Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

There is something about the sounds of the Canada goose on a crisp day that gives me, well … goose bumps.

It could be the sound. It could be the powerful flight of the bird. It could be the imposing size. Quite possibly, it could be all of the above.

But, it’s a lifelong fascination.

As a youngster I remember being outside with dad on a fall evening. Our house didn’t have storm windows in those days, meaning dad would tack plastic coverings over the windows to keep the winter winds at bay.

We, meaning dad, were racing darkness while securing the temporary storm windows one evening when a group of squawking geese strafed the house.

I looked up, following the progress of the birds as they soared overhead.

“Honkers,” dad said matter-of-factly, not having time for a more detailed explanation.

For some reason, that experience was indelibly, and vividly, stamped in my brain. Over the years several such encounters have been added to that tattered file.

One of my favorites happened 10-15 years ago while walking through the parking lot at John A. Logan College. Several of us had been working on preparations for The Southern Illinois Celebration of National Hunting and Fishing Days one late September evening.

While approaching the car, I heard the sound of wind whistling through feathers. Looking up, the birds were flying below parking lot lights. It was only after I spotted them that one or two began their melancholy honking.

A few years prior to that incident, I was playing in a fall softball league game at Carbondale’s Williams Field. It was just about sunset when a group of about 10 geese sailed over the third base dugout. This time we heard their honking long before they made an appearance.

They sailed across the field, well below the lights illuminating the field, likely planning to set down on Carbondale Reservoir at Evergreen Park.

The latest incident occurred Sunday morning.

While driving home from church, a group of about 25 geese, flying at about treetop level, appeared to be on a mission, flying due east. However, when they spotted a borrow pit, partially obstructed by a line of trees, the lead goose banked sharply to the right.

His compatriots followed dutifully. I pulled to the side of the road as they dropped their flaps and landing gear and sailed, in unison, to a soft and safe landing. Normally, one or two of the birds will flutter, or show some alarm about landing.

Not Sunday, they simply dropped out of the sky.

Experiencing these moments triggers my subconscious into realizing that summer is indeed over. It’s a bittersweet realization for me. I’m no fan of winter.

Conversely, seeing the geese triggers the memories of childhood and the wonder of nature. There are worse ways to mark the passage of time.

LES WINKELER is the outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les.winkeler@thesouthern.com, or call ^18-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.

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