Saturday, April 13, 2024
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Excerpts by Henry Lane Hull

Over 40 years ago an elderly gentleman in Upper Essex County gave me my first geese, a pair of Chinese. Since childhood geese have been among my favorite animals, and the pair I received were extremely friendly, to the extent of sitting on either side of me on the porch stoop, trying to put their heads in my chest pockets. 

When he gave them to me, his parting advice was that a goose lives on its own schedule, getting up when it wants and going to bed the same, noting that a goose likes to sleep in a house. His point of reference was to a coop. For the past year, Henry the Goose has given new insight into that remark.

In the morning when I open the gate to let the fowl out into the larger barnyard, he is always the first one across the threshold, and in the evening the last one to agree to retire for the night.

Recently, he has been extremely unwilling to go back into the coop. One evening last week, as the fowl paraded back into their residence, I saw no Henry. I called to him, but I received no honking in response. Normally, he talks to me whenever I am outside.

Naturally, I was worried, but assumed he was on a frolic of his own. Later, after dark, I went out and called again. This time he immediately honked back, from the side porch. I told him how concerned I had been, but he seemed to be telling me, in a polite way, that he knew how to care for himself.

Slowly, he followed me back to the coop, and I breathed a genuine sigh of relief. The next night, we experienced a repeat performance, but this time he appeared to be more interested in hanging around the pickup truck. Reluctantly, he returned to the coop.

When I described these events to my Good Wife, typically, she came up with a plausible analysis, the gist of which is that Henry not only does not think of himself as a gander, and not as we have suspected as a fellow human being, but rather as a dog.

Her point was that each day he witnesses Maggie, the Welsh corgi, coming and going in and out of the house, and he does not understand why he cannot do likewise. Granted, Maggie is on a leash, and Henry is allowed free range roaming in the barnyard, but her passing through the back door has not gone unnoticed by Henry. I am sure that he figures that if he cannot come inside, at least he should be able to spend the night on the porch. If indeed that is his position, my Good Wife would be in strong disagreement.

Several weeks ago, when a large gaggle of Canada geese was flying overhead in V-formation, as they passed honking away, Henry honked back, obviously disinterested in their destination, simply being courteous. I think he might have been saying, “Why would I give up this life to go with you?”—that is, assuming their honks were invitations to join their northbound flight.

Domestically, Henry has had a very beneficial effect on Gladys. Since his arrival 14 months ago, she is much calmer and finally has learned, at her venerable age, to build a nest, where she presently has laid nine eggs, giving us hope for goslings later in the spring. Gladys is quite independent-minded, and might choose not to sit on the nest, but we are optimistic that she will.

Geese are social animals, and as such they relate well to humans. They enjoy people’s attention, whether in the form of speaking or honking. They are self-sufficient, preferring to forage for themselves over being served. They especially like a diet of weeds, to which I say, “Bon appetit!”

Rappahannock Record Staff
Rappahannock Record Staff
From the Rappahannock Record news team

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