As usual, I’d let the Johnson grass in the back yard grow too high to mow. Instead, Mom and I chopped it into submission with machetes. It was hard, piss-you-off-quick work, what with the sweat running in our eyes and the sweat bees stinging us faster than we could shoo them away. Plus I hated the late September slant of sun. It made four-thirty in the afternoon feel like the end of the world.
The sudden whonnk-whonnk-whonnk startled me. In the washed-out blue distance, there they were—their neat, strict V flawless as always. Canada geese, of course, here taking jobs from American geese and wrecking the avian economy. They swagger around the backwater as if they own the red clay banks, hissing to rival the biggest cottonmouths, crapping glossy greenish-black all over the picnic area.
Arrogant, rude, noisy, messy—and stunningly beautiful, with those graceful black velvet necks and elegant white chinstraps. No charcoal, no gouache could duplicate their shading. No couturier could duplicate the white contrast seam binding along their smoky flight feathers. Subtle gray-brown scallops on their ivory bellies provide relief between the stark palettes above and below.
At the slightest threat to nest or wounded mate, WHHHHFFFFF! Beauty takes near-noiseless flight. A dozen sixteen-pound waterproof feathered mortars bear down shrieking and scare the bejesus out of combat-hardened Army Rangers jogging by the lake.
They were flying north.
“Dumbasses,” I muttered. “They’re going the wrong way.”
Mom pitched another clump of grass over the fence. “Aren’t we all.”
© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)