Block #16: Wild Goose Chase
Sponsored by: Adkins Arboretum
September 25, 2013
Harriet Tubman was well known for using nature to hide and guide her on her many trips along the Underground Railroad. One navigation tool she commonly used was the flight of birds. In the spring, the flight patterns of birds revealed the path northward; noisy birds could be heard if not seen even on a cloudy day. Also, migrating birds could direct travelers to water along the route as they sought resting spots along their flight route. The sounds of birds were imitated and used as calls and warning devices between the travelers.
There is an often-told story about how Harriet used a chicken to evade capture. Even though she was a wanted woman, Harriet made many journeys into Maryland to guide others out. Once, when she saw law enforcement on the road ahead, she grabbed a chicken and put it under her arm. As she neared the men, she let the chicken go and pretended to be flustered and unable to capture her master’s bird. The lawmen were so focused on capturing the chicken that they never looked at her face and so they allowed her to continue down the road.