It happened this way. We’d just seen an entire pack of wolves in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park. We’d seen wolves before, but never anything like this—seven all together. I was still on a high from the rare sight. It was starting to be dusky light and we hoped to get back to the cabin in Silver Gate Montana before our little grandchildren went to bed for the night, so I drove a pretty good clip, still pausing the car when we saw elk, deer, antelope, and huge bison, literally on the road at times.
I was going around 50 mph when Mick said, “Don’t hit it.”
“What?” Then I could see it too. A little gosling, or something tiny standing in the middle of the highway. I swerved around it. Then Mick decided he needed to help the little bird get across the busy highway. Besides now a car was approaching in the opposite direction. Would it hit the bird? I couldn’t find a good place to turn around on the narrow highway. Finally, I just turned around, miles past the bird.
When we got back to the spot, the other car we’d seen was stopped in the road. Had they hit the bird? We couldn’t see anything smashed and then they drove over into a turnout. We pulled alongside their car—now noting that it was a gray Subaru Forester almost exactly like ours, only a bit more packed with stuff and two young women, probably in their twenties in front. We’ve always felt a camaraderie with Subaru drivers. There are usually at least a few things you will have in common. It’s kind of like a giant club. We rolled our window down and so did they.
“Did you help the bird?” I asked.
“Yes.” The driver said in a timid voice. She had a look on her face like she was hiding a secret.
Then we heard—chirp, chirp, chirp. And she held the fuzzy yellow gosling up for us to see.
“What should we do with it?” She asked.
Mick was convinced we’d be able to find the other part of her family. So we began to look for a mother and father goose. We traipsed up and down the banks of the very swift and full Soda Butte River, but couldn’t find any sign of the parents. We didn’t dare put it in the water, because we knew without a mother it would be lost in the roar of rushing water.
We discussed what our options were. We could take it to the rangers, but one of the young women worked in Mammoth, and figured if they showed it to the rangers they would lecture her to let nature take its course and abandon the bird. Or worse slap a fine. There are rules a plenty to be broken in the Park. In Yellowstone it is not acceptable to interfere with nature, but in this case—the road caused the gosling to get lost. The road doesn’t fit into the wild scheme of survival of the fittest, at least in my view it shouldn’t. The young women kept calling it a duck, but it was a gosling. Anyway after jokes about bird-napping, they took the baby—determined to find some calmer waters ahead where they knew some other ducks or geese or whatever.
"I like your car," the driver said before pulling away.
I’m hoping on a wing and prayer that the little gosling somehow makes it.