Hit by a Goose

Cliff Williams
Department of Philosophy
Trinity College
Deerfield, Illinois 60015

Every now and then students tell me that they have heard that I have killed a goose. Here is what really happened.

For nineteen years I rode my bicycle to school every day until the owners of the property at the end of Hilltop Lane put up a fence blocking the path onto campus. One day I headed toward the Lew Student Center on the sidewalk that goes from McLennan to the Lew. It looked as if it would rain that day, and I wanted to park my bicycle underneath the overhang at the Lew. On the sidewalk ahead of me, about 75 feet from the entrance to McLennan (this was before the music and education addition was built), four or five geese stood. Another dozen geese stood on the grass on either side of the sidewalk. I was riding with my hands on top of the handlebars, but when I saw the geese on the sidewalk ahead of me, I dropped to the lower part of the handlebars and gunned it.

Most of the geese got out of my way. One goose, unfortunately, hit the front wheel of my bicycle, which jolted the bicycle so much that had I not been gripping the lower part of the handlebars I would have been knocked to the ground and would have hit the pavement. I didn’t fall, however, so I rode to the Lew, parked and locked my bicycle, and walked back along the sidewalk.

The geese had walked a respectful distance from the sidewalk, but at the place where one of them had hit my bicycle there lay a handful of feathers. I picked the feathers up, carried them to my office, and then took them to my first class of the day for show and tell.

The next day also looked as if it would rain, so I rode toward the Lew again. There, at the very spot I had encountered the geese the day before, stood a bunch of geese. Again I dropped to the lower part of the handlebars and gunned it. (One would think that my near fall the day before would have taught me a lesson.) This time, fortunately, the geese scattered in time. On neither day, I am happy to report, were there any geese corpses lying on the ground.

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