BY JANE BEDARD
Special to the VOICE
It was a standoff like no other. We stood in the thick grass facing each other, me, in front of my children, he, in front of his, both of us protecting those who mattered most. Lying between us was a line drawn in the sand in the form of three coveted golf balls—two Titleists and a Pinnacle.
Only minutes before, my kids and I had strolled up to the 17th red tee box, which was perched in front of a small pond, and procured whichever club might land our golf balls at their intended destination. My husband set up well behind us and to the left at the white tee and shot a clean five-iron over the pond and onto the fairway. Show-off.
My two sons and I had a different strategy. As relative newbies to the game, our primary goal was to hit our balls not into the pond. Secondary to this, was to lay up to the right of the water, then hit a second shot onto the fairway. Our balls seemed to be in a cooperative mood and landed within range of the desired outcome.
The kids scooted ahead of me, but I was able to catch up easily because I found them, frozen, facing Smaug, a descendant of the terrible dragon, and the fiercest looking Canada Goose we’d ever seen. He stood guard in front of his lady friend and their nest of eggs, almost hidden in the reeds. Gaining some courage from my arrival, 14-year-old Tanner took a step toward his ball. Smaug reacted by taking a step toward Tanner, lunging his head forward and hissing violently. Tanner retreated. The goose maintained his new territory.
Next, 12-year-old Cole attempted to creep toward his ball from a different angle. The Goose altered his position slightly, reared his head and hissed again, his tongue protruding like it might unfurl an extra three feet if required. That this impolite goose took the name of our well-mannered country was off-putting. As a Goose from Canada, we anticipated that he would withdraw and apologize profusely: “Terribly sorry. It appears I’m in the way of your game. I’ll move back a bit. Carry on. And once again, sorry for the interruption. “
As Canadians, this is what we expected, however, as a parent, I got where he was coming from. He was protecting his offspring just as I would protect mine; however, even though it would have been more responsible to leave him in peace and abandon our balls, it had been a challenging round, and we were down to these last three dimpled orbs. I told my children to back away slowly. When they were a safe distance behind me, I pulled a pitching wedge from my bag and faced off with the bird. Mama Bear versus Papa Goose. “I don’t want any trouble. I just want our golf balls,” I reasoned.
His response came in the form of a dinosaur-like roar as he took two threatening steps toward me. I recoiled briefly but stood my ground—shakily. The balls were only a few feet away. If I reached out with my club, I could tap them back towards me, and we would be on our way. In super-slow motion, I pushed my club along the ground toward the first ball.
Smaug watched in disbelief for a moment, then unleashed a deafening honk and attacked. “Run!” I yelled to the kids.
We grabbed our bags and sprinted away like the cowards that we were. My husband heard the commotion from the other side of the pond and quickly surmised our dilemma. His shouts carried across the water,
“Drop your clubs!”
This seemed like sage advice, and we abandoned our cumbersome sticks, which increased our speed significantly. I chanced a look back to see how much distance we had gained from our pursuer, but there he was, not 10 feet behind me, in full flight, majestic wings spread, hurtling towards my head. The kids were still ahead, so I made the sacrifice that any parent would make: I zigzagged a little, in hopes of distracting Smaug, then dove to the ground, covered my Hobbit head with my arms, and awaited the beaked and feathered assault.
It never came. The Great Goose seemed satisfied with our surrender and swooped back to position, this time moving his smug line of defense up, directly in front of our golf bags. With no balls, and now, no clubs, we were at the mercy of the beast, who showed no empathy for a mother and her kids trying to enjoy an afternoon on the course.
My husband jogged over to the clubhouse and came back on a golf cart, driven by a maintenance worker. She used the vehicle to scare the reluctant goose back toward the nest then retrieved our bags and balls, explaining that there was nothing that could be done about the birds until their five eggs had hatched. Even though we got our equipment back, it didn’t feel like a win. We didn’t stand up to the bully, which is a lesson we try to teach our kids, but I suppose we did the next best thing, which was to tell a grown up with a golf cart.
As we walked off the 18th green, I looked back at Smaug, who was in a standoff with two older women, who thought it would be best to lay up to the right of the pond before hitting onto the fairway. With no kids, more experience, and likely plenty of golf balls, they promptly summed up the situation, left their balls, and walked away without incident.
As for us, we’ll wait until the chicks have hatched before trying this course again so as not to awaken the Great Smaug, guardian of the 17th fairway and father of five. ◆