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Paul Turner: What did the geese say to the robin when they flew over Spokane?

FILE – A scene from “Skyward” a 23-minute IMAX film focused on the growth and development of a family of Canada Geese. It was produced by Roman Kroitor of Imax Systems Corporation and directed by Stephen Low for the Suntory pavilion at the 1985 International Exposition in Tsukuba, Japan. (Movie promotion picture in Spokesman-Review archives)

I was in the garage getting my bike when I first heard it.

You would know the sound.

It was geese, flying northeast in a long wedge.

Honk, honk, honk. They didn’t seem to care that the sun had just come up and many people were still asleep.

Honk, honk, honk.

I rolled my bike out to the driveway and looked up in the fresh light. I wondered if the big birds were headed for the Arctic. Maybe they were booked to appear on some PBS nature show.

How did Spokane look from their lofty vantage? Like a city poised to embrace the future? Like a great place to raise your children’s children?

Out of the corner of my eye I detected a subtle movement and realized I was not alone.

A robin with its back to me had temporarily parked himself in the driveway. He seemed to be looking up and appeared to be watching the geese.

Now I am no expert on the visual acuity of animals. I don’t know if a robin could even perceive something as far away as those geese winging their way to Canada.

But it sure looked like he was observing them.

I once read a story about Secretariat, in which the race horse was described clearly tracking the path of an airliner as it traced a contrail across the blue sky above him. Maybe that robin could see as well as Big Red.

The bird and I continued to watch the geese as they seemed to grow smaller and smaller. We could no longer hear their honking. At least I couldn’t.

I tried to imagine what the robin made of the early morning scene.

Did he critique their flying or their formation? Wonder about their route? Did he initially think “Hey, could you hold it down up there?”

Or did he just urge them to watch out for egg-stealing arctic foxes and wish the geese God’s speed?

I’d like to think we both wished the big birds well on their long flight north.

The geese eventually disappeared from view. The robin flew away, too. He had work to do, a family to provide for. Enough of this lollygagging.

I closed the garage door and attached my saddlebag to my bicycle. Then I started rolling toward downtown.

Once again, the new morning was quiet.

Charging the mound

I’m not sure this qualifies as a universal experience.

But at some point, for players of a certain age, Wiffle ball becomes less about the game than about the amateur theatrics.

At least that’s what I remember.

For little kids, the competition is the thing. And Wiffle ball was a summertime staple back before adult involvement in every minute of a child’s life was the norm.

But as children of that long-ago era got older – I’m thinking of boys here – they made an exciting discovery. They can be funny. Or at least they could amuse one another.

So Wiffle ball eventually became an antic performance of brushback pitches, yellow plastic bats stylishly flipped to the ground in faux anger and batters taking a few menacing steps toward the pitcher as the hurler pretended to shed his glove and mouthed “Come at me.”

If I told you how many times that exact scene could be played out in one Wiffle ball session, you might not believe me.

And you know what? If I got together with those guys today and we played Wiffle ball, those near “brawls” would still crack me up.

Swimming lessons

For certain young children, few things are scarier than learning that a parent has signed them up for swimming lessons.

Lots of kids would take that in stride. But for a few, the prospect sends a shiver through them.

Oh, it’s not fear of drowning. If that happens, it happens, they might say.

But the very real prospect of being embarrassed scares the fecal matter out of some children.

Most parents understand this, of course. But swimming lessons are important. So what to do?

I’ll send a coveted reporter’s notebook to the reader sharing the best tip for signing a kid up for swimming lessons without causing the youth to freak out.

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