Goose wrangling takes emotional and physical support

Published 7:41 pm Thursday, January 9, 2014

It was only a few summers (maybe three?) ago that I ruined Paul’s well-deserved afternoon off by hauling him from the couch and requesting both his emotional and physical support in a spot of goose wrangling.

Clara, as I immediately named her, was in dire danger of becoming a downy speed bump as she waddled down the middle of the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, head darting alarmingly from side to side, clearly lost, clearly agitated.

It was such a bizarre sight, as I slowly tailgated her in my truck, trying to herd her slowly to the side of the road to no avail. Why didn’t I park the truck and try this on foot? I have painful memories, as well as scars, on the back of my calves from my first job as a teenager at a barn in Georgia. Each morning as I fed the dozens of horses down the long aisles, I was followed by a territorial gander that terrorized me daily by attacking the back of my denim-clad legs with his beak and then beating me with his wings.

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Honest to goodness, this bully would wait for me in the gravel parking area as I drove up in my 1969 VW  Fastback, admiring his reflection in the doors and, whichever side I tried to scramble out and run, he would be there to meet and chase me. I later learned to approach him first. As he leapt up to attack me, I would bring up my knee and deflect him like a soccer ball, giving me precious moments to run for my life.

But if Paul, now standing and sweating on a hot, South Carolina, blacktop were able to shoo Clara in my direction, which he did like a pro (beginner’s luck), then I should be able to pass one arm around her. I could hold her to my chest like a football, leaving my other hand free to lightly grasp her lower neck to keep my face from being torn off.

She wasn’t. With Clara placidly on my lap, Paul drove me home as I busied myself upon arrival getting her a fresh bowl of water and a nice bed, she proceeded to walk purposely and ungratefully away from the barn, through the riding arena, across the small field and then over the street to a pond behind my neighbor’s house.

The resident Canada geese (not ‘Canadian’ geese, I have been corrected) seemed uninterested. I would periodically see her peck for insects on the banks or glide across the water, often well behind the others.

I haven’t seen Clara in quite some time and often wondered about her fate. She is an enormous, fat, white, target for a hungry coyote or dog or hunter. Perhaps, I shrugged, emptying the first wheelbarrow of the morning on the manure pile, she simply went back to Hwy. 11 and hitched a ride further south.

Isn’t it funny how sometimes, just when you’re thinking of someone, they suddenly telephone or email? A strange psychic coincidence, I’ve always thought, but looked up both out of custom and appreciation as a ‘V’ of Canada geese approached the barn on their trek over the woodland perhaps to another pond down the road, honking noisy. There in the middle, I felt the same swell of shock and joy that a gambler feels when seeing a long-shot he backed suddenly surge to the front rounding the corner and turning for home,  was Clara, in all her obese and white tufted glory, wings beating the air, lying third in the formation and telling the world all about it.

Pirouetting slowly on my heel, mouth open (always a dangerous position with geese overhead) I blinked and actually rubbed my eyes – It couldn’t be! But the morning sun, bravely warming the streaked, winter, sky, bounced off her snowy breast and illuminated her orange beak with such stark clarity that there was no denying it.

I didn’t even know that white geese could fly. They appear so top heavy and cumbersome, that I thought it only fantasy, like Mother Goose.

I wouldn’t be surprised if she had glanced down at me and winked.

Years ago during an interview, a magazine journalist asked what I liked most about doing stand-up comedy. My reply then remains true today: working at night gives you your days free to play outside. While some of those days begin raw, wet, icy, or humid, those who farm or mess around with livestock have to be out in the thick of it but are often rewarded with an awe inspiring sunrise, the sight of a fox leaping over a tuft of grass trapping his breakfast or a big fat goose giving a ‘howdy do’ during a girls’ day out.

At any rate, it’s all well worth it. Happy New Year.