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On the farm, what is good for goose is good for gander

July 15, 2008

I don't write about our three geese much, basically because it would be about as compelling as writing about three cold sores.

They are surly, loud, obnoxious fussbudgets - and those are their attributes. The best you can say about them is that they are fair. They hate everyone and everything equally.

They scream at me when I feed them their corn; they hiss at me when I toss them treats. Their venom is akin to three sour old chain-smoking aunts, always grousing and hacking at the children and wisecracking about their parents.

Matter of fact, I never even bothered to learn their names or sexes, until I needed to for purposes of this column. I had gathered their names were Frankie, Prudence and Edwina. Instead, it's Edwina, Ralphie and Ruthie.

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Prudence was Edwina's mother, now passed. Edwina was Edwin until he proved to be a she. I don't know where I got Frankie from. Ruthie is a boy. (Goose-sexing, apparently, is an inexact science.) Beth says I'm free to rename Ruthie by awarding him a more masculine sobriquet. But what would be the point? He is a scruffy, drooling bird who walks with a pronounced limp from some long-ago injury, which only adds to his beauty.

There is absolutely nothing to like about Ralphie - which is why I kind of like him. He's the ringleader of the group, a humorless spokesman for the industry of malcontent, getting in my face and talking smack when I try to be kind and toss him some bread. UPS drivers are all the time asking if the dogs are friendly. I tell them the dogs are fine, but don't turn your back on a goose. Even Opie leaves them alone.

The geese take breakfast at 7 a.m., then exit in a cacophony of displeasure for the creek, where they make life miserable for the mallards, Canada geese, herons and any other wild waterfowl unfortunate enough to cross their ugly paths.

But all that said, they are the spine of the farm. They are the background color on which the rest of the canvas is painted. Their presence is reassuring, because they are consistent - they are always there, squabbling and yakking about some great injustice, but providing comfort by way of their discomfort. If I'm having a bad day, at least I know the geese are having a bad day, too.

They normally drink out of the creek, except when they are too lazy to make the trip, at which point they sip out of the big-animal troughs. Perhaps they did not realize that one of these troughs is now encased by an electric fence that confines the alpacas.

As my good luck would have it, it was Ralphie - the meanest, nastiest goose of the bunch - who made the first move. He tried to maneuver his considerable neck through the electric net when ZAP! After all these years, he finally had something legitimate to complain about. And Ralphie is not a goose to miss an opportunity. He shot across the pasture in three steps exactly. All his past jawing was just for practice; now he broke out into an apocalyptic volcano of goose profanity that probably was heard in Greencastle.

I should have been smug. I should have been happy about seeing this blunderbuss taken down a peg. But there was no joy in it. I felt for the poor guy.

Maybe it was from one gasbag to another, but all I could do was get up from my chair and take him an unelectrified bucket of cold water.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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