OAKDALE — Meet Nathan Kreshon. He calls geese.
Why? Well, he certainly can't text-message them. (LOL)
Indeed, his love for calling these migratory honkers goes much deeper. Kreshon's passion, obsession and focus in life is to close the gap between the sounds geese make themselves and those emanating from human impersonators blowing into man-made wooden calls. In essence, he wants to make that perfect, indistinguishable call of the wild. (Click here to watch video.)
And he if can make a few bucks at it, too, all the better. He's turned pro.
Kreshon, who turns 21 Friday, grew up in Oakdale and recently moved to Valley Springs. When he was 12, his father took him to a goose-calling event at a now-defunct outdoors sporting goods store in west Modesto.
"I saw the contest and I just had a feel for it," Nathan said.
So he began practicing and, later that year, entered his first event. He placed fifth in the junior division.
"When I won my first title in 2008, I knew I was on to something," Nathan said.
He's now won eight titles in all, ranging from age-group to open divisions. His biggest take to date came earlier this month when he won the open goose title and $3,000 during the Grand National Waterfowl Calling Championships in Liberty, Mo.
Like geese flying over wetlands, his competitors didn't spot Nathan until it was too late, said his dad, Dan Kreshon.
The world of competitive goose-calling, it seems, long has been dominated by callers from the Midwest. Champions' sons grew up learning from their fathers and became champions themselves.
Californians simply didn't figure in the mix until Nathan honked his way to victory Aug. 4.
"Most callers out there have been taken under somebody's wing," Dan Kreshon said. "All the guys in the Midwest had someone to teach them. Nathan really didn't, and that's why they were so shocked when he won. Nobody knew about him."
They do now. He'll compete in the world championships in Maryland in November. He's been there before, but never as one of the beaks to beat.
Dad Dan is an avid hunter and considers himself a pretty good caller in the field. But competitions are different. In the field, you lure the geese close enough to get off a good shot. There are no judges to impress.
The calling competitions, however, involve five judges who listen blindly behind the stage to the various contestants' efforts.
Each competitor's 90-second routine starts with a loud, exaggerated call "to bring them down as if they were going to land," Nathan said.
Then he progresses into series of sounds geared to reel back in those that might have grown wary and begun to fly away.
The calls are rhythmic and tell a story, Nathan said.
Think of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake," except in their case it's more like "Goose Pond."
The notes must be pure, not flat in tone or fuzzy. Judges don't like bad goose calls any more than a music teacher likes a beginner's trumpet recital.
"They know what sound a goose makes," Nathan said.
No matter, it's still a goose call, according to his mom, Traci.
"It's pretty loud and obnoxious when he's practicing in the house," she said.
Which Nathan does frequently when he isn't working the graveyard shift at a Valley Springs supermarket.
"I'll be 21 on Friday," he said. "My friends keep telling me, 'We should make plans.' But I need to practice."
After all, he's a honker to be reckoned with at the worlds.
"You've got to want to win," Nathan said. "You've got to want it more than anyone else. Anybody can say they want it, but do they have the drive?"
Or, in this case, the flyway?
It all comes down to his ability to speak fluent goose and convince the judges that the majestic birds would take his call.
They don't text message (LOL).
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.