25 July 2006
What I Like About Living In Wyoming
Yesterday as I drove to work on a roundabout four lane I had to stop and wait while six Canadian geese crossed the road. I saw them in front of me, heads towering above the seldom cut grass by the bike path next to Warlow Drive. One side of the street opened onto a pond and wildlife area, the other side a parking lot and the American Legion ball field, surrounded by scraggly weeds and manicured lawn. Maybe the geese just wanted to take in a game, but traffic was no obstacle. They showed no fear of the cars whizzing down the 40mph road. The first Canadian stepped out when I braked to a stop. Neck stretched high, he lifted one foot, held it up a moment, then placed it on the pavement, took another step, head swiveling as he surveyed the stopped cars to either side. It must have taken a good two minutes for him to goosestep his way over the yellow line to the other side of the road. When he reached the far side, a second goose stepped out onto the asphalt and proceeded across, high step by high step.
It finally dawned on me how hot the road must be after a succession of 100 degree days. At eight in the morning it was already 85. You'd think the hot tar would make them hurry but each goose kept to a dignified pace. After the advance scouts were in place, mom stepped out, followed by five half grown goslings. No longer cute balls of fluff, these birds possessed the long necks and piercing gaze of their kin although they only stood half as tall. The youngsters keep in a straight line, eyes front and glued on the opposite side of the road. Mom didn't dawdle. She marched across in short order and disappeared with her brood into the grass by the Legion fence. The last goose hurried over the pavement a bit faster than the advance scouts. As soon as his tail feathers were off the road, traffic moved again. Nobody showed impatience. This was Wyoming. Animal delays are as commonplace as geese in the crosswalk. (* Update. This morning, July 27, I noticed a new yellow highway sign by the side of the road. Goose Crossing. Complete with black pics of geese and gosslings in a line. How cool is that?)
Interactions with wildlife is the norm here. On the way home from work today, I slowed my car to let several antelope trot across the road and slip under a pasture fence to hang with the horses. On the top of a light pole a hawk hunched, breeze ruffling her neck feathers, head turning this way and that, scanning for dinner. That evening I took the dogs for a ride. Our destination was a park with plenty of grassy prairie and gopher holes to sniff. A fox darted across the road by the entry gate. Instead of fading into the brush, he stopped and watched us long enough for me to think about reaching for my camera. The dogs never barked, they stared at him as he stared at us. I slid the cover off the camera, the fox turned and disappeared behind a sagebrush and was gone. In the park we walked slowly, and a covey of doves exploded from the trees in front of us and flew off, wings whirring. The dogs watched and again kept silent, content to tug on the leashes and move forward, noses to the ground.
Back home I turn on the sprinkler and run it more for the benefit of the birds and neighborhood rabbits than out of any desire to have a green lawn. Doing my little bit to support the wildlife. It's better entertainment than any movie and a daily reminder about why I love living in Wyoming.