Chicken Little was Right

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Published on: Feb. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 26, 2010

serious damage to the unlucky hunter."

Why did he think I was whining and groveling under the thing? I might not know how long or how fast, but I guessed it was long enough and fast enough to turn my brain to noodle lasagna. Chicken Little may have been wrong about the sky falling, but he wasn't wrong about the dangers of falling sky. That stuff can kill you!

Jack Ehresman, longtime outdoor editor for the Peoria, Ill. Star-Journal, once shot a goose approaching the pit from the left, then turned right to follow the flock. The dead goose continued on and down and smacked him right in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious. I don't know if Jack can add two and two, but he can testify with deadly accuracy about the power of a falling goose.

I'm sure the engineer could have given Jack an equation to figure kinetic energy and shocking power at the instant of impact, but Jack couldn't have read it anyway because of double vision and a world class headache. He didn't need to know the figures, just how they translated in human terms.

A friend, Roger Sparks, recalls having been whacked by a free-falling mallard that took him to his knees. He has no concept of time to impact or impact speed; he just knows it hurt bad.

I have a vivid memory from my teenage days of a goose shot near Missouri's Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge where my father and I were hunting.

The shot bird died instantly and began to fall straight down, getting larger and larger until it filled the sky. We were rooted, frozen by the sight of that approaching peril, like a deer transfixed in the center of the tracks by an oncoming locomotive.

The bird hit a couple of feet in front of the pit, raising a cloud of dust. I felt the ground shake. It was that childhood memory that surfaced instantly 40 years later when I was confronted with another falling goose, accelerating at 32 feet per second squared (see, I remember).

I also took high school algebra and physics 40 years ago. While I can't remember anything from either textbook, I vividly remember that falling goose.

Maybe if my math teachers had whacked me over the head with the book I would have learned more.

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