The true story of a Lion King

This story will move you to tears.

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2005 to 2009

Choo Choo Love

     I don't know why it's taken me such a long time to finally write about Smokey and Dunker, a pair of geese Earl and I befriended back in the spring of 2004. Perhaps it's because we're not as close to them as we are to some of our other geese friends. They always remain a safe distance from us and through the years, they have not warmed up to us significantly. That's alright with us. We appreciate and admire their wild natures, their free spirits, their wandering feet.

     While some of our favorite geese have come and gone, Smokey and Dunker have been constant, appearing each year sometime in April at the nest site where our other geese nest, then showing up at our park pond in May or June to raise their families through the summer and fall before departing for the south with the others in late October or early November. We see them mostly during the summer months when they're raising their gang broods. In the fall, their appearance is sporadic and we are fortunate if we get to see them a handful of times before they migrate south.

     I decided upon the name Smokey because of the shadowy smokiness at the top of her white cheeks. She was always easy to recognize because of this discernible marking, even from a good distance.

     Smokey's name gave us a good laugh during an incident that happened in early April of 2006 when CN or CP rail workers burnt a small area along the railroad tracks where our geese nest. We were concerned about the effect of the fire upon the nesting geese but except for one nest abandonment near the spot of the burn, all the other geese were fine. The next day, who would be nesting right upon the burnt area but Smokey! No name could have been more appropriate for her!


Smokey decides to nest upon the burnt area. You can see the charred grass around her nest. Why would she choose this spot for her nest? Perhaps it felt warm to her during the cold spring.
     Dunker got his name because he was always dunking his food in the water.


     Smokey and Dunker are wonderful, protective and caring parents to their gang brood. Every year, they amass a large family made up of many goslings of all ages, sometimes numbering forty goslings or more. We've observed that straggling goslings of gang brood parents are sometimes left behind but Smokey and Dunker watch out for every one of their goslings, no matter how many they may have. One day, we waited for them to bring their gang brood over from across the railroad tracks. One gosling struggled to get up over the rail. Smokey and Dunker walked up to him and honked their encouragement until he finally managed to clamber over the rail and join them. Then, the whole family came toward us.
WATCH THIS VIDEOCLIP of Smokey and Dunker and a third goose with their large gang brood enjoying an evening stroll beside the nest site.

Smokey and Dunker protecting their goslings from another pair of geese. Dunker is in protective threat position.

     2009: Smokey and Dunker raised their large family over our wet and chilly summer and they have left the pond with their newly fledged goslings, showing them their favorite places, no doubt, and possibly meeting up with their older siblings and other extended family members. Geese maintain strong family ties and we've observed that they reunite with family members in late spring and in the fall prior to migration. As of September 14, we have not seen them.

     Even though we may not be as close to Smokey and Dunker as we are to some of the other geese, their yearly return year brings us great joy and pleasure and gives us a feeling of continuity and perseverance. We feel that all is well when we welcome them home after a long winter in the south. If they can survive and return fit and strong, so can we.