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Story ID:1002
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Diary/Journal Entry
Location:Butte Montana USA
Person:Father Goose
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Interview With Father Goose
by Kathe Campbell

"Oh horse feathers . . . and just who did you think was going to care for these sorry excuses for goslings? What were you thinking, ma'am - ecstatically accepting a box full of nuisance from neighbors who delight in our waterfowl antics? And yes, even our most private moments? Have you no pity for your old friends?"

Attempting what comes naturally has now found Old Father Goose somewhere between greed, need, or gone to seed, all failures in his dotage. He seems bored wandering about trailing his pond crew over lush acres of green and a mixed bag of bugs. The neighbors figured he needed a lift in life, that's all. Like the old goose, one of the nicest parts about my own retired days is time to do as I please. And I'm oft pleased to offer cookies and iced tea to friends as we've watched waterfowl workings from cradle to grave, well over 28 years. While the wee charges nap, we sit upon the fire pit benches and occasionally commiserate with the old gent, reveling in his thoughts on surrogacy.

"Oh me, Oh my," grumbles old man Toulouse as three dark fuzzy orphaned ducklings awake, eagerly snuffle water and race into the pond. "Why does everyone think my days of serenity and seclusion need three peeping problems to rear and care for in my antiquity? 'Scuse me ma'am, but certain of your friends and neighbors should mind their own business!"

More than twenty undisrupted years had kept the stout multi grayed Toulouses healthy and content. Forever alert, the pair guarded our home and hearth and all that live nearby. Coyotes and foxes skulk near the water now and then, but upon confronting impressive wing spans, they invariably cease and desist quietly. My heart aches watching this loyal friend so alone and unhappy, his dear old wife crossing over Rainbow Bridge in the spring. Animals do grieve, and I discern his sad days, for I too am new to sorrowful intervals after 53 years. The haughty Toulouse daughter and the macho iridescent green-necked drake toss their heads in the air and exit to the west graze, wanting nothing to do with tiny headaches.

"Herding three quick-footed baby mallards is no small order," the old goose wearily complains. "I just get them all headed in the same direction when their attention turns to a low-flying delicacy. The little devils scatter like down on the wind chasing dinner on the wing. Corralling them is wearing on my poor old carcass. At the ripe old age of 22, I shuffle along on my arthritic legs and deploy my best high-winged imperious honk. It alerts the little darlings and acquaints them with their new mother's call. Yes, the surrogacy process is working but it's sure a helluva lot of work."

Another bench observer inquires of the big fellow how we folks can tell the goose sexes apart since there are no distinct foliage markings as with ducks. Grays and beiges seem to know no bounds between the ganders and their ladies. Some say the ladies grow a thicker abundance of white belly down for setting purposes. Others say the goose hens are always smaller.

"Wrong," replies the old man as he settles down in the afternoon's rush of orangey leaves and dead pine needles skittering across the pond. "As unlikely as it must seem, we ganders have shrill high-pitched warning honks giving ear in the next county . . . well almost. Our mates are strictly contraltos, calling loud and low with short soft bursts, like a typical female's bossy yada-yada-yada."

Recently we fretted when an early Canadian snowstorm came blustery and white upon our mountain and pond in mid-September. The ducklings had barely grown a pin feather and the temperatures fell into the chilling 30's at night. A mother duck would have gathered her young beneath her wings against her warm down. Because three very quick and healthy whippersnappers are now impossible to even net, we mortals worried the night through. It must have been a terrible worry for you.

"Not at all, I smelled the storm in the air hours before it struck, ma'am, and I prepared. The children filled their craws with our usual evening grain and then crawled beneath my wings to stay snug as bugs those few cold nights. I'm beginning to fancy my mission in life and admit I'm some attached, feeling youthful and more vigorous around the little urchins. While they preen tiny feathers and get ready to settle down for naps or bedtime, I sit quietly nearby with my neck periscoped on high. All night long I watch and listen for marauding varmints. Nothing escapes my watchful eyes and keen senses. Even when mortals come visiting, I trot out my big honk and push the family into the pond for safety until threats pass."

Father Goose will forever be the guardian and prime mover of Duck Soup Waterfowl Refuge as summer now yields to autumn. He's outlived all of Broken Tree's geese, sports a beautiful thick array of grayish feathers all winter, and sheds them to the delight of children all summer. His deafening warning can wake one from a sound sleep and he remains sharp as a tack. He now gathers the entire waterfowl crowd about him and delivers great strikes to the lone drake for his persistent boorish manners.

"If you've noted ma'am, while still adolescents, the little ducks have turned into ravishing young ladies. Their tails and wings are pierced with strains of white, the rest brimming over with coffee and russets more stunning than the mountain chucker or grouse hens. The virile and eager ring-neck is so taken with all this teen-age beauty that I, as patriarch/matriarch of this motley crew, take him down a couple of notches daily. It's the job of a good parent, don't you agree?"

7/31 to10/06

Old Father Goose at 22.
Mallard ducklings at 2 weeks.
Father Goose herding his charges, 5 weeks.
Young mallard girls in pond at 10 weeks.