Excerpts

by Henry Lane Hull

Over the past three months since I penned an item about Gladys, our pet goose, and her maternal prospects, numerous individuals have approached me at church, in the grocery store, at the barber shop, etc., to inquire as to her progress towards motherhood. I have endeavored to keep interested parties posted as to my midwifery duties. Regrettably, today I fear I am recording the affirmation of negation.

Gladys is a perplexing entity. She has not as yet learned the meaning of the word “nest.” For weeks on end she laid her eggs all across the span of the large and copious pen, here one, there another, usually burying them in the soil several days later. I thought she probably wanted us to see she had laid the eggs, although she did not know what to do with them.

I gathered some of the eggs together in the hope of inspiring her to begin setting. Instead, she strutted up and down the pen honking orders at the bewildered chickens. Granted, I must admit that I have no academic background in animal psychology, but I have been raising fowl for many years and never have I encountered such, what to me, is abnormal behavior.

This experience is not entirely new, for last year she behaved similarly and finally when not one egg hatched, she went into a deep depression. At that time I truly regretted not having psychological training to know how to treat her. This year she began setting a month ago. Initially, she had three goose eggs and one chicken egg. I think one of the hens must have felt pangs of sympathy for her and thought by contributing to the pile, she might alleviate Gladys’s sense of inferiority.

As the process continues I have been serving Gladys her meals at the nest, but she eats very little and appears to be maintaining her focus on the job at hand. Her beloved spouse, Lou, is most attentive, standing guard by the nest, which, inconveniently for me, she chose to build in front of the door into the pen. I suppose I should be glad she has made one at all.

Lou is a dear and gentle animal, completely unlike the proverbial nasty and aggressive gander. His kind demeanor is due to his upbringing by Tom and the late Paula Teeples, who gave him personal attention to the extent of bringing him to the point of thinking he is really human. Lou is totally without hang-ups or personal psychological problems. Knowing me as he does, he finds no difficulty in letting me approach Gladys, but I am certain he would show serious disdain for any stranger nearing her at this delicate time.

For their part the chickens have ignored the whole process. I do not know which of them contributed the egg to Gladys’s nest, but whoever the donor might be, at present she is not involved. The six adolescent chickens who (anthropomorphically I say “who” in lieu of “which”) joined us in April, have feathered out and are eager to join the larger birds in scampering around the more commodious confines. I have kept them separated in order for the older hens not to be abusive in grabbing their food. Memories are short and those senior fowl do not remember the importance of dining on Start-and-Grow in those early post-hatching months.

In her nest-building operation Gladys has shed some magnificent down, which would make a wonderful pillow. The down cushions her quite nicely, affording an image akin to the collar of a Renaissance portrait. Lou has tried to contribute to the pile, but his sheddings have not been significant.

When I wrote about Gladys’s projected motherhood, I mentioned that in past years my Good Wife had used some of her eggs to produce a superb goose egg frittata, a culinary experience we were foregoing this year in the expectation of having goslings. I have referred to my Good Wife’s result as the “finest goose egg frittata I ever have eaten,” but she has reminded me that it is the only goose egg frittata I ever have eaten.

Giving up the frittata would have been a small price to pay had we been presented with a raucous gaggle of goslings, but sadly such does not seem to be the case. When nothing hatched last year, Gladys needed counseling, thus perhaps at this stage I should start reading up on animal psychology? If Gladys ultimately proves this column to have been premature by producing a single gosling and a single baby chick from those two lone eggs, I shall be a happy midwife indeed.