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Bill, a friend of mine from Nebraska, works for a newspaper there. He shared a story that occurred around this time of year.

Bill’s assignment at the paper is to follow up on any story that is called in. He specializes in photography, so he is always assigned to ones that might have a good picture involved. One day a call came to the paper about a flock of Sandhill cranes.

“They are beautiful,” the caller said. “There are a lot of them, maybe hundreds. I was able to sneak up quite close and get a fantastic view.”

The caller said the cranes were up near a local lake in the area. The secretary wrote down all the information and relayed the message to Bill.

Sandhill cranes often stop over in Nebraska in the fall, but not usually in that area. It would be a newsworthy sight to see them there, especially in those numbers. Bill was excited to get a good photograph and write a story for the paper.

When he got to the lake, there were indeed a huge number of birds. But Bill knew immediately that they were not Sandhill cranes. They were far too white. He figured they might be snow geese. And even though they weren’t as rare in that area, there were so many of them that they would still make an excellent picture and story. The picture should be as good as that of cranes, maybe better.

Bill wanted the perfect shot, so he started sneaking up on the birds. The going was not the easiest, carefully picking his way through the brush, but he was used to doing such things for his stories. He spent a long time, carefully working his way closer to the birds. But then, something made him reconsider what he was seeing. He was close enough to see their movements, but none seemed to be doing anything.

Bill pulled out his binoculars and had a good look. Sure enough, the birds were immobile. That was when he noticed that some were even in the act of taking off, but they, too, didn’t move. All the birds were decoys. But they were excellent decoys. They had fooled him and the person who had called the newspaper. And to add to that, there were hundreds of them. Usually, when a person sets out decoys, there are only a few.

Bill wondered why so many had been set out. Was it hunters or birders trying to draw snow geese in? But why would they need so many?

Bill debated taking a picture of them and trying to make a story, but he felt a little sheepish knowing he had spent so much time sneaking up on fakes. But he still wanted to have a picture he could take home.

Bill knew there were some eagles and real snow geese in the area, so he went in search of them. Eventually, he found some eagles and got some beautiful pictures. As he was returning past the site of the decoys, he saw some movement among them. There were some men dressed in white walking between the decoys.

Bill thought this was his big chance. He could talk to the men and solve the mystery of why they had set out so many. He slowed his car, but something stopped him from talking to the men. Between him and where the men were was a pasture full of mean-looking bulls. He was curious about the birds, but he wasn’t interested enough to cross that field. So, Bill turned and headed home, a beautiful picture of an eagle on his camera for his news story.

And the mystery of the many decoys at the lake remained a mystery.

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