I lived in Coronation, an Alberta village in Canada, until I was 18. This is the 8th of 25 Coronation stories & essays.
They say nothing happens in Coronation.
They are certainly not goose hunters.
Coronation is on the fly path of millions of geese that migrate between the Arctic and Mexico each year.
There were a lot when I lived there in the 50s. The old timers who sat around the lobby of the Royal Crown Hotel told tales of migrations in their day that would blot out the sun for five hours.
They had some pretty good fishing stories too.
Anyway, the other day, Someone sent me an e-mail that claimed duck quacks have no echo.
When I was a kid I went duck and goose hunting. I never paid much attention to their echoes. It might have been because it was windy or because I had my ears plugged with cotton so they would not ring after I fired my shotgun on the flat Alberta plains.
I was not a good hunter and nearly all the birds got away.
Once I shot a Canada Goose. This was thrilling for a 17-year-old boy until the goose’s husband came back.
The old gander circled and landed to protect his dying mate. I did not want to waste a shotgun shell on him so I set about to wring his neck.
First I had to stun him so I tried to give him a good kick in the head. The gander deflected my kick with a move that would have done Clint Eastwood proud, then beat me up pretty badly.
Fortunately two of my hunting pals opened up with .12 gauge pumps and nailed him in crossfire. Soon, he had joined his wife.
That night I dreamed about the gander. I could still see him slowly turning in the sky and returning to his fallen mate.
People say animals don’t think about death. People say that is one of the differences between people and animals.
I don’t know if that’s true of ducks and geese. I think they understand death.
I always noticed that they would never go near hunters, no matter how much good food was available. And if a hunter fired a gun, the ducks and geese would hightail it.
So they must have some kind of inkling about death.
If ducks and geese did not understand death, hunters would not have to go to elaborate (some would say maniacal) lengths to hide from them.
Hunters dig trenches in the ground and wait like giant earthworms in farmer’s fields, then when the birds show up for breakfast, hunters bust out of the sod, guns blazing.
The fish and wildlife authorities have passed laws that make it fair for the birds during their last seconds. Most states and provinces allow the hunter only three shells in their weapons.
If a guy were trying to kill me with a .12 gauge shotgun that could hold seven shots, I would certainly feel more tranquil knowing he had to leave four of the shells in his pocket.
You’re considered a bad sportsman if you have more than three shells in your gun when you go wild bird hunting. If the game warden catches you, he’ll fine you and confiscate your gun.
I always tried to be a good sportsman. I wanted to give my opponents a fair fight. Even so, when I battled the old gander, I won easily.
Of course I had the help of my buddies who each had three shots (for they too were sterling sportsmen).
Later I told my hunting buddies about my dreams of the old goose.
My friends nodded wisely and said it was better that we had shot the gander because Canada Geese mate for life and he would have probably died from a broken heart. Best to put him out of his misery. Yeah, right.
Shortly after that I stopped hunting.
I found my old duck call. I blew it. No echo.
I don’t know if a goose honk echoes.
I don’t want to find out.
It would only make me think of a fearless old gander, so many years ago, who was not adept at Karate against three young sportsmen.
His valor still echoes in my mind.
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