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The last remains of the snow piled under the eaves of the shop soaked into the spring-softened soil a week ago—but not before the dog rolled in that last bit of winter. The disappearance of that accumulation is an old signal on this place. That roof’s been shedding snow in the same location since—hmmm, let’s see—1972, maybe? Can’t remember exactly, though I helped the Old Man raise the walls one fine June day.

Dad smacked his left thumb well that day with a 20-ounce, TruTest claw hammer and launched it on a rising string of invectives into the woods in retaliation. Too bad the clew wasn’t cotton, ’cause we never found it. Never. Every once in a while, I wander through the forest back there and still think I might find it hanging in a tree.

As the world surrounding the shop emerges from winter, so do things that need doing. Regretfully or thankfully, depending on your point of view, lift-assisted skiing is over for the season, so maybe some of them will get done. There’s always hope. Spring is, after all, hope renewed. Having survived the white months, we begin to breath again, along with the planet. Now, if we can coax something to grow, we might make it through next winter.

That’s not quite so true as it was a couple of centuries ago. Not many in this country live that close to the earth anymore. But, there is still opportunity to pay it attention

With this new year—that marked by the calendar, not the thaw—I’ve undertaken a new discipline of earth watching. Each day the weather is not completely disagreeable—or I am not called by economics to leave early and come home late—I take the snow-lover to visit his other love, the river. Beside it resides a tennis ball in the fork of a cedar tree and a pile of rocks doubling as a weight set, providing workouts for us both.

I also bring my camera.

The view downstream from the gymnasium and water park is not overtly spectacular, but beautiful and ever changing. Each time I put my feet into their preordained places and take the four pictures I always take—two vertical, two horizontal; two at normal focal length, two at 3X magnification—I see a different river. Sometimes the river-lover sneaks into the frame, but that is all for the better. At the end of the year, I will have four very short movies about my river in which Laddie makes occasional cameo appearances.

So it was that I was at the river yesterday—not a very nice day, by the way—with a happy dog and two Canada geese that were acting strangely. Instead of flying away at the presence of the dog, as they normally do, they swam toward us, veering off before getting too close, but then approaching again. It was as if they were trying to convince themselves to land but couldn’t quite talk themselves into it.

This went on through a liberal application of the tennis ball, which kept the dog’s attention away from the geese, and the weight set, which warded off personal atrophy for one more day. Finally, I was tired and the dog was, at least, very wet. I proposed that we quit and go home. The dog joyfully accepted.

As we were leaving, though, a third goose approached, announcing itself in no uncertain terms. It came full tilt downriver at an elevation of about two feet, neck stretched flat and pinions pumping full speed ahead, just far enough off the glassy water that its wingtips didn’t tangle with those of its reflection. I expected it would go into the glide that signals an imminent landing, but instead, it passed the other two at full steam and then pulled a hard right and came after one of the others, lowering to a point where he could assist his own progress by running along the top of the water. It was then easy to see that he was a he and that he meant business,

The other male skedaddled a ways upstream and settled on the water. The new arrival settled next to the third goose and they began upstream at a companionable distance from one another. From about 50 yards, the newly returned male went after the other gander again, which took off and, honking mournfully, flew straight downriver and out of sight,

Once the would-be usurper was vanquished, the pair left behind let bygones be bygones and swam quietly together, as I have seen them do on many previous visits to the river. The dog came back to see what had happened to me, and then we went home. 

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Author info

Sandy Compton Sandy Compton Sandy Compton is one of the original contributors to The River Journal, and owner and publisher at Blue Creek Press (www.bluecreekpress.com). His latest book is Side Trips From Cowboy: Addiction, Recovery and the Western American Myth

Tagged as:

geese, The Scenic Route

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