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The season’s first snowstorm set off predictable snarls of martyrdom among the early morning drivers with whom I share the road.
Some of the street lights were dormant. It was still too early for the snow plows, which was actually a blessing. Fifty pounds of flying snow would have been a horrible mismatch for all available windshield wipers.
And into the spreading chaos waddled more than two dozen Canada Geese, who had pretty much confiscated what was left of the visible road. One of them sidled up close to my car. I couldn’t have been driving much more than 15 miles an hour, a speed that the goose seemed to approve. I was making headway on my way to a pre-dawn meeting but I found out soon enough that I had grossly underestimated the size of the goose delegation.
There must have been 25 to 30 of them, and none of them seemed interested in my breakfast plans. In fact it got worse as I neared an intersection. At least a dozen of them rendezvoused at the intersection and began to cross, ignoring the red lights.
Cars were beginning to cross. So were the geese, ignoring both the lights and the cars.
But I suddenly remembered one of those 1950s Norman Rockwell magazine covers on the old Saturday Evening Post. You must have seen it. Platoons of geese were heading into an intersection despite the red lights. So the friendly cop stepped in, flagged down the approaching traffic in all directions and escorted the geese through the intersection while scores of motorists smiled their approval.
But right now in the falling snow we were eons removed from the friendly cop and aristocratic geese. These particular Canada geese started looking confused and vaguely ticked off. Cars rumbled through the intersection when the lights changed and the geese, being Canada Geese, showed no special inclination to yield the right of way.
It was approaching a stalemate, and I thought the situation called for some well-meaning intervention... I looked into my rear view mirror and saw two or three oncoming vehicles. I reasoned that most of these moving automobiles were driven by Minnesotans who are accustomed to the lifestyle of Canada Geese. And further, that practically all of them have seen versions of the Rockwell painting.
There was a little turnoff just off the street, used during the day by construction vehicles.
So I parked my car, walked to the edge of the street and with a big smile and a salute to the geese, hustled some of their stragglers across the street, understanding that the last few drivers surely remembered the painting and would be delighted to be part of the re-enactment.
I can tell you now the few drivers on the scene were not delighted to be part of the re-enactment. A couple gave me the horn and one made a gesture that editorial policies prevent me from sharing.
In a minute or so I was back in my car, a little chastened by the experience, and careful not to read too much into what I construed as a friendly quack from the last of the exiting Canada Geese.
They might have been saying thanks. On the other hand they might have been thinking of calling a cop themselves.
My advice to all stubborn Samaritans:
Let the geese fend for themselves. They’ve got better instincts and probably better footwork.