You have seen them fly overhead in magnificent V formations. And you have also witnessed them bringing traffic to a standstill as they waddle defiantly cross the street. They are the Goose Gang of Cornelius.
Earlier this week, I had the rare opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with Cornelius’ notorious residents, the Canada Geese. I sat cross-legged in the crosswalk on 115 in front of the Veterans Monument surrounded by 14 of the beautiful long-necked fowl. Cars in both directions crawled to a stop and waited.
We were joined by Tammie and Gerard Thomas. Many of you know them as the adorable dancing couple seen frozen in time on the Second Friday page of OTC. They not only cut a mean rug, they also speak Canadian. I do not. So, they sat with me to serve as interpreters as I conversed with our feathered friends.
Here’s a transcript of our interview:
Me: Hello, we appreciate your meeting with us today. First, do you prefer to be called “Canada Geese” or “Canadian Geese?”
[A large male steps forward and, according to Tammie, honks the following.]
Goose (via Tammie): I prefer to be called Ralph.
Me: Okay, Ralph it is. Ralph, would you please answer the most pressing question: Why does your gang keep crossing the road? Don’t you realize you are stopping traffic?
[Gerard listens to Ralph honk loudly for a bit, then relays his answer.]
Ralph (via Gerard):We are blocking traffic to protest. You humans have built buildings on what used to be our home. We lived on these meadows for years. We were happy. There was plenty of grass to eat, room for our goslings to run and play. Joni Mitchell, another fine Canadian, got it right: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” This is our fight song.
Me: There are other open spaces with grass seed you seem to be enjoying.
Ralph: We don’t want your grass seed! That is a horrible diet. We need a natural open field of grasses and tiny insects. You people have pushed us out. Where are we supposed to go now?
[Tammie listens to a female quietly honk in her ear and adds the following.]
Female Goose: We are peaceful geese. We only want love. Talk to us. Give us hugs and kisses. Please don’t run over us with your cars and trucks. We love to fly. There is freedom in flying. We would rather be flying than strutting across your hot asphalt. But we needed to draw attention to our plight.
Me: I understand. Speaking of flying–Why do you fly in a “V” formation?
[A smaller goose, Oscar, wearing glasses, steps forward and honks, in American. “A bilingual goose!” I think. “He must be quite useful when crossing the border.”]
Oscar: Ah hum, it’s really quite simple: As we flap our wings, a rotating vortex of air rolls off each of our wingtips. These vortices mean that the air immediately behind each goose gets pushed downward, and the air behind it and off the sides gets pushed upwards. When we geese fly in either of these upwash zones, we get a free lift. Basically, we save energy by mooching off the air flow created by our flock-mates.
[The other geese nod in agreement. Evidently this is basic knowledge to the gang. I will now consider “bird brain” a compliment.]
[Cars on both sides of us start inching forward. Ralph glances at the vehicles, honks, and the geese begin moving away. Then the others honk along with Ralph. Soon, it turns into a melody. I recognize the song. Oscar smiles.]
Oscar: Yep, this is our favorite song to sing while waddling on people’s lawns: “My Little Goose Poop,” by the Beach Boys.
[The song instantly gets stuck in my head. “She’s my little goose poop, you don’t know what I’ve got…” on repeat.]
[As the geese waddle away, Oscar turns and makes one final clarification.]
Oscar: One more thing–we’re not a gang, were a gaggle.
Tammie, Gerard and I call out our “thanks” as the geese run, wings flapping, then soar into the blue October sky. I can only hope a new home awaits them when they land.