My neighbor, the one who lives directly behind me, has turned his yard into a poultry run. He has six big geese and somewhere between thirteen and twenty multi-colored chickens. The chickens don't hold still long enough to accurately count, but they're pretty and colorful. Another fifty plus doves and a few pigeons hang out there too to freeload off the generous amounts of food the guy tosses out for his birds. I suspect it's not legal to have so many geese and chickens in our neighborhood, but as far as I know no one has complained. The roosters can't tell time and will crow any time of day, not just when the sun comes up, but it's the geese who are really noisy. They honk when the kids go by on their way to school each morning and they honk when the kids walk past on their way back home in the afternoon. They honk and flap their wings when walkers, runners, skateboards, bicycles, strollers, or dogs pass by. They greet snowplows, snow blowers, loud cars, the firetruck, and any other vehicle that passes on the street with a cacophony of honks and hoots. I've awakened in the middle of the night many times to hear them still honking away.
We had a large flock of geese on the farms where I lived as a child. There was KC the gander and his harem along with varying numbers of offspring. KC was the meanest, noisiest alarm system ever invented. We never worried about anyone helping themselves to our gas tank or unauthorized visits to our small orchard. KC stood guard--or more accurately dive bombed with screeching honks and painful pinches to any exposed body parts of invaders who dared enter his territory. Even us kids had to make sure KC was nowhere around before leaving the yard for a mad dash to the outhouse or barn. I discovered geese are tough old birds; they look after each other, give each other advice, and show up when they're needed. Even peddlers stayed in their cars until Mama shooed KC to the barn. Is it any wonder that when I was invited to join a group of writers who called themselves the V-Formation after the supportive wedge geese form as they travel thousands of miles each year, I eagerly accepted the invitation?
Sometimes hearing my neighbor's geese makes me smile and brings back memories of being a child growing up on the kind of farm that has almost disappeared from America. A few days ago my older brother celebrated a birthday and he and I found ourselves reminiscing about the past and our childhood. We laughed over the scrapes we got in and expressed our regret that the life we knew then is gone forever. And we agreed that on cold snowy mornings when the wind is screaming around the eaves of our houses, both of us have the same thought, "I'm so glad I don't have to go out to milk the cows this morning."
My neighbors geese were not so big or loud last summer and his chickens were smaller too. We weren't as aware of them then as we are now. Sometimes I wish they'd be quiet, but mostly I enjoy this reminder of that time when I was a white-haired tomboy and I had a whole world to explore and had to run to keep up with my big brothers. When summer comes and I have a garden to care for, open windows to invite in a bit of breeze, and the patio invites me to take my laptop outside, I'll wish those geese were Canadian honkers who fly away to northern lakes--or an inviting golf course--anywhere but where I have to listen to their discordant honks and bleeps!