Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Goose

I really have the best job ever. I was driving back from Erie with my cooler of dry ice, feeling that all was well with my world. Suddenly I caught sight of a hound laying at the side of the road. "Oh, no, the poor thing has been hit", I thought, and quickly jerked the truck off the road to render aid and assistance. But the dog bolted for the weeds at the side of the road, and I saw that he had been attacking a large Canada goose.
Well, now, that left me in a quandry. I'd had a previous experience with a Canada goose. I was spending the weekend in silence at a monastery outside Washington, DC. I had been walking through a field thinking profound and holy thoughts when suddenly a large squonking goose charged at me through the jing weeds, flapping his wings and snapping. All vows of silence were temporarily forgotten as I tore through waist high grass getting away. I knew first hand that they are an aggressive bird, and wasn't really keen on tangling with this one, but I knew that if I left him, the dog would come back and finish the job.
Resolutely, I marched back to my truck and got my sweatshirt. I returned, crooning kind words, and slowly reached down and wrapped him ever so gently in my sweatshirt. He made no sound at all...not even a hiss. Encouraged, I made a sort of goose straight jacket out of my sweatshirt, and lugged him back to the truck. I shuffled my equipment around and made a nice little corner for him to sit in.
When I called the office on my cell, Chris answered. I explained my predicament as quickly as possible. She laughed and repeated the phrase I've come to expect from the people I work with. "This could only happen to you", she said. But she promised to find out who I needed to contact. I pulled into the Corry State Trooper Barracks to wait for further instruction.
The goose studied me as I walked around back of my truck. I opened my only bottled water and generously poured it out for him. He drank, and then stood up and looked at me. The last time that I had stopped for an animal, I made the mistake of looking him square in the eyes. This led to probably the biggest argument Tim and I have had in our married life. Tim was bellowing that he was NOT going to have a dog in the house. I was standing my ground, explaining "I looked that dog in the eye, and I saw him make the choice to trust me, and I am NOT going to break that trust." That argument lasted a couple weeks, and we now have Buck, the amazing wonder dog. I made up my mind, no matter what, that I was not looking this goose in the eye.
I called my office again, thereby avoiding any accidental eye contact. Pam answered. I barely began to speak before she said, "A GOOSE? How did that happen?" I was starting to get antsy, and had to bite back a number of clever answers. Pam transferred me to Chris who gave me a number to the Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
It was not long before I was talking to Amy, carefully keeping my back toward the goose. I'm explaining that I'm on the job, that I've got the work vehicle, and that there is no way I can drive this goose to Sagertown. I'm beginning to think that picking up this goose might not have been such a great idea. Amy tells me that the Game Commission will not pick up a Canada goose. "If it were a bald eagle or something..." she muses.
"You know," I say, "I really stink at bird identification. This is not a Canada Goose after all. The little toque fooled me. You take that off, and the bird is bald. This is a bald eagle, now that I'm looking closely."
She laughs and says, "Well, the Game Commission does NOT stink at bird identification. They'd figure it out pretty quickly." Pause, followed by "Wait. Where did you say you were?" I tell her. Incredulously, she tells me that there is someone bringing in 9 baby possums from Corry. She tells me to stay put, that she's going to see if she can catch the person. I stay put. The goose watches me calmly. I talk to him, still not looking him in the eye. My cell rings and it is Amy, ecstatic. She has intercepted the person. As soon as he gets a box from the grocery store, he'll swing by to pick up the goose. I'm much relieved. Amy tells me the person will be driving an SUV, and will be along shortly.
Sure enough, about 10 minutes later, an SUV pulls up. The driver smiles at me. I've made it. I have not looked this bird in the eye. We have not bonded. I smile right back at the driver and make a beeline for his vehicle. However when he turns around, he is apparently shocked to find me right behind him. He says, "Why am I feeling nervous right now?" Puzzled, I utter the fateful words. "Wait. You're not here for a goose?" He looks at me in astonishment, and I die a little, explaining feebly, "No, really. I have a goose in the truck. Somebody is supposed to meet me to take it to Tamarack..." but I'm talking to an empty space. The guy has made for the safety of the Police Barracks.
I go back to my truck, and wait. I do not look at the bird, studying me. I'm not bonding with the bird, but worry that maybe he is bonding with me. Not too much later, another SUV pulls up, and this one has a very nice couple in it. They save me further embarrassment by jumping out of their vehicle with a box and asking, "Are you the one with the goose?" I open up the back end of my truck and the goose goes into a panic, flapping and leaping all around the truck. Incidently, he is crapping on every piece of equipment that I have. I die a little more, take a deep breath and carefully wade in. Literally. I capture the goose in my sweatshirt, and bundle him back up. I croon kind words as I stuff the sweatshirt wrapped goose into the box. I do not look him in the eyes. I do however sneak a quick peak at the baby possums. One of them blinks his eyes sleepily, wriggling closer to the pile of brothers and sisters. That's it. One episode of blinking eyes, and darn it, I've bonded with a baby possum. They are just the most darling things ever. I want one.... My new found friends drive away before I can figure out how to get them to give me one.
My job is done. I watch them leave, and I am relieved, but my adventure is not over. I meet a nice batch of people sitting around a picnic table on Horn Siding, listening to Larry the Cable Guy. After listening to my story, apparently they think 'that's funny right there', too because they lend me their hose. I have to take every piece of equipment out of the back of my truck, hose out the truck bed, hose the equipment off, and then repack everything. I'm finally ready to begin work. I head off, feeling like I've done my good deed for the day. I get an amazing amount of work done in the afternoon, making up for lost time. I head back to the office, late, tired, feeling fine, parking the truck and transferring my backpack and other personals to my car.
Laura and Heather are there as I make the discovery. My car keys are not in my pocket. Thinking back, I remember. It was chilly that morning. I was wearing my sweatshirt. I stuck the keys in my sweatshirt pocket. The sweatshirt last seen on a goose headed for Tamarack.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The whole 'with age comes wisdom' thing does not appear to be panning out for me. At all.