzes and the boat dashes across the lake. I’m afraid.
The buzz stops and the boat slides through the water.
The net rises into the air and over the water. I struggle hard.
The net plunges into the water and I shake my feet free.
I squawk and paddle in circles in panic.
Momma honks close by. I follow the sound to – my family!
Momma and my brothers and sisters are all there.
I am safe again – and momma puts her wing over me and covers my fear.

From a fisherman’s perspective:

Spring is here; I watch a Canadian goose mother and her gaggle of nine goslings swim across the lake to search for food in my yard. Two days ago there were ten young ones, but a hungry bass must have eaten one.
The geese wander into my uncut grass and feed, and the babies stay close to their mother.
Taking a break from yard work I notice the mother goose swim across the lake to the far side with her brood of –I count again – eight goslings following behind.
The ninth gosling is missing!
I scan the lake behind her, check my dock and the grass along the shore, and – yes, I see the panicked youngster flap his tiny wings and squawk for his family.
He enters the water, swims helter-skelter, and eventually ends up near my boat slip.
The mother and her brood are far up the shore across the lake.
Momma goose does not know number nine is missing!
I hurry to my dock and watch the frantic plight of the lost gosling.
He swims out into the lake now, a certain meal for a large fish or gar or turtle. He does not know which way to go. He is deserted.
I hop in my small fishing boat and crank the engine. I see the little fellow in the middle of the lake and head for him, trying to approach quietly so my engine noise won’t scare him.
But he flaps and swims in circles aware of my approach. I slip my fish net into the water, bring it up under him, and lift the net into my boat. He struggles but his webbed feet are tangled in the net.
I rev my engine, steer toward the far shore, and throttle back as I approach the Canadian goose family; they are busy feeding around a dock.
I lift the net with the little gosling over the side into the water and jiggle the net so he can untangle his feet.
He swims free and squawks, but this time Momma goose answers with a loud honk.
He heads toward the sound and is once more in the midst of his brothers and sisters.
He is safe — and momma goose cuddles him close to calm his fears.