Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A gang of geese

I have been thinking a lot, this winter, about geese.

That's geese. more than one. As in gangs. Groups. Clans. Tribes.

That's it. Tribes. Tribes of geese.

Or maybe it is gangs.

Anyway, there's this thing about geese. The way they act, the way they hang out.

They hang out in groups. But not just any group. You, meaning a goose, can't just go up to any group of geese and say "Hey, I want to join up. I want to be part of the group."

It doesn't work that way. Won't happen.

I've been watching.

As most of the long time shareholders out there know we've had a gang of geese for a number of years now. What? Four? Five? Six years now. I bought a dozen day old goslings that came in the mail from a hatchery out in Texas.

And raised them. And excluding the two that got themselves eaten by wild critters (a fox) as they grew, and the one that was made into a family Christmas meal by some shareholders a couple years back, they've grown into a marauding gang.

A group of birds that tour the farm in lock step.

Marching.

Never leaving each others company. Never being separated by more than a couple yards at a time.

Never. Ever.

And then, several years ago, one of my neighbors, Richard, drove up. And in the back of his truck was a goose. A large African goose. His pet (or maybe it was his wife's pet) goose.

You would think, and I guess this was Richard's idea, that his lone goose (I think the others that he had raised to live on his pond had died, victims to that same, or maybe another fox) would be happier if it hung out with my gang of geese.

I would have thought that.

But that's not the way it works. Or, at least, that's not the way it seems to work from the outside as observed by a human.

It's been several years now and Richard's goose follows the other geese around. They walk up the hill. He walks up the hill behind them.

They walk down the hill. He walks down the hill behind them.

They stop to eat, he walks over to eat with them.

And they turn and immediately start attacking. Biting him around the neck. Pecking at his wings, pushing him to the ground, plucking his feathers.

It's all rather violent. As bad as any TV gang you are going to see. (without, of course, switchblades and handguns. But I'm sure, if we didn't, on the farm, have strict gun control for geese, I'm sure we'd see that too).

And its not just a one time event, either. It's every time. Every time Richard's goose steps too close to the gang. POP! BANG! ZAP! The gang's on him.

And sometimes he doesn't even have to provoke a fight. Sometimes the goose gang's biggest thugs will just, for no discernible reason at all, turn around and jump him.

Start a fight. Gang up on him. Beat him up bad.

It got so violent, recently, that the lone goose was hobbling and limping as he tried vainly to keep up with the others.

That's when Wenonah told me to do something.

"Are you going to do something about that goose or not? It's cruel to let them go on beating him up like that."

So, I did. I ran him down, caught him, picked him up and gently carried him down the road to the chicken pasture where I put him safely inside the fence.

That was almost two weeks ago now. For two weeks now he's sat inside the chicken fence, rehabbing. Getting well.

And you would think he's be happy. Away from the bullies. In with all of those relatively mild mannered chickens and turkeys. (well, not quite, turkey's are actually almost as bad a geese, only .. well we'll talk about turkeys some other time).

But no. Instead of being happy our lone goose spends most of his days sitting by the fence, looking through the wire, hoping, I imagine, to get a glimpse of that gang of geese as they march by.

Leigh Hauter

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