Thursday, June 30, 2016


By Chris Dankovich

The yard was empty, except for maybe one or two other people, as it always is when it's cold and rainy and during dinner when we can either go outside or eat. I walked alone, merely thinking, daydreaming. It was a blessing; in prison, there is seldom time to be alone with one's thoughts. There is the old prison cliché, "You have nothing but time. ...", but that time's value is different when you lack control over most of it, and the remainder is seldom uninterrupted. A feeling of solitude, of personal space, of quiet only comes along once every year or so (many people purposely get themselves put in the Hole occasionally for this very reason).

I was thoroughly enjoying my private walk around. The feeling of the cool mist gently caressing my face, cooling me down after my run, but without a breeze to make it unpleasant. The slight whiff of exhaust from the nearby highway on one side of me slowly merged and became overtaken by the woodsy smell of the swamp and trees as I neared my favorite part of the yard. There I could see the three most magnificent oaks I have ever seen, their branches looking powerful, twisting, prehistoric. I could peer into the unknown of the darkness of the woods, imagining what lay in the shadows of the trees, seeing images in the light and shadows of the leaves. There I would see wildlife, at times a deer, a groundhog, even a bald eagle, once a small wolf or coyote. Some animals I had never seen before. Some I had. How I have dreamed of being like them, able to fly, to run away.

As I slowly walked further around the half-mile track of what was for the brief time my prison yard, I saw movement up ahead. It was no inmate, no officer, but still was within the perimeter of the fence. Treading carefully towards it, my eyes focused and registered what it was. A goose! Oh how I longed to be a bird, even a goose. That bold animal which foretells the coming seasons, which bravely lands and rests inside prison walls, probably taking the yard that encloses us to be a bordered meadow for itself. Such an animal was a very common sight for us, but now thrilled was I to be able to see it without any other distractions, perhaps even to get close to it!

As I got closer, single-digit number of meters away, the goose (a most noble specimen, possibly the largest I have ever seen) flapped its giant wings (at this point, surely the largest I have ever seen) and propelled itself, feet still skimming the ground, closer to me. There it stopped, in the middle of the track, as if it willed me to gaze upon it. Closer I neared, and as the meters of distance shortened to a single-digit amount of feet, I smiled at the goose. The goose, however, returned my smile with the most curious noise . . . a hiss, like that of a snake!  And the strange animal then started flipping its head repeatedly at me, as if sticking its nose up at me. I did not know what this animal was doing, but it did not seem like positive, friendly motions aimed at me, so I stepped a few feet to the side in order to give it a wider berth. As I did, I received a honk that seemed to acknowledge my presence, and in good fun I chose to do my best impression and honk back.

Apparently, while I have attempted to hone my writing skills over my time, my inter-species linguistic abilities have failed to improve, and my goal of fun communication apparently enraged the large animal. It began honking wildly, after which I stepped further to the side, now onto the grass, to give it space. At this point it put its head down and charged me.

As the enlarged, enraged goose came closer at an astonishing speed, I could not outrun it, though I've also learned growing up and in prison that running from an aggressive individual generally invites further aggression. So I put up my hands to protect my face, all the while asking myself, “Am I really about to have to punch a goose?” Standing my ground, the goose stopped about a foot away from me, still honking wildly, though looking stunned that I had not ran away. I looked at it with the utmost respect, and kept walking, trying to demonstrate to it that I meant no harm. But my cautious flight provoked the mad goose further, and again I found myself raising up my hands and responding in a defensive position to its desire to fight. As it charged me again, I asked it in a loud, clear voice, "Is this really what you want to do, Goose?!” not expecting an answer (but, with the strangeness of its behavior, expecting possibly a physical response).

Again, the goose, madly honking and gnashing its bill, stopped merely a foot away. My adrenaline rushing from being attacked by a large bird on the prison yard prevented me from enjoying this very rare, very close encounter with wildlife. At my feet now, still honking, my foe opened its massive wings, and I felt the tearing of the wind from its wings as it rose off the ground like a demon out of Hell. Flying into the air, it hovered menacingly at the height of my head, honking --growling-- and snapping its bill. I stood my ground and covered my face, ready to swing, hoping that I didn't lose an eye in what seemed like an inevitable fight. Hovering for a moment, just out of arms reach, the goose-out-of-Hell twisted around, the breeze from its wings blowing my hair back, and took off over the fence.

My incident with the goose over, I continued on my walk alone. As I did, I pondered the other possible outcomes. I would not have struck the goose-fiend unless it first had made physical contact with me, but I can imagine the possible end results. In its initial attack, I very well could have ended up damaged in a very sensitive area, based on the height of its head when it charged me. Having taken flight, should it have broken through my boxers-like defences, its fearsome beak (more like a vicious falcon's or eagle', I say!) could have potentially blinded me in an eye. Short of that possibility, an equal amount of damage could have occurred to my reputation.

"Hey Dank, how’d you get that giant scar across your face?" Someone would undoubtedly ask.

"I . . . uhm. . ." I'd mumble before manage to blurt out the truth” I got it when I was attacked by a goose."

"A goose? What is that, some kind of gang or something?" They'd say (other gangs call Crips "Crabs," and white supremacists call black people "crows" or "ducks").

"No, it was, like, an actual bird. I actually got attacked by a goose on the yard." 

And I could respond "Well, you should see the goose," but in the end, nobody wins a fight with a goose. Because like a fight with the law, one can only lose such a fight.

Chris Dankovich 595904
Thumb Corrections Facility
3225 John Conley Drive
Lapeer, MI 48446


Joe said...

Wow. Of all the dangers one might face in prison, I figured one would at least be safe from goose attacks.

Prison really sucks!

Jenneke said...

In my country we have a saying which translated turns into something like: If you want to guard your property, it is better to get a goose than a dog. They can really be vicious. Enjoyed reading your story and look forward to the next.

marco said...

Quite an experience. It shows that most animals aren't out to hurt or injure anyone (which most animals easily can), just to scare you off. After your first mistake of coming too close, it seems you did the right things.