As I walked out of work this morning and went to my truck, I saw four or five adult Canada geese herding half a dozen goslings along the hell strip between the prison parking lot and a spacious ravine that takes storm water down to the sloughs along the Cumberland River. The geese were as watchful as mothers at a playground, but I doubt they feared hunters. Anyone bringing guns or rifles within sight of the mobile patrol or the officers within the barbed wire would earn a quick trip to jail. Nor would it be the place to pull out one's camera to get a digital shot of the goslings. The prison people would find this suspicious, though I wager I would have gotten away with it had I had a camera phone with me-
Hundreds of men live within the wires here. Unlike the peaceable geese, they do not wander at will. The barn swallows that nest in the sheds and outbuildings outside the perimeter have more freedom, even when their ancestors have passed to them an unavoidable journey twice a year out over the open and dangerous and exhausting waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Down in the ravine I have seen red foxes, but only at night, and this morning I was certain I heard a coyote howling from the Sunday quiet industrial terminal across the street. And I have sat at night in the clinic and heard the officers called to look into movement along the fence, though it is only a possum, wandering.
When the sun comes up, House sparrows and starlings patrol the Yard, though what scraps they find I do not know. Even killdeer, surrounded by convicted felons, do not fear the grassy spaces in the Yard or the air above the inmates' picnic tables and the basketball court. Wildlife has grown used to us.
And when I leave the compound after my shift, I am comforted by sparrows bathing in a puddle, by the purple martins high up on the Yard light posts, by the goslings that trust their mothers.