I came into the world feet first, kicking and screaming. Being born in the shadow of a goose on Friday the thirteenth I did my best to get noticed. Yes, I did say, “goose.” A twenty-eight foot, metal, Canadian Goose to be exact.
I was born in Wawa, a small town on the Trans-Canada highway between Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay, famous for two things: one, the goose statue that stands as a sentinel on the highway and two, it being the most difficult place in Canada to hitchhike out of. In fact in the seventies an entire archeological dig was manned with stranded hitchhikers. Wawa has made it on a Canadian stamp and a Tetley tea box and it’s all because of its goose-charm.
It began as a fur trading post in the last 1800s and later became a mining and then a logging town. Built on Wawa lake, not far from the northern shores of Lake Superior it’s surrounded by quintessential, northern Ontario scenery: granite rock of the Canadian Shield, picturesque lakes and rivers, birch and spruce trees, mosquitoes, black flies and well—geese. The fishing is good and hunters chase moose and bear. “A man’s town,” my mother called it.
When I was a kid I told people I was born in “Whawha.” I said the name with resounding reverence as if it should be remembered for all time and honoured before a great meal at least once a year, if not once a week. Its name, I would explain, came from the local First Nations’ people, though we called them Indians back then. I imagined it meant, home of the wise, or home of the brave or something magnificent like that. It had a ring to it, after all. Wha—wha.
When I turned twelve my mother set me straight. “Yes,” she said, “Wawa is the Ojibwe word for wild goose.” She smiled. “Because that’s the sound they make when they fly over.”
So there you go. I was born in a small, resource town in northern Ontario named after the annoying, honking sound Canadian geese make when they fly overhead. Wawa. At least it wasn’t named after their poop, which is also memorable.
After such an auspicious beginning to my life, what could go wrong?