by Henry Lane Hull
Alas, history has repeated itself most sadly, for once again we have experienced a “silent spring,” to borrow from the title of Rachel Carson’s celebrated book. Gladys, our pet goose, has abandoned her prodigious effort at motherhood, having sat on a makeshift nest for almost three months. Anticipating the worst, I had placed one of her eggs under a willing chicken, who is holding firm in her attempt to have an adopted gosling offspring, but she too has passed the time of fertility long ago.
In years past my Good Wife has made a superb goose egg frittata, which we have not enjoyed for almost five years now, in the hope each spring that Gladys would produce, all to no avail. At present she, Gladys that is, not my Good Wife, is undergoing a form of postpartum depression, tearing around the pen in mad hysterics having realized that this season is another no-go.
Not being schooled in veterinary linguistic usages, I do not know the proper term to describe her condition, except to say that it is dire. She is all the more bossy and demanding, as if she is blaming the chickens and her poor spouse, Lou, the gander about whom I have written previously, for her lack of productivity. Quite frankly, I think she also holds me accountable for her lack of maternal production. Lou is far more understanding.
This year she began laying in late February, an egg here, an egg there, with no rhyme or reason about how to build a nest. When she was not looking, I clustered the eggs for her, in a vain attempt to encourage her to see how the process normally should work, again to repeat the timeworn cliché, all to no avail. Mistakenly, I had thought that I was giving her the word, expecting a light bulb to go on in her brain to the effect of, “Oh, this is how it should happen.” I have learned not to expect so much from a goose’s intellect.
The poor, benighted little hen who continues to set on the single goose egg is not giving up, but she should. The incubation period for a goose is 28 days, now long past in her case. She hops off of her nest solely to grab a sip of water, and I feed her in situ, which she clearly appreciates. I am sad that she is not a goose, as she has such eminent maternal instincts. I leave the barren egg with her, as I do not think I am capable of dealing with two cases of postpartum simultaneously. Gladys usually takes about a month to get over hers, hence we should have about three weeks to go.
Without hesitation I can say that Lou has moved on to other interests. He stopped doing his guard duty by Gladys’ nest, and at present is back to being himself, more interested in me, if I may say so modestly, than he is with her. He and I relate to each other more than he does to his fellow fowl.
Today my mind reverts to the use of the term “goose eggs” that one uses to describe a bad financial deal in which one makes zero profit. In Gladys’s situation, the expression is much more literal. Our family had gone through the process with her in eager anticipation of the goslings breaking out of their shells, and joining the barnyard family, but now we know that will not occur.
Given the intensity of her setting once she finally had made a nest, I think Gladys might have made a successful mother had her eggs hatched. Lou definitely would have been an exemplary father in the classic mold of a good gander. He gets along quite well with the chickens, and has no difficulty with the bantam silky rooster, all of whom Gladys either ignores or pushes aside when she deems them to be in her way.
One resolution that has emerged from this year’s saga, is that next year we are having at least one goose egg frittata, assuming my Good Wife will agree, that is.