Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.
If you have no penny, a ha-penny will do.
If you have no ha’penny, then God bless you.

Traditional Nursery Rhyme

I grew up in a smallish Nebraska town but I wasn’t really a country girl. My parents’ business didn’t directly involve farming, though we sold plenty of baked goods to farmers every weekend when they would come to town to do their weekly shopping.

We lived right in town, in a small brick house on 18th Avenue, one of the main through streets in Columbus. Our house was about a quarter mile from Highway 30, a highway that runs all the way from New Jersey to Oregon and incorporates the famous Lincoln Highway which runs from NYC to San Francisco. While some of my uncles were hunters, my dad wasn’t. I don’t know if he was just not interested or if he simply hadn’t the time for a sport like hunting.

My lack of knowledge about the intricacies of nature became apparent when I was in journalism school. One of our mandatory classes was photography. Back then, most reporters — at least those who worked for small newspapers — took their own photos. I liked photography, though I wasn’t particularly good at it.

I don’t remember what our assignment was, but I remember the photo very vividly. It was a photo of a flock of geese swimming on and around a lake in Boulder. It was a pretty good photo, as I recall. I know I just said that I remember the photo vividly, but the truth is that the photo itself is a bit of a blur. What I remember vividly was the grade I received for the photo, and the professor’s comment.

A flock of ducks enjoy an afternoon swim on a sunny October day, my captioIn read.

“Nice photo,” said the professor. “But those aren’t ducks; they’re geese. Details matter. C-.

What the heck. I guess at that point in my life, I couldn’t tell the difference between a duck and a goose. Go figure. Nowadays, I would definitely know.

When we lived in our house in southeast Denver, we saw geese, especially if we were visiting a park. But near the foothills where we currently live, nestled inside of trees on all sides, the geese are here, and are making themselves known this time of year.

They fly in wonderful V formations, and I can’t help but stop and look at them as they fly overhead. Yesterday morning, one of those formations flew overhead as I walked back to our building after grocery shopping. I heard that geese calling and looked up. I wondered — and still do — how they pick a leader. There is always one goose leading the flock. Yesterday, one of the geese flew off course, and I’m guessing that all of the squawking had something to do with his casual attitude towards disciplined flying formations.

I see (and hear) geese flying overhead all day long. I’m not sure if they are preparing to move elsewhere for the winter. Those I saw yesterday were certainly not flying south. In fact, they were flying dead west towards the mountains.

Maybe that’s what the unruly goose was trying to tell them.