The invasion began Saturday evening. Honking in the sky. The usual flyover of migrating geese, I assumed; it happens frequently this time of year.
An hour later, the honking was still going on and had intensified. I looked outside. A blanket of clouds hid the view, and icy droplets of snow were falling. But I could hear the phalanx overhead and it sounded like they were directed — east?
I thought geese migrated south. Maybe they knew something I didn’t. The cacophony went on and on, I lay awake listening, thinking there must be hundreds — no, thousands — of geese up there. Maybe a million. Maybe every goose in North America was flying over Grangeville.
Sunday morning, I woke up at 0-dark-thirty, my usual time, drank my coffee and waited for enough sunlight to take a walk. It was cold, but not as cold as had been forecast. Only 19 degrees. You know it’s almost winter when you see 19 degrees on the thermometer after expected single digits and heave a sigh of relief. It’s all relative.
I strapped the cleats onto my shoes, bundled up like a snowman and headed out of town along Mountain View Road. The farther I advanced, the more I could hear the honking. It was like the Pied Piper luring me along. Even before I reached city limits, the sound became deafening and I could tell the throng had settled near a farm pond, southeast of town by a few hundred feet. Mystery solved. And from the pond the honking from thousands and thousands of geese had merged into what seemed a continuous, deafening cheer, as at a football game, without pause.
Then I saw them. Towers of silver snow geese with black wingtips, backlit by the glinting sunrise. They were circling the pond and lifting off in shifts, headed toward the White Bird summit. Some in perfect V formations; some in meandering, shifting lines; others like long strands of rosary beads; all moving south in a great chorus of triumph. I stood there, mouth agape, looking up. Sometimes they flew so close I could almost feel the swish of their wings.
A man and a woman had parked their pickup truck off to the side of the road and were standing there, sipping coffee from to-go mugs, watching the spectacle. They live on the opposite side of the field, the man told me, and could hear the geese all night. We all agreed — we’d never seen anything like this before.
Later, my next-door neighbor told me thousands more snow geese and some Canada geese had camped out in the fields west of town, like a giant Sturgis rally.
It’s been a notable year, sometimes in unpleasant ways. But when a person witnesses a visitation such as this, a host of heavenly beings unperturbed by the chaos on Earth, you know things can’t be all bad.
Hedberg may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 983-2326.