Yesterday, a storm passed through that laid out anywhere from a half to full inch of snow. Then the temperatures dropped – drastically.
I bought bird seed at the store, filled the bird feeder my father made years ago, and set it outside my office window. As of yet, I haven’t seen anyone come to dine.
The lake is almost all white with snow – I would say more slush than ice lies beneath. Only once have I seen the lake literally frozen over, and that was back when the Canadian Geese actually flew off for the winter.
Now, they stay all winter, and their nightime roosting and bathing and paddling keeps the ice from forming around their flock.
When we first returned to the farm, there was a goose whose wings were deformed. We, politically correct people that we are, called him “Crip.” Everywhere Crip went, he walked. He spent most of his time on the lake out back, and I fed him seasoned croutons.
In the fall, the other geese would begin their migration practice runs, and Crip would flap his wings, and try to take part in the take-off. He would move forward across the water, but never got any lift. As the others rose above the water and into the sky, he was left behind calling after them.
By the time snow fell, Crip was left alone, on the lake, to face winter by himself. He survived five winters that way.
The fifth season, in the night, the lake froze, all around him, leaving him paddling around in a watery section only about eight feet across. He was trapped in the watery section, unable to get up on the ice, which either broke under his weight, or simply set him sliding back into the water.
He could not reach food, and was too far out for any croutons to reach him. Frank and I took a long two by six, and some heavy rocks, and began breaking a path of ice to his puddle. When we were finished, I lined the path with croutons, and we returned to the house.
As we watched from the window, he followed the path to the edge, where he pulled and tugged at the ground for food, eating roots and whatever else he could find. The watery puddle in the lake, and the path, froze in his absense. For his safety, because he could not fly, he returned to the frozen lake in the afternoon, and slept upon the snow.
In the morning he was gone, and I searched the fields and the forest’s edge for him. For three days the lake remained frozen, and for three days, he was gone. Then, one afternoon, the watery puddle appeared again under a warm winter sun, and the next morning, Crip was there.
In his sixth winter, he left the frozen lake again for hiding. When the lake thawed, he never returned.
Of course, now that Crip is gone, the other geese never leave. They arrive each evening to spend the night, and after their morning bath and banter, to another local watering hole.