This weekend, we celebrated our 6th homesteading anniversary. It is so hard to believe it has been that long already! Farming has been a great blessing to us, not only for financial and economic reasons, but also for those lessons that “normal” life just can’t teach you. All children learn the lessons of both life and death, but farm kids have a unique connection with both that you just can’t get from a goldfish in a city flat. Such is the life of our three little farmers. Macey is our oldest; she just turned eleven and amazes me daily with her quiet nature, soft touch, and connection with the animals. They all love her, but no animal more than Lucky the Goose.
March this year brought a flurry of activity, as usual. Chicks hatching, goats kidding, bottle babies everywhere, ducks on nests, and geese guarding their clutch of eggs. It’s a wonderful time, a busy and very tiring time, one where the whole family has to contribute in some aspect of daily operation just to stay on top of things. One such duty for Macey was to check the mothers on nests and report on any hatching activity. We have chickens, guineas, ducks, and geese scattered around several areas of our front five acres.
Macey came back one day to report that our goslings were already hatched! The Momma goose had four little goslings parading around behind her, already walking down to the pond. I ran out with her to see them myself. After a while of us laughing at the babies' feeble attempts at walking, scavenging, and encountering the pond, we headed to the barn to feed the goats. We were just finishing when I noticed Macey was very distracted. She kept tilting her head and looking under things. She said she heard peeping, but there was nothing in the barn stalls that should be peeping. She kept looking, though, and found a lone, little gosling laying on its back in a locked stall, furiously kicking the air as he tried to right himself. How odd to find that little fella there, alone. No cracked egg, no other hatchlings or Mom guarding him. Alone and abandoned. Macey instantly scooped him up and held him close. She declared that his bad Momma needed a talking to for leaving him behind, and she headed off towards the pond to deliver him to her herself.
Imagine our surprise when Momma goose chased us away from the pond, screeching and flogging the backs of our legs when we tried setting him down with her! We thought she was protecting him, but the poor little gosling was not wanted by her. Once she ran us off, she turned her aggression on him, stomping, hissing, and biting at him with her bill. Macey ran to him — with Momma goose chasing and pecking at her the whole way — scooped up the baby, and took off straight to the house ... Which is where little, baby goose was when her Daddy got home. Andrew wasn’t so happy to find a goose in the house, but, honestly, he wasn’t surprised either. Our kiddo’s have a habit of bringing typically non-traditional pets inside the house. Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, sure. But frogs, chickens, crickets, geese? Yep, that’s just how we roll here!
The baby gosling was soon named Lucky. Lucky loved staying in the house, sleeping in a laundry basket, and swimming in the sink (and then the bath tub as he grew). He answered to his name, came to whistles, and followed Macey around outside like a little puppy. Lucky moved into his own pen outside when he got big enough. He and Macey developed an even stronger relationship — daily walks to the pond, special treats, relaxing under shade trees. Even a few attempts at jumping on the trampoline. (Note: geese do not like trampolines). Then the time came when Macey had to decide to either keep Lucky Goose locked away or let him join his brothers and sisters on the pond. She was worried about releasing him as we have a fair number of hawks, crows, and other hazards for one spoiled little house goose to encounter. In the end, though, we agreed that a life locked away was no life for a friendly goose. He needed to be able to swim, forage, and enjoy other geese.
Lucky moved onto the pond in our lower pasture in July. He has loved swimming, lounging under the cedar trees, and stealing the yummy sunflowers out of the goats feed bowls. Our goats, ducks, and geese live mostly in harmony together under the watchful eye of Sky, the livestock guardian dog. Sky never wanders from the goats and has never offered to harm any of the birds she is with. Life was good here on the farm for a happy little house goose and his human girl.
Earlier today, Macey came inside. Her face wasn’t right. Her shoulders were sagging. She said, “Lucky didn’t come when I called Momma.” She quickly explained that she saw a pile of feathers near the upper fence row and wanted me to come with her to investigate. We headed up the drive towards the pond. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 … there were six little goose heads popping up where seven should have been. My heart sank. What was left of the goose by the fence was not identifiable, so Macey went and sat by the pond, whistling her little tune and calling his name softly. Lucky did not answer. The other geese looked at her curiously, then rushed away in their usual manner.
I watched her sitting there, suddenly looking so much younger than her eleven years. The look on her face when she realized her Lucky was gone killed me. I gave her a few minutes, watching as she put down her handful of sunflower seeds and stared at the empty pond. When she got up, I walked over to hug her. She just shook her head at me, held my hand, and walked with me saying, “He was a good goose, Momma. We saved him you know? He knew we loved him. He was my friend.” We both cried silently as we walked to the house this evening.
Lucky was a very special goose, and a very special friend to a farm-tough little girl. I surely hope that animals get to go to Heaven. If so, tonight there is a beautiful grey and white goose swimming on a golden pond, just waiting for his special friend to whistle and call his name softly.
The Cox family lives in TN and operates ANS Farms. Find us on Facebook at "Ans Farms," where you can find more pictures, and follow all of our farming adventures!