I’ve spent my whole adult life promoting species diversity and protecting birds. In my current capacity as president and CEO of the Audubon Society, I work tirelessly to raise awareness of the habitat destruction that threatens these incredible, beautiful creatures. I love birds. I love all birds. But I’m not going to pretend this incident in my past didn’t happen, and I’m not going to try to defend my actions, either. Yes, I did it—I’m not proud of it, but I did it:
One time, a couple years ago, I punched a goose. Punched it right out of the air.
I still don’t know what came over me. Birds obviously mean the world to me, so decking a goose in mid-flight was completely out of character. It hasn’t happened since, and I certainly don’t think it ever will again. I don’t want to say it definitely won’t, because I really never thought I’d do it in the first place. It was purely an instinctive reaction. I turned around and all I could see was this big, beady-eyed bastard honking like a lunatic and pumping away right toward me, and then bam! Next thing I know, feathers are flying everywhere, I hear a meek, muffled honk, and this stunned Canada goose is lying at my feet.
God knows there are plenty of fucking Canada geese out there. It’s not like I punched a giant ibis or a dusky starfrontlet or some other critically endangered bird.
Just to be totally clear, I didn’t kill it or anything, and thank God for that. I don’t know if I could live with myself if I took the life of a creature I am sworn to protect. After the rush of adrenaline wore off, I set the goose upright, and it toddled away. I’m sure it probably wasn’t 100 percent for a couple days after finding itself on the business end of an ol’ Yarnold haymaker, but other than being dazed, it didn’t seem much worse for wear.
That said, I did pop him one pretty good. I wound up from the shoulder and fully rotated through my hips—pow! My fist plowed into that fucker, dead-center beak. And it just dropped. Looked like a crumpled-up paper bag lying there on the ground.
I would like to point out that I didn’t just go out into the woods and start punching wild geese, or show up at a farm and start pounding away on the domestic variety. I wasn’t looking for a fight; I was just walking through a park near my house and minding my own business when all of a sudden this big fucking goon flew right up in my face.
Okay, yes, maybe it was a couple feet above my head and I had to jump up a little to connect with my fist. And yeah, when this guy walking by saw me punch the goose and was like, “Holy shit! That was amazing,” maybe I said, “I know, right? Fuckin’ boom! Right out of the air!” But again, it was reflexes, pure and simple.
After that, I held myself back. I could have finished off that big ol’ son of a bitch right there with a quick boot to the sternum, but I restrained myself. I showed that goose mercy because I love birds.
And if you share this love for our precious avian friends, I urge you to join your local Audubon chapter today. You’ll meet fellow birdwatchers, receive a subscription to our award-winning magazine, and help support bird sanctuaries all across America.
Now, look, in a lot of ways, I don’t even know why I’m telling you this story at all. So I punched a goose! A goddamn Canada goose! My track record is still nearly flawless—I think my work with the pied-billed grebe, the black-throated loon, and countless other species of waterfowl speaks for itself. And God knows there are plenty of fucking Canada geese out there. It’s not like I punched a giant ibis or a dusky starfrontlet or some other critically endangered bird.
If I somehow managed to house a dusky starfrontlet right out of the air, I wouldn’t even be apologizing. That would be superhuman.
Quick sidebar: I just want you to consider the kind of razor-sharp instincts it requires to punch a bird on the wing out of the sky. For just one minute, don’t attach notions of right and wrong to the scenario I’m describing, and think about it purely from a physical-prowess perspective. Just knowing you can do that—it’s, like, a once-in-a-lifetime thing, right?
Anyway, what I’d like to get across here is that I don’t want to be vilified for this one transgression. Belting a goose right out of the air on a single occasion—an incredible feat of athleticism, as we’ve established—does not invalidate my lifelong commitment to environmental causes. Outside of this one unfortunate, if very impressive, act I have never done anything to harm a living creature.
Except for puffins. I punt those goofy, chubby little fuckers across the landscape any chance I get.