Monday, June 21, 2010

Father Goose

Pilgrim Geese pair - 1980

He came flying at the fence with all the bravado he could muster, wings flapping and squawking loudly. He had seen us earlier as we strolled about the yard, and hadn’t taken his eyes off us. Now, as we approached the fence, he could bear it no longer. “Wow!.” I thought. “He’s really mad and will kill them for sure.”

Geese are known to be good watch dogs, loudly announcing any stranger approaching their territory. Their noise can be annoying, but the ganders can be lethal. When threatened or angered they may readily attack, biting with hard, rigid beaks and flailing with strong wing “wrist” bones. More than once I have felt the string of these bones against my shins, so that I am leery now and watch any goose closely - especially if it is a gander.

While living on some acreage in Idaho, we decided it might be nice to have a few geese. We’d heard they don’t require a lot of care, readily grazing on grasses and needing only fresh water, shelter and grain or poultry mix to keep them fat and healthy. We acquired a pair - grey female, splendid white male. We enjoyed them immensely; thought they looked regal strolling about our front pasture, warning of any strange activity. But as he grew, the male became cantankerous - lunging at me and the dogs as we entered the field. Grabbing mouthfuls of fur, he so traumatized the dogs that they never again went near a goose. I learned never to enter that gate without stick in hand, just in case. As spring approached, the female laid a clutch of eggs and the gander became more aggressive than ever. One time, as my husband was filling their water bucket from the other side of the fence, the gander charged. Even with the full blast of the hose in his face, he very nearly went over the top of the fence and into my husband’s face. A force to reckon with, for sure!

We moved to Washington in April that year, leaving behind the geese and their future family. Our good neighbors back in Idaho promised to care for them until the young hatched, then transport them to her father’s farm. We heard all went well, since her father knew all about geese. As we settled in here, we decided to once more get a pair of geese, and had a few for many years. Most of the time we enjoyed them and the ganders, while feisty, were manageable and predictable. We had mixed luck with goslings, the females occasionally hatching their own, many times failing. There was also the problem of raccoons sneaking in and raiding their share in the night. Finally, I decided to try incubating some eggs in the house. And so, that is how I ended up with a small flock of tiny goslings on that lovely spring day, waddling and pipping behind me, thinking I was their mother.

That gander scared the life out of me, charging the fence and honking. I knew that he had never seen these young before, did not know they were his own and would surely end their young lives quickly. I backed away, thinking the goslings would follow - but was badly mistaken. They did not seem frightened at all, calmly nibbling at the tender grass and boldly tempting fate, I thought. The gander continued his tirade, following them all along the fence until, one at a time, they slipped through to his side. I was appalled, but obviously did not understand the way things were, because somehow that gander did know. He settled down, gently nibbling at each tiny, fluffy body and rounding them up until he had them all under his wings. Then, sedate and stately, he proudly led them off to the goose.
The lost were found and they were his forever more.

“I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty”
2 Corinthians 7:18

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