Last year I posted about the persistent summer residence of a gang of thug Canadian geese in this small NJ town. They clung to what they felt were their squatter's rights over a small pond in a local park. This little town practically turned itself upside down and inside out to rid themselves of the beasties, but to no avail. Until, of course, they migrated.
Migration is over. The turf-protective, honking, littering menaces are back.
Yesterday I had just gone grocery shopping, but it was too decent a day to go straight home, so I picked up an interesting magazine at check-out and headed for the park. It was unseasonably chilly, but comfy enough in the car. I assembled a quick lunch from bread, cheese, an apple and diet soda, opened the sunroof and gazed off into the park. There they were, the "Advance Team" of geese - an older looking couple, big juicy waddlers. There were a few others in the distance, but far from what I fear will be "peak season" populations.
This old couple, whom I instantly named Clarence and Edith, were pecking in the wet earth about 20 feet from me, digging up what must have been succulent, wormy victuals. Off to the side, a grey squirrel munched on something crunchy. For a moment it felt that we were all having lunch together -- me, Clarence, Edith and the squirrel that I decided to call Hector.
I decided I may have been too hard on them last year. After all, Clarence and Edith had to live somewhere and they surely had to defecate somewhere. They seemed to be co-existing nicely with Hector, so maybe I had gotten it all wrong. I decided to make a peace offering. I reached in my grocery bag and took out the heel end of the multi-grain bread that I had. What could be finer?
I flung it out of the window, frisbee-style, and, clumsy flinger that I was, it landed about 10 feet from the car -- a bit close for wild things to risk. But out of the corner of my eye, I could see Hector starting to zig zag forward, in kind of a slow squirrel dance that said "I'm looking at it, no I'm not, yes I am, maybe I am not, la la la".
Clarence caught wind of what Hector was doing and muttered a few phrases to Edith as he edged his backside into the yardage between Hector and the bread, never missing a chance to peck for a worm or two. His dance was more ponderous - a clumpy sort of "I will just block you with my body" kind of winding stroll. Hector would zip back and forth and Clarence would just insert his dominant self.
Finally, Clarence was close enough to the bread to give it a good sniff. He'd look at me, then sniff the bread, prodding it with his beak ever so slightly. Hector was beside himself, his tail twitching back and forth like a metronome on fire. Finally, Clarence looked over at Edith and they clucked back and forth a few times, then waddled away -- without the bread!!!
They had rejected my bread. My earnest offer. My multi-grains. My peace offering for having thought of them as thankless cretins.
Hector seemed to struggle with himself. Could he trust that the geese had abandoned the site? Could he dare be so close to me? If Clarence hadn't taken it, was it worth the risk for him?
Finally, he ran directly over to the bread and picked it up. This was a creature who knew his multi-grains! He almost swooned in delight as he nibbled around the edges of the slice. The heel of bread was as big as his chest, and would assuage his hunger to be sure. Suddenly he ran up the side of a tree, carrying it between his teeth, his head bent down towards his chest. He got to a crotch in the tree and settled in for some serious eating.
It is entirely unpredictable who will ever benefit from any good we do. Our job is just to keep tossing out the crusts of bread for whomever needs them most.