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Animals are only human after all

April 05, 2010|By TIM ROWLAND

I started collecting critters under the working theory that they were, in some ways, superior to humans.

While acknowledging that they might not have our mental horsepower, I also assumed they lacked petty, human traits such as jealousy, vindictiveness, selfishness and the like.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. If anything, animals can trump most of our undesirable characteristics, and the only reason we don't hear more about it is that animals do not stupidly hire press agents and media consultants to compound the problem.

The alpacas spend all day spitting at each other; goats will chase other goats away from the haymow, even though there's plenty to go around; donkeys will scream if we dare feed another animal before they have had theirs; and a chicken of ours named Hattie will come up and peck at the back of your leg if you are favoring another animal with too much attention.

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But these are minor vices compared to the geese -- two of the most lawless and unlovable birds that ever roamed the face of the earth. They are as loud as a band of drunken pirates and mean as sin. Ralphie will lower his head and charge any animal, up to and including the draft horse.

They used to hang out by an old smokehouse that we converted into a tack room. It's filled with saddles, bridles, leather straps, crops, riding boots and chains -- stuff that would only excite a horse person, or a member of the Republican National Committee.

But it was also filled with stinkbugs, which might have been an appealing quality for the geese. During the snows of the Great Winter of 2010, however, the geese broke camp and went to live down on the creek -- a watercourse being more maneuverable to a goose than 2 feet of snow.

There, they made life miserable for any other creature that might try to move in, including ducks, Canada geese and blue herons.

Then, one day, another family of domestic geese showed up, for reasons that have yet to be established. Compared to our pair of barroom brawlers, this was a family of Sunday school geese.

They are gorgeous birds and perfectly coifed (ours tend to be rather plain with red, satanic eyeballs and feathers akimbo). The new family has good manners. They come and go, never wearing out their welcome. Our geese scream for bread and hiss ungratefully when they get it. The newcomers ask politely for a treat and honk with thanksgiving on its appearance. The old geese are always stirring for a fight; the new geese live in harmony with all comers.

However, these new geese do not tolerate bullies. Ralphie pushed his luck with the new head goose once too often, and instead of backing away, the new guy took up the fight. And what a fight -- wings spread, feathers flying and a volume that exceeded that of low-flying aircraft. When all was said and done, Ralphie was running for his life down the hill to the creek.

I never thought I would live to see the day when he was whipped, but here it was.

Then, the other day, I came home and there were Ralphie and Edwina, sitting way upstream in seclusion, cigarettes hanging out the corners of their mouths, and a look of depression, puzzlement and weak defiance on their faces.

Closer to the house were the usurpers, the perfect family, saying grace over a picnic lunch and doing charity work for the poor. Like Mary Poppins, they were perfect in almost every way.

But something made me want to go back and give our geese a hug. Sure, they're thugs and outlaws, and cuddly as snakes -- but they are our thugs. Family, as such.

In the end, maybe we're just too much alike.

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">timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under opinion@herald-mail.com">opinion@herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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