Few things inspire memories like your own children.
One spring day, long ago, while helping me repair the garden fence after my tiller finished with it, one of my kids approached the subject of raising our own main coarse for the yuletide feast. “We already grow the vegetable parts,” he argued, “we might as well grow the guest of honor!”
I saw through this immediately and said so with, “You want a pet turkey?”
“No! A GOOSE!” he said and quickly lobbied further with, “They even make great watch dogs!”
Every lobbyist employs a bribe and that appeared with, “I’d even help, like, feed it and stuff!”
“We already have two dogs who know how to watch. See, they’re watching right now!” I fought back, even though only one eye out of four was even partially open. I added, “Sometimes they even bark when they’re supposed to.”
“But geese are smarter!” he embellished, as two sets of dog ears went up in response. He threw in, “And eventually quite tasty!” raising four doggy eyebrows and one eyelid.
I couldn’t argue with this approach and neither could my salivary glands as the ghosts of Christmas dinners past came across my glazed-over look. “Maybe,” I almost caved, “but it’d have to sleep with the troops,” referring to our Aussie and her sister, a wolf/husky mix.
I was just getting to the part about shared responsibilities and goose poop, when the dinner bell rang, sparking a resounding “Woof!”, “Arf!” and the pitter-patter of $100 tennis shoes. I decided to sleep on it and let any nightmares decide the outcome.
In the morning, I had no recollection of any bad dreams but there was a goose feather in my hair. I took this as a sign, like I often do when I discover strange things in my locks. Maybe it was a note from a parallel universe; then again, maybe just a leaky pillow. Signs can be perturbingly difficult to read when they’re not in your native tongue. I showed the feather to my wife when she got up. Giving me a wink, she said, “Maybe after breakfast!” Yet another sign.
Over waffles and eggs, I tried to iron out a few details with, “So… a ‘Watchgoose’ huh?”
“Yeah, like YEAH!” piped up both kids.
“Woof, Arf!” piped both dogs.
That being settled, I paid a visit to the nearest goose dealership. On the way home with a gosling nestled cutely in my new FFA (Foolhardy Farmers of America) hat on the seat next to me, I received my first reward; a good sized dollop of goosy goop I’d later find in my hair due to negligent hat donning. Later, this same material I would track throughout the house, for it has the consistency only carpet removes. It is also worth mentioning here just how slippery it can be on composite decking, handrails and bicycle seats.
The first order of business was a proper name and, here again, one of my little mouthpieces came up with, “CD!”
“CD?” I inquired naively.
“Short for ‘Christmas Dinner’,” came common sense.
That being so eloquently put, I moved to the second order of protocol: “Poop Patrol”, pointing to my hair. “We obviously need to employ a great deal of vigilance to keep it on the outside of that threshold,” pointing toward the front door. And much to their credit, my two ‘helpers’ applied all of the current technologies available to them such as looking the other way and denial in the form of shrugged shoulders. I, meanwhile, tried out brooms, shovels, putty knives, spatulas and eventually my kids’ tried and true methodology: ignorance.
In the meantime, CD ate constantly when not honk-barking, hissing or attacking my shins.
He also watched, getting to know our habits, traits and weaknesses in ways to maximize our relationship. Early on, he noticed that I seldom looked down when stepping out of the house or shop, descending stairs or ladders, exiting vehicles or just walking in general. These were precisely the areas he chose to do his favorite thing: making me clean the bottoms of my shoes.
Fanning the air was another of his virtues, sometimes with enough exuberance to make it rain coffee if he happened to sneak up behind me outside, whenever I was deep in ‘homestead meditation mode’ while sipping from a hot steamy cup of ‘get up and go’. Our dogs would applaud excitedly, “Woof, Arf!” each time, then lap up the puddles followed by tail chasing, more manic woofs and arfs and a long nap.
Our security personnel, he noticed, often got bored with their work and closed their eyes a lot. CD was determined to stay focused, however, and he did this by being obnoxious. Like a little Don Rickles on a perpetual roast, he bossed the dogs, cat, deer, grouse, wild turkeys and us two- legged units who tended to molt without warning, often quite colorfully.
He fortified his rank by honk-barking and flapping instructions. Passing motorists occasionally misinterpreted these as attempted suicide, causing detours and tire tracks in our flowerbeds.
As he waddled through summer, I became trained in the fine art of foul observation. If, for instance, I ran the weed eater long enough to encase my shoes in chlorophyll, then leave them on the porch to dry out, upon my return, the laces would be missing, reconfiguring my eyebrows into opposing question marks. They would remain so until finally I happened to be sitting on the edge of the deck, thinking up some new procrastination techniques when he came up behind, looked over my shoulder at my coffee and let out a sorry little moan.
“S’matter big guy?” I said, patting his head softly and reassured him with, “Shouldn’t you be eating? Christmas is only a few months away.”
He moaned again and coasted down to the driveway trailing a twenty inch green banner from his butt. Not escaping my rapt concentration was its similarity to one of my missing laces.
Later still but shortly after admonishing one of my blood line about the virtues of replacing gas caps on implements, I found CD on top of the mower with its gas cap in his mouth, spitting it out with practiced nonchalance and honking like a mad truck driver.
“Woof, Arf!” intoned his two furry co-workers.
As autumn coasted past my nose, CD filled out nicely on young grasses, fresh shoots and new shoelaces. The thought did occur to me that he might be a stringy bird in the end (no pun).
By late November, he outweighed us all in attitude except for the moose even he avoided eye contact with.
He was everyone’s tribulation, inspector, boss, and at the same time, cohort, companion and, of course, watch dog. He had our backs, sometimes quite literally if he figured you needed it. He had our eyes too, for he was as fun to watch as any cartoon character. He also had our ears, tuned in to every available note from his formidable kazoo. By mid December, he had a fan club as well, for even a nemesis can sometimes become endearing to those around it.
I tried to think of ways to break this unfair bond he had with us, his name alone not being enough of a deterrent any longer. The concept under which he was brought on board was getting a bit fuzzy around the edges.
“If I can get him to attack someone besides me, maybe I can avert having to buy goose chow every winter for the rest of his life,” I confided to the cat while I picked goose poop from the crags of my boots. The cat showed how much she cared by yawning and going off for a nap.
I dallied with scenarios while the homestead carried on as usual, “Honk,Woof, Arf!”
In the end, Mother Nature cut short my scheming with one of those crazy December thunderstorms we sometimes get here on the western slopes of the Rockies when things stack up just right.
I looked out the window just before sitting down to dinner. CD was out in the road flapping encouragement to the storm and stretching his neck toward the clouds, flinging honks and hisses like Don Quixote at a windmill, in an effort to maintain his dominance.
A few minutes later, mid bite for me, a mighty flash and accompanying blast sent food, forks and idle threats from ceiling to floor. When the peas settled down, I got up to wash the gravy off my face, then went out on the porch to check the weather report.
It was raining lightly. I mean, really lightly! Smoking feathers were everywhere, drifting around aromatically. The rest of the dinner party joined me outside, the three of them chiming together, “What’s that god-awful smell?!”
“That would be our Christmas Dinner,” I announced, “A little early!”