Dot and Job were geese. And they were the bruisers of the barnyard. They “buffaloed” everybody.
There wasn’t a thing walking around that could give them a bit of trouble. Even our shepherd mix Big Sophie wasn’t safe from their bossy ways. So when my friend Rhonda called from North Georgia asking me if I wanted some more geese, I wasn’t worried about Dot and Job. I was worried about the new guys.
A little back-story … my friends Don and Rhonda were longtime poultry aficionados. They had a yard full of geese and chickens. So when Johnny and I got married, as a wedding present, they offered to give us some geese. Perfect timing! We had been thinking about getting more. I asked Rhonda how many she wanted to get rid of. She answered, firmly, “All of them.”
You see, although these geese were much beloved of my friends, (hand fed, and babied all their live-long days) Rhonda loved her garden more. And the geese had been stripping it clean of plants. Nothing was safe. Ferns, hostas, begonias — all vegetation fell prey to the flock.
So instead of wringing their necks and having them all for Christmas dinner, Rhonda remembered we had a good piece of ground out in Carroll County and knew we already had geese. So she decided to give them to us. I considered the effect this would have on our existing flock. Eventually, the new geese would be accepted, but until then, Dot and Job would probably make their lives miserable.
One beautiful Saturday morning, Don and Rhonda drove south, bearing geese. They pulled into the driveway. I could hear the trumpeting geese from inside the house so we hurried out to greet them. The dogs were circling the truck, sniffing curiously. We hugged our friends and then got to the business at hand. Don pulled the blankets off the cages, displaying our new flock. They were gorgeous. Six Pilgrim geese. And they had pilgrim names: Miles (Standish), Prudence, Constance, etc.
We separated them for a while, keeping them in different cages. But after a couple of days, we decided it was time to introduce to Dot and Job to the new flock. That’s when the friction began. There wasn’t any overt violence, just a steady stream of bullying and pushing around. If the two old geese got anywhere near the food, the other birds flapped their wings wide and lowered their head to run them off. Dot and Job had become outsiders.
Now, Job was no stranger to misfortune. That’s why we named her Job. As a young gosling she was picked on by the older geese — always the odd man out — always the last to drink, the last to eat, the last to swim. She was used to a troubled life. But this bad treatment was new to Mighty Dot. Dot has always been the BGOC (Big goose on campus), so to find herself suddenly last in the pecking order was hard on the old girl.
After a couple of weeks, the geese finally settled down. They still weren’t the best of friends, but they became more peaceful. In the afternoon, they all napped in the sun. Dot and Job worked their way closer … sleeping almost among them.
But the new flock still wasn’t letting Dot and Job get to the food. Their feathers were getting a little dull and their beaks a little ashy. Johnny speculated they weren’t getting enough to eat.
So, when I let them out this morning, I decided to try a new feeding strategy. I spread a big pile of cracked corn by the kiddie pool. The new geese headed that way. On the other side of the goat barn, where I used to feed Dot and Job, I put a secret mound of corn and a can of clean water. I stepped into the goat barn and hid behind the screen door. Then I whispered, “goosegoosegoose.” Dot and Job heard me and snuck over, looking nervously over their shoulders. They found their corn and began to devour it. Their beaks clicked the ground frantically, sounding like a Morse code operator. They ate and ate and ate.
All the while I could hear the six new geese on the other side of the barn, doing belly flops into the kiddie pool. They were having a big time, forgetting about the other two completely. But eventually, the new six geese missed Dot and Job and came to see what they were up to. They crept around the side of the goat barn, heads low and hissing. They didn’t see me hiding in the goat barn. I stuck my arm out the door and began to raise and lower it menacingly. The ganders froze in their tracks. Dot and Job continued stuffing their faces. Then they drank clean water to their hearts delight.
After they had eaten their fill, I walked back up to the house. I stopped halfway and turned to look. The new six had spooked the old girls off the food and were sauntering back and forth, checking for grain. Dot and Job, full and happy, were heading to the baby pool for a quick swim while the others weren’t looking.
Just for a minute, all was quiet on the western front.