Tales of Father Goose

Hundreds of fairy tales, children’s stories, and nursery rhymes are attributed to Mother Goose, an imaginary author with origins in France and England. There’s a reason why Mother Goose was given credit for these classic yarns: Father Goose is a hot-tempered, dim-witted, asshole.

I rode on the Wadhams to Avoca Trail yesterday afternoon, an approximately ten mile rail trail in St. Clair County, west of Port Huron. It was a lovely day for a ride, with temperatures in the mid-60s, plenty of sun, and only a light breeze coming from the northeast (meaning it would be mostly blowing across my path both ways, which is ideal).

About three miles into the ride, I saw a large male Canada goose standing along the side of the trail, next to the wetlands that run along quite a bit of the trail. As I approached, he turned to look at me and started honking, and I started to think he might attack me as I rode by. This turned out to be an accurate suspicion, because as I got closer he started to run at me and then flew, glancing off my back as I passed him.

He was probably defending a nest just off the trail. Geese can be very protective of their young, though in general they’re pretty ornery all the time. In any case, it certainly got my heart rate elevated as a pedaled like hell to get away from him. No harm done, though, so I put our little encounter out of my mind.

So much so that when I returned to the same spot on the way back to Wadhams, there he was again, but this time I didn’t notice until he was already flying at me. This time, having forgotten that he might be there, I hadn’t slowed down, so I had a head start in speed. Though my cruising speed 12 mph isn’t very fast, really, even geese can’t go 0-12 in three seconds, so he didn’t make contact this time, though I may have nightmares about the sight of a large goose flying right behind me:

“When Canada Geese Attack” Photo by Chris Huggins via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

(Obviously, I didn’t have time to take a photo, but Chris Huggins’ photo is a close representation of what I saw yesterday.)

For those who doubt my judgment that Father Goose was male, I offer these defenses:

  1. He was larger than the typical Canada goose, which is consistent with difference in sizes – on average – between males and females of this species;
  2. He was more immediately aggressive than the typical Canada goose, which is consistent with the difference in temperament – on average – between males and females of this species; and
  3. He was stupider than the typical Canada goose, which is consistent with the difference – on average – between males and females of all species.

Canada geese are also regular inhabitants of the college campus where I used to work in Port Huron, where their strolling of the sidewalks occasionally results in aggression, especially in the spring when their young are nearby, and always results in goose shit all over the sidewalks, which is the genesis of what we called the “Goose Poop Two-Step,” a ritual dance familiar to every student and employee of the college.

In short, Father Goose was the equivalent of the guy at the bar who takes a swing at you unexpectedly for looking sideways at him after he’s had seven beers and a couple of shots, except the goose didn’t have the excuse of being drunk.