Saturday, August 9, 2008
Duck Duck Goose
As we roll somewhat lazily toward the end of a very pleasant summer, I am remembering where we were as the season started. We were in an RV park in Shelby County, Alabama, called Cherokee , located by a lovely private lake. You can't swim or boat in the lake, which keeps things pretty peaceful but you can fish and it almost seemed like people did that around the clock. A path around the lake makes for a great walk at sunrise and sunset. This RV park was inexpensive, rambling, older, quiet (except for the geese and I'll get to that in a moment) with no frills. The owners were very nice folks and the bathhouses were kept clean and in order. It was altogether a great RVing experience among the shade trees and we had a nice view of the lake. We would have stayed longer if they'd had cable TV hook-ups. In fact, we probably would have stayed all summer!
Did I mention the lake is home to a gaggle of geese? If you don't see them right away you will hear them before long. They honk at each other. They honk at you. They honk at cars instead of the other way around. They honk at daybreak and they honk at sunset. They seemed to have names because I noticed a number of times cars would come around one of the corners and one of the about 12 or 14 geese that lived on the lake would stand firm in the middle of the road and state its case: HONK. The car would stop. This usually wasn't enough for the goose/traffic cop. HONK? the goose would offer and waddle up to the drivers window, asking for a toll of some kind, probably food. Usually a head would pop out of the drivers side window and address the goose by name and shoo it on. Car would pass. Goose would honk at departing car, threatening to take down the license plate number if they didn't give a treat the next time.
Our first visitors were a young goose and old duck (the duck being of some exotic variety) and they were quite a striking twosome. They came right up to the door of the RV. The goose honked and the duck quacked. John looked outside. "It's for you." he said.
The duck had a distinct limp from what looked like an old injury but had no problem with the bread I offered and immediately plopped down and ate to its hearts content. The goose did seem to have some difficulty with the pieces so I put down a bowl of water and she would dunk the bread in the water and then eat it. On occasion the old duck would waddle up behind the goose and attack her while she ate. Duck would bite her on the bum and then spit out a huge mouthful of feathers. I took it to be some kind of reminder of who the boss bird was.
These two appeared to have an interesting relationship and were almost always together. There were wild geese around the lake that did not hang with either the old duck or the young goose. Some of the wild geese had goslings and at some point during a day you'd get the treat of a goose family outing -- Mom in front, three babies lined up in the middle and the Dad bringing up the rear, hissing at anyone who got too close.
We nicknamed our visiting Goose and Duck "the gruesome twosome", meant in a fond way, because they had strong-armed (er, winged) us into giving them food like a well orchestrated two-bird mafia. They didn't appear to visit anyone else that we could tell. Why would they? We were their slaves. They would come by at dawn and sit silently on the patio by the door until John or I opened the door. Then: HONK. And: Quack! "Give me a minute" I'd usually say, sleepily. But no. HONK! Then more insistent: HONK! Quack! HONK! Quack! HONK HONK HONK! "For God's sake shut up you feathered freaks!" I'd say and throw rolls on the ground that they would happily attack and eat. I'd give them some breakfast and a bowl of water and then the odd couple would wander off to do whatever it was they did all day before they would come back in the afternoon to eat dinner with our dogs. Our three dogs would hang out and eat on the patio and Goose and Duck didn't even bat an eye after they realized our canines were used to other animals and were no threat. Our dogs quickly accepted them as another weird looking set of dogs with wings, beady eyes and no teeth. This noisy, yet peaceable kingdom scenario lasted the whole of our visit at Cherokee.