Air Horns, the New Spring Accessory! No, Really.

It looks like Spring around here with rich purples and luscious pinks of Japanese Magnolias blossoming. Brilliant yellow daffodils bobbing atop stiff green stems. Birds dip and flutter as they busily gather materials for nest building. All is color, and fragrance, and light, each the budding promise of new life.

But there’s another side of Spring. A pervasive dark side that gets down and dirty. Think about it. All that new life has to come from somewhere. Or should I say ‘some how’? And sometimes it reaches out and taps you right on the shoulder. Or pecks the crap out of you.

Nature procreates on a schedule, no doubt. But subtle nuances can skew that schedule. Food supply, for one. And a gated community surrounding a private lake can be a bonanza in the world of water fowl. All those oblivious individuals luring majestic Canadian Geese by feeding them from their docks. Children tossing bread crumbs to families of Mallard ducks along reed-laced banks. And for most of the year it’s a lovely shared experience.

But when the horny bug bites . . . .

One g-son is a fishing fool. He’d rather buy lures or tackle than eat. (But he hits my door and heads straight for the kitchen, so he’s in no danger of starving.) He gets up before dawn to fish from his favorite pier on the lake. An older retired gentleman usually launches his small flatboat around the same time, and they’ve struck up a fishing friendship.

Excuse this bit of back story for edification. Canadian geese stand three feet tall, and are typically 12 to 14 pound birds. Please keep in mind these birds have been fed a steady diet of the finest commercial feed available, guaranteed to encourage maximum growth. Result? These beasts in this tale are probably around 20 pounds apiece. They’re very territorial, too.

Mr. R, out in his boat, let it drift where the wind would push it, enjoying the way the sun glittered off the spoon on his lure when he cast it. He drifted close to a reed bed. A few Canadian geese swan toward his boat. Not wanting to disturb them, he started his almost soundless electric trolling motor and moved to the middle of the lake. The geese floated back to their reedy hideout. The same thing happened the next day, only the geese were a little more aggressive. Once near the boat they beat their wings, rising partly from the water, and hissing. Mr. R hummed back to the center of the lake.

But last week everything changed. Tyler, standing on the end of the pier, saw it all. Said he couldn’t decide if it was more like a horror movie or a comedy. Those geese didn’t even wait for Mr. R to get close. As soon as he drifted toward the reed bed, they converged on his low sided boat en mass.

“Dang, Maw!” g-son exclaimed. “I didn’t know geese could climb! Two of them were in the boat before Mr. R knew what was happening! He had his hat off flailing away, but those geese were all over him. They’d get hold of a piece of skin in their beaks, and I could see it stretching from the bank!” He tried really hard not to laugh in the re-telling. “He’d grab a goose and throw it out of the boat, and two more would take its place. He got the motor started and was trying to get away, but Maw, you know trolling motors aren’t fast. The whole time he was headed to shore he was under attack. One minute he was hunched down, hand on the throttle and headed in, the next he was chucking geese into the lake. He was slam-dunking them, too, Maw! Ever see a goose cannon ball?” Tyler started laughing in earnest then. “Once the boat was going in circles because Mr. R had a goose around the neck with both hands, shaking hell out of him, and it was still biting him! Some of the others took to the air, circling the boat and kamikaze-ing him every chance they got. I felt bad for the man, but there was nothing I could do.”

Mr. R finally made it to the pier, harried and hatless, where Tyler caught the rope he tossed him. “Maw.” Tyler cocked his chin to his chest, fingers dancing over his face. “He had huge purple welts all over him. His cheeks, his nose, his chin, his neck. One eyebrow was even lumped up. Everywhere a goose grabbed hold and twisted that snake-like neck it’d raised a blood blister on him.”

Seems Mr. R went out the next morning with a tennis racket. I got the low down he still had to tuck tail and run, humming in under full attack at the whopping speed of half-a-mile-an-hour.

Tyler believed himself safe since he was on the dock. Surprise. The Mallards decided to nest under the pier. He’d walked to the end of it before daylight, so they weren’t up yet. As soon as they started swimming around, Tyler was on the receiving end of their aerial attack. “They hit you and peck you, and try to land on your head,” he complained indignantly. “Thought the one that hooked his toenails in the back of my shirt and kept beating me in the head with his wings was going to knock me into the water!” That’s when he remembered something in his fishing kit.

He spends time year round in their hunting club. When nothing’s in season, they fish there or use it for four-wheeling. There are some impressive bogs, and occasionally someone gets stuck while playing. It’s such a large property they needed a way to signal for help. Problem is, being a hunting club, the usual signal of firing a gun doesn’t garner much attention. Their solution?

Air horns. The even developed a code to signal a situation’s degree of severity. Out of gas. Stuck and need a tow. Stuck and need another four-wheeler with a wench. Or damn-I-sunk-it- somebody-head-out-here-with-a-pick-up-to-snatch-me-out! They even have an emergency signal in case someone gets hurt or lost.

Anyway, Tyler said he wound up belly-crawling across the dock, watching Mr. R run toward him, tennis racket in hand, as ducks repeatedly dive-bombed him. Finally managed to grope in his pack. Rolled over and blasted the air horn in the face of the duck zooming in on him. Scared the hell out of the duck. Said the back-wash from his wings as he back pedaled to get away threw feathers everywhere and blew Tyler’s hat off. Turned out sounding the air horn every time they dove repelled them. Mr. R gave him a grin and a thumbs up.

Fishing has returned to the solitary enjoyment it once was.

Not so sure how the neighbors feel about daylight breaking now. Must be a tad difficult to sleep through the blare of air horns sounding off, on and around the lake. But I bet they’re sure glad mating season doesn’t last forever! Honk! Honk!

Good writing, folks!

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