The Day the Geese Vanished
A quest to find my missing geese.
Although it’s quiet and peaceful here at Eagle Hill, there’s never a dull moment. Here’s a recent example of one of those never-dull moments.
My two dogs, Ted and Braxton, are free-range dogs. They have the run of the place and every morning at first light, they leave their cozy beds and go out to do their secret dog business.
They love to bark at the wild birds, and since the birds also get up at first light, it works out well for them. Maybe they planned it that way. Who knows? They’re always back in their beds by the time I get up.
On this particular day, they did their morning thing and I thought nothing of it. I got up, gave everyone breakfast and got on with my day. Mid-morning I went to check that the geese had food and everything was okay with them.
No geese. Calling here goosy goosy yielded nothing. Thinking back, I should have noticed how quiet it was out there. Geese are rarely quiet and I’m so used to the noise they make it should have sounded strange without it. Once I noticed the absence of geese, it did seem strangely quiet. Chalk one up for hindsight.
The geese are free-range too. In the ten years I’ve been here I’ve only lost one to a fox. They’re too big and bulky for a fox to make off with, and they put up quite a fight. Did I mention the noise they make? Anyway, they camp close to the house at night so they’re relatively safe.
The geese roam far and wide but always come back to home base, and they’re always within hearing range. There’s no mistaking the sound of those honkers, even when they’re on walkabout.
This day, there was nothing. No geese, no honking, nothing. I walked around searching for them, nothing. I took a walk out to the nearest water trough where they sometimes go. It’s quite a hike for short-legged geese but I’ve seen them out there before. Not much gets past me.
I even took a drive down the road. It was worth a try. My driveway is long, and the house is set back from the road, but I have seen the geese near the end of the driveway before. Maybe they found something interesting and wandered onto the road. Nope, not this day.
On the drive back in I was scouring the countryside for anything white. One of my geese is pure, clean white, and if he were out there I’d be able to spot him easily.
And then I saw it in the distance. And I do mean distance. It was just a tiny speck of white, but it was there. I stopped the car, wishing I’d thought to bring my binoculars. I watched the white thing. There! It moved! Did it move, or was I imagining it? Then it disappeared. Ok, not my imagination.
It was a cool, still day. Even if the white thing were just a piece of paper that had blown out into the paddock, with no breeze, it wouldn’t disappear.
I drove home, parked the car, and proceeded to march across the paddock, accompanied by two happy dogs, and two of the more adventurous cats.
The white thing I’d seen was in front of a pile of old cars and other scrap metal that someone had dumped out there years before I moved in. We all referred to it as The Dump, makes sense, right? It’s a good 10-15 minute hike from the house (past the trough where they go on their long walks), and too far for the geese to go on their wanderings.
But, as I got closer, the white thing appeared again, and darker shapes started to become visible. Goose shapes. What in the world were they doing out there?
I could see they had no clue how to get home, and they didn’t get there by themselves.
It was a slow walk home, and from the way they avoided the dogs I had a good idea of how they got out there. Geese don’t talk but their actions told me all I needed to know.
It seems my sheep dogs’ herding instinct got the better of them, and with no wild birds to chase and bark at, they turned their attention to the only other birds around, the big noisy ones they live with.
I hate to think what might have happened to them if I hadn’t found them. Out there, alone at night, is no place for four slow-moving, flightless, meaty birds, as big as they are.
Perhaps my dogs were revealing their true feelings about the geese. After all, they did take them to The Dump, and leave them there.
Until next time, keep the faith …
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