All winter long we plan and dream of the annual Gaggle reunion. The twins, Gertrude and Gregory, are older and stronger and anxious to go back to their beginnings. They love to sit and listen to Gramps’ stories of his narrow escapes from wolves in land of the North.
When the warm breezes brings scents of lilies and lilacs, we become restless. The pond weeds taste sour, and warm days become unbearable. It is almost time to go. Gabby, my mate, is always in a dither as the day grows closer.
“Oh…oh… I hope haven’t forgotten anything. Are you sure we’re supposed to meet at the Perkins’ farm? I hope, to goodness, that pesky spaniel is locked up. Last year, he almost bit off my leg! Children, don’t be waddling off. I don’t want to have to be squawking all around looking for you.”
On and on, Gabby frets, ‘til her pin feathers begin falling out. Finally, in the early dawn on the fifth of May, we fly due west to the Perkins farm, where my brother and his family are already waiting. We nibble the grass, paddle in the pond, and keep an eye out for that spaniel, but always having an ear to the sky…listening.
"They’re here!" A wavering crescent of honking birds plow through the evening sky.
"Where’s the stream-lined formation?” I hiss. "Gramps would hide his head in shame!"
I stride two steps, flap my wings, and lift majestically above the trees, my mate and children behind me. Gabby, as usual, keeps everyone in order.
“Gregory, don’t be lallygagging, or you’ll be left behind. Gertrude, never mind about primping now. There will be time for attracting some handsome gander later. Ooooph! Ooooph! I must have put on a few pounds this winter.”
I can’t believe the lack of discipline! Just look at Gaffney at the lead….Now Gillen is trying to take the lead. There can’t be two leaders. Too bad Gramps couldn’t come along. He knew how to lead. Now they are attacking each other, pecking and hissing like mad hens. No wonder our formation looks like a wiggling worm!
“Enough! Enough! Behave yourselves, you two rascals. You can be my wing men until we get past the cities. Maybe then, I’ll let you take a turn at leading.”
We pulse through the clear air, in tune to a chorus of “singing songbirds”, all sounding like teenage boys. I lead them along the river until I can’t see it anymore, then we track along the highway, straight north a hundred miles as the goose flies.
“Galen, ooph…ooph, are you sure you know where you’re going? The children are getting tired and grumpy. Could we stop at the next rest area?”
I search for a convenient spot, with water facilities and lots of room for everyone. It’s getting late. Maybe we could camp for the night and get an early start the next morning.
I waddle through the group, huddling like gray fuzz balls on a grassy sweater. The teenage girls twitter and giggle. The older folks are already snoring. I settle my beak under my wing, dreaming of the summer nesting grounds. Gabby snuggles close…quiet for the first time today.
Just before the sun lightens the eastern hills, there’s a restless rustling and whispering on outer edges. Then, a screeching and sputtering and fluttering and flapping ripples through the flock. A fox is in our midst! I fly at the creature and peck his face. An angry gander attacks from my left and another from my right. It‘s Gaffney and Galen, those brave boys.
Soon it is quiet. The fox slinks into the shadowy edge of the woods. We’ve lost poor old Guineviere and mourn our loss with drooping heads, but it’s time to go.
The flock is quieter as we flow high on a steady wind. Even Gabby seems a bit subdued. As we skirt the last smoking factory of the big city, I let Gaffney take the lead. His strong wings beat hard and his neck points north, as straight as the arrow on a weathervane. I wonder if he’s noticed Gertrude’s shiny feathers and plump curves.
I close my eyes and breathe deeply. The cool air of the north feels refreshing, bringing renewed hope and energy.
“Are we there yet?” Gregory grumbles.
I point with my beak to the shimmering stretch of marshes. “There it is, Son, the best place in the world for our Gaggle family.”
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