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Writing Words Again

Every speaking event I give, the question inevitably arises. Are you working on your next book? I assure myself that as soon as I have time, I’ll start writing again. Another lie I tell myself is that when I do come up with the time, I’ll remember every detail of everything I was going to write about. It’s time I hold myself accountable.

Starting right now, I’ll be able to say, “Yes. I AM working on my next book.” And then I can direct those fine folks to my website where they will find this blog in which I will dutifully log some stories and thoughts in preparation for my next book.

So let me reach into the Bingo ball cage containing my 2022 case files and see which ball I grab….

Ball 1

May 9, 2022 North Liberty, Iowa

The Old Lady with the Stick

The reporting party was a fisherman who spent most of his afternoons at Liberty Pond attempting to hook Bluegill and Crappies to be pan-fried for supper. He described the suspect to me over the phone as an “old woman with white hair carrying a big stick.” And the victim? The entire population of Canada Geese that use Liberty Pond.

Liberty Pond is a manmade body of water within the city limits of North Liberty, a town known for its exploding population growth and which sees constant new neighborhood construction springing up as far west as Highway 380. The pond is hemmed in on all sides, first, encircled by a wide paved sidewalk and further back by buildings—condos, apartments and houses to the south and west and restaurants, stores, and carwashes to the north and east. The aroma of bacon from Bluebird Cafe swirls nicely with that of Pancheros burritos and Happy Joe’s Pizza, resulting in a not at all unpleasant breeze that wafts over the anglers that line Liberty Pond’s shores.

During open water seasons, the pond itself is a one-stop shop for the geese too. Nest sites dot the shoreline and geese paddle around amidst their own all-you-can-eat buffet, occasionally going on shore to waddle around and take advantage of their anywhere-you-want-to-go restroom facilities. It was all pretty idyllic until the old lady showed up, wielding her stick and ill goose wishes.

“She’s constantly chasing the geese!” the fisherman said. “I think all she does is walk around all day patrolling the pond for geese! She walks A LOT.” While the fisherman acknowledged that the geese do make a pretty big mess, and they maybe aren’t everyone’s favorite species of wildlife, he also felt that our semi- disdain certainly didn’t warrant being on the receiving end of the old lady’s club. He went on to complain that not only does she chase the geese around the pond taking home run swings at them, she also pitches the nested eggs into the pond and encourages others to do the same. A true case of waterfowl genocide for the prize of goose poopless lawns.

The fisherman stealthily followed the woman home one day hoping to be able to provide me with an address where I could find her. His investigation revealed that she lived about two blocks west of the ponds in an apartment building. “Her balcony is on the second floor and it’s full of plants,” the fisherman described. “If she asks who turned her in, just tell her that it was the fisherman she yelled at. I don’t care if you tell her, because I’m not scared of her,” he said, as though trying to convince himself of this statement. “But please, be careful when you talk to her,” the fisherman advised. “She’s really mouthy and she slobbers a lot when she talks!” With that, he hung up the phone, leaving me with little desire to find the old lady with a pitcher’s arm, a batter’s swing, a sailor’s mouth, and a bunch of slobber.

I skirted the edge of the pond on my way to the old woman’s apartment, hoping I would find her in the act of swinging her stick or tossing the eggs. I didn’t see her and so continued on to the building the fisherman had described.

When I pulled up to the building, I immediately identified the old lady’s balcony… the one resembling a jungle.

The building was locked and there were no external doorbells. As I stood there trying to think of my next move, the neighbors noticed my presence. They were hanging out on their patio next to the front door. One of them, a middle-aged man, asked if he could help me with something. I pointed to the old lady’s balcony and explained that I was trying to get in touch with the person who lived there. Would he mind giving me the entry code so I could go knock on her door? Yes….Yes he did mind. “I don’t know who you are!” the neighbor barked at me, as I stood still, clad in full uniform. “Why would I let you in?” Wondering why he offered to help to begin with, I tried dispatch instead.

Dispatchers gave me a door code which I attempted with no luck. Shortly thereafter, a North Liberty Police Officer pulled up on the street alongside me, likely curious after seeing my vehicle’s location icon on his computer screen. “Need any help?” he asked. Yes….Yes, I did need help.

Just as the police officer plucked a knife from his duty belt and used it to slip the building lock, I noticed a woman walking at a swift, no-nonsense pace up the sidewalk in my direction. She was carrying a big stick.

“Uh, I think I found the person I was looking for,” I said to the cop motioning toward the stick-wielding woman in her seventies, whose face was now visible and scowling.

“Do you live in that apartment?” I asked her as she approached, pointing at the jungle.

“Yes. Why?” she asked, frowning.

“I’m here following up on a complaint that you have been chasing geese at Liberty Pond,” I said. “It’s illegal to harass wildlife.”

“Well that’s just dumb,” she spat. “Those geese shit all over the place and they attack people! And dogs!”

“Have you been throwing their eggs into the pond too?” I asked.

“Yeah! Like I said, they’re pooping everywhere! Besides, the people in the city office told me I could do it,” she said. I backed up three steps, just out of slobber range as she unsuccessfully tried to come up with the name of the person she’d spoken with who works with the city department.

“Ok, I’m just here to let you know that it is illegal for you to destroy goose eggs without a federal permit to do so. It’s also illegal to harass wildlife. Hitting them with your stick would count as harassment,” I explained.

“I don’t actually hit them, I just chase them,” she said.

“You can’t do that either.”

“Who turned me in anyway?” the woman asked.

“Do you remember having a confrontation with a fisherman the other day?”

Sneering, she replied, “He’s such a coward! And what are you going to do about the stalking?”

“What stalking?”

“How would he even know where I lived unless he was stalking me?” she declared, in a way that sounded as though she believed she were conversing with the dumbest person on Earth. “He must be some kind of pervert or something!”

“Just because someone figures out where you live, doesn’t mean they are stalking you,” I explained. And added, “Or that they are a pervert.” She huffed and sharply poked the end of her stick into the crack of the sidewalk.

I told the old woman with the stick that today I would only be issuing her a warning, but if I found out she was back to harassing the geese or killing the eggs, she would get more than a warning.

After printing the paperwork in my truck, I returned and provided her with her copy. I watched as she carried her warning and her stick into her apartment building, shaking her head in disgust the whole way.

As I left, I took another swing past Liberty Pond, watching the fishermen tossing lines into the sparkling water, and the geese bobbing on the waves. As I passed, I rolled my window down and inhaled the unusually warm spring breeze. I suddenly had a hankering for a carnitas burrito from Pancheros. With extra sour cream.

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