Gaggle of geese holding down the fort (Ritchie)

November 22, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND


Since its closure, the former Fort Ritchie base known now as PenMar has always resembled a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, so I suppose it was just a matter of time until it got laid low by critters.

Geese, specifically. Ducks would have been better, but hey, I have to work with what they give me.

Richard D. Rook, executive director of PenMar Development Corp., says up to 800 geese at a time like to chill at the base's lakes, and that their leavins' can amount to a pound and a half each.

So the PenMar board voted (who says they are incapable of making a decision?) to give Rook the authority to call the Geese Police to "discourage" the birds from setting up camp. You know how it works. Goose gets a visit in the middle of the night from a hired goon, who threatens - threatens what? It's problematic, because geese do not have kneecaps.


Pity that the Katrina victims didn't take PenMar up on its offer of housing. A ready-made food supply could have been part of the deal.

Of course you can't destroy them, so Rook said the best techniques will be employed "short of a shotgun."

It's always curious to me what is and isn't acceptable for society to kill. You can kill a deer or a bear, but not a goose or a crow. Who decided that? So we wind up doing crazy things like spraying the downtown with the scent of grapes. So now we don't have any crows, but we are being overrun by the French.

Of course, all it would take is one little case of bird flu to change the minds of a prone-to-panic public. The geese better watch themselves. If one of them sneezes, they might be in for a mass slaughter.

But at this point in time, we remain goose-friendly, so this opens the door for Dan Laxton, whom I know and admire from his rafting days on the Shenandoah, and his "Gone in a Zip" goose solution business to come in and do the job. Dan didn't ask me for help with the name - I might have gone with "Goose Vamoose Inc."

I checked, and is still an available domain name, so he'd have first-mover status.

Zip is a border collie, and is part of what appears to be a 73-step goose eradication program that vaguely resembles the old game of "Mousetrap," although not as straightforward.

Other "tools of the trade" include hip waders, a kayak and a remote-controlled boat. All that's missing is a trapeze. You see those items grouped together and you don't know if you're looking at a bird patrol or the setting of a porn shoot.

"Uh-oh, here comes naughty Gretchan in her remote-controlled boat ..."

Dan says the methods employed amount to "humane goose harassment." You just keep after them and keep after them with all the weapons at your disposal until they get bothered and leave. It's a shame we didn't know about this when they were having trouble with loiterers in front of the Washington County Circuit Court building. That would have been so much more amusing than just removing the benches.

And if I am allowed to take my fantasies that far in our little goosecapade, I would like to go one step further and suggest that the border collie "chasers" be replaced with members of the PenMar board of directors.

Or if bothering them to death is the goal, wouldn't it be easier to just show up on their doorstep and hand out religious tracts? Of course, it's been years since I've seen any of those guys, particularly at the airports. Leave it to Homeland Security to make me nostalgic for the Krishas.

Speaking of flying, what ever happened to the days when the geese used to migrate? Used to be, you would only see geese in those big V's up about 2,000 feet on their way south. Now, it's like they get to Hagerstown and say "this is far enough."

I didn't realize instinct could be deprogrammed that easily. Toss them a little white bread at City Park and all of sudden 10 million years of evolution go right down the flume.

Seems that we could use that to our advantage in the spots where the geese population has taken over. Instead of corn, we could throw them morning-after pills. If I'm a goose, tell me that isn't better than being chased by a remote-controlled boat.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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