The Village Idiot: Wild kingdom

By John Hopkins

I like to think of myself as an animal person. I own pets, enjoy their company, thrill to seeing how the four-legged, winged or finned that make up our planet survive and thrive.

Over the past summer, however, I seem to have made some enemies.

I’m not sure how it started, what might have set the wild kingdom against me. But I’m pretty sure the geese were the instigators. Somehow I rubbed them the wrong way and set off the unfortunate series of incidents that was to colour the past few months.

Part of the excitement of living on the river has been the connection with nature. Early in the summer we had a beaver that would make evening swims back and forth in front of our place with a metronome-like regularity. A family of ducks, similarly, would make regular appearances near our shore. There were turtles sunning themselves on the rocks.

And then there were the geese. They also travelled up and down the river on a regular schedule – up in the morning and back down at night. Generally we would count 15 or 16, it was sometimes hard to distinguish them all. At first we thought it was very cute. We assumed there were probably four adults and then the rest were little goslings; a gaggle of geese, right out of the storybooks. But then I was confronted with what they really were – a gang.

They won’t tell you this in the nature books or on those National Geographic documentaries, but these geese sometimes travel in gangs and you do not want to meet them under certain circumstances, such as when you’re travelling alone, early in the morning or late at night, when help will almost certainly be slow to arrive and they are able to inflict their damage undetected.

One morning I was driving along the dirt road not far from our house when I came upon a gang of geese waddling down the road. I slowed down and wanted to give them plenty of room, after all, there were more of them and I was technically on their turf. Just as I was making my way past them one of the bigger adults suddenly charged at the car, wings flapping and beak wide open. He smashed into the driver’s seat window. Fortunately the window was closed, otherwise there would have been an almighty punch up right there in the front seat.

Instinctively I accelerated away but another one of them took off and started flying right beside me, dead even with the car, just a few feet off the ground. He stayed with me for half a kilometre or so, then finally veered off to the weeds on the left. I swear he gave me a sarcastic wink as he peeled away, as much to say, “We let you get away this time, but next time…”

So then I started worrying about the next time. I travelled that road every day, and they knew it. They were just waiting for me to cross their path again, maybe when it was darker and they would have an advantage over me. Maybe I would get lazy and leave my window down, giving them access inside the car. Then they would be able to really finish the job, dragging my goose-pecked corpse out of the car and into the nearby river, leaving the vehicle empty at the side of the road and my disappearance an enduring mystery.

Then I started wondering: had I been a random target, simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, or was this a targeted hit? When they serenely swam past our house each day, were they really casing the place, watching my movements, assessing my habits and routines?

And then came the big question: Were they acting alone or did they have accomplices? As the summer wore on I started to wonder just who I could trust outside our door. Were those pinecones dropping from the trees really hitting my head by fluke, or were the squirrels trying to stun me so the geese, hiding in the weeds at the shore, could move in? Were those cute cottontail rabbits outside the window simply hopping by innocently or were they reporting back to someone? And why did the beaver stop swimming by? Had he crossed the wrong goose?

I don’t know when, or from where, the next strike may come, which is probably just how these geese like it. They’re no fools. The fear of being attacked is worse than the attack itself. They as much as sent that message when our paths crossed on the gravel road a month or so after the first incident. As I slowed and moved over to pass the gang of them one gave me that ‘look.’ I know that look. I’ve seen it in the TV shows and movies, when the mobster is sitting in a restaurant and pulls back his suit jacket to reveal the gun in its holster, just so you know it’s there.

They’re watching me, and waiting. It’s all part of their sick plan. I can hear them cackling right now…