The Christmas Geese

by Terry Hogan

It had been a tough year for America. Santa watches all, both the naughty and the nice. Santa knew that the naughty had been very, very, naughty, and the nice were in need of an extra special Christmas. But Santa also knew because of the concerns for safety and security in America that radar and national security were extra tight. Santa was concerned for the safety of his reindeer and all the presents for good boys and girls. Santa didn't want to be dodging ground to air missiles or trying to outrun jet fighters.

Santa was in trouble. He needed to bring gifts, toys, and happiness to the boys and girls of America. But he thought it best to avoid being detected on the radar screens that would be extra alert this Christmas Eve. What was Santa to do? He didn't have access to the classified ''stealth technology'' to make his sled less visible to radar. Beyond that, his toys and presents might be of sufficient size to create a radar image even if the sleigh was ''invisible'' to radar. It would only take one mistake for Santa and his sleigh to be confronted by jet fighter planes, or worse.

Santa called together his elves and reindeer. It was a ''think tank'' session of his ''best and brightest'' elves. There were chaos, conflict, and hard feelings, but no ideas. Santa next called in consultants and ''facilitators.'' They held another meeting with the elves and also invited the reindeer for a diversity of views and to ensure decision ''buy-in.'' The elves and reindeer were told by the consultants to ''think outside the box''. But this was of little avail. Reindeer were literalists. Reindeer said, ''What box?'' And ''I don't see a box.'' And one even said, ''Reindeer don't do boxes, Elves do boxes. We just pull boxes in the sleigh.'' Santa was not pleased. Santa fired the consultants. Santa fired the facilitators. He warned them not to expect much in their stockings this Christmas. But the consultants and facilitators were not worried. They went back doing contract work for the federal government, and their Christmas bonuses.

Santa was at a loss to know what to do. He became grumpy and grumpier as Christmas Eve approached. He became to have dreams, no nightmares, of seeing ground to air missiles heading for the reindeer and his sleigh. He began to fret about leaving the friendly air space of Canada for the more jitterish air space of the U.S. What was poor Santa to do? He couldn't turn his back on the nice children because of naughty terrorists.

Finally, Mrs. Claus had had enough. She told Santa to ''Go for a walk.'' She said he was ''under foot'' and too grumpy to put up with. Besides, she had housework to do. So Santa went for a stroll out into the northern bitter cold and snow. He walked over frozen snow and amongst pine treetops. The trees barely emerged above the depth of snow, built up from blizzard after blizzard.

As he reached a hilltop, he looked down into the next valley and was surprised to see fog rising above a patch of open water. This was remarkable in the bitter cold. So, forgetting about his travel problems for the moment, he headed down the hill to investigate the fog and open water. Before he got near enough to see the cause of the open water, he could hear the cause.

The noise of honking Canada geese was deafening. A large flock of geese was taking turns, swimming in circles to keep the water churning enough to avoid freezing. Those swimming were honking at those who were resting on the ice. Those resting were responding with a similar din of responses. It sounded like a Chicago rush hour traffic jam.

Despite all this apparent confusion, the water was kept open and one particularly older looking goose seemed to be overseeing it all. Santa, being Santa, was able, with a little concentration, to strike up a conversation with this Canada goose. The goose confirmed that he was the elected leader of the flock. His name was Nathan. He further explained that the flock had, for largely unknown reasons, felt the need to stay north this winter, instead of flying south to warmer weather. The decision was causing hardship as the open water was shrinking in size, daily, despite their best efforts.

In between the honking of encouragements to members of the flock, the goose offered that he was ''son of Eric''and from a long line of elected elders to lead the flock. He honked out a suggestion to Ryan and Willow, who seemed to be directing pond traffic. Nathan, being polite, and mostly intent on making ''small talk,''asked Santa why he was so far from the toy factory at this very busy time of the year. Well, Santa, being thrust out into the cold by Mrs. Claus, needed someone to talk to, so he laid out his problem to Nathan.

Well, Nathan was a little ''taken back'' by this outpouring of concern. Nathan thought to himself, ''Gee, I was only making 'small talk'. I said 'How's everything going?' and Santa is supposed to say 'fine, fine.''' But nevertheless, Nathan listened to the problem.

As the story unfolded, Nathan began to see why the geese had known, while not knowing, that they were to stay behind this fall. As Santa finished his tale of woe, Nathan offered up the answer.

''Santa'', he said, ''We Canada geese can pull your sled on Christmas Eve. Our V-shaped figure is well known on both Canadian and American radar screens. The air defense operators will pay no mind to our flock when detected, nor will they pay any attention to the small 'blip' made by your sleigh, so closely harnessed to our 'V'.''

Santa, Nathan, Ryan, Willow, and the other geese held a brief meeting. They all readily agreed with the idea. Santa returned home and talked it over with the reindeer, who decided that a Christmas vacation in Tahiti would be nice this year. So all was agreed.

On Christmas Eve, Nathan, at the point of the ''V'' lead the flock, with Ryan and Willow directly to his left and right, starting the shape of the V. They arrived at Santa's factory, with the whole flock in perfect formation. The geese hooked themselves into a new, v-shaped harness that was already attached to the sleigh. The harness was made of a lightweight aluminum that would reflect the radar's signal. As a result, as Santa and the Canada geese flew into the evening's sky, they were easily detected by radar from around the country. The image brought back to the radar screen was one of a perfect ''V.''

The younger radar operators were a little baffled by the clear ''V''- image, brighter and sharper than that normally given by a flock of geese. But the older radar operators felt that it was an early Christmas gift, signifying the promise of Victory of good over evil. Or perhaps more appropriately on Christmas Eve, ''Nice over Naughty.''

Santa made his rounds safely. No jets were deployed to check his identity. No missiles were aimed at his progress.

All ended well on Christmas Eve. Santa, Nathan, Ryan, Willow and all the Canada geese returned safely home. Mrs. Claus had hot chocolate waiting for Santa. The geese, whose job was now completed, leaped to the sky for a long flight south to warmer weather. The radar operators went home to their families with a tale of a flying ''V'' across the sky, perhaps only signifying geese. But perhaps promising Victory. And the reindeer enjoyed a nice Christmas Holiday, scuba diving off the beaches of Moorea.

Merry Christmas to all, but especially to the Canada geese, wherever they are. For they are the feathered heroes this Christmas Eve. They know that we can all be heroes by doing what we need to do.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online December 12, 2001

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