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Friendly and Squirt

BY DAN GEDDINGS
Outdoor contributor
Posted 6/14/20

He was surprised and saddened to see the road full of feathers and two mangled geese on the pavement. He turned on his emergency flashing lights and pulled over. He moved the dead geese to the grassy shoulder then noticed a couple of goslings …

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Friendly and Squirt

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He was surprised and saddened to see the road full of feathers and two mangled geese on the pavement. He turned on his emergency flashing lights and pulled over. He moved the dead geese to the grassy shoulder then noticed a couple of goslings flattened by the uncaring traffic. He pushed them from the pavement with his boot, then looked up to see a highway crew arriving. They had been called by some passerby and were responding to clean up the unsightly mess. He left them to their work.

The road to his home was just a short distance, and when he turned in, he was surprised again. Four baby geese were walking away from the highway down his street. They were very small, maybe a week old, and were obviously survivors from the road incident. He knew they would quickly perish without the adults to care for them. He could not drive on and leave them.

The little geese were surprisingly difficult to catch, but he gathered them up and held them in his lap while he drove on to his home. Recently, he had built a small chicken coop and a larger outdoor pen with a shed roof behind his barn to accommodate a small flock of chickens. The chickens hadn't been secured yet, so the accommodations were available for the baby geese.

The coop was equipped with a heat lamp, food tray and water fountain. The young geese grew rapidly and were soon moved to the larger pen. They were especially fond of the grass clippings he would supply from time to time. Feathers sprouted, and they were covered with an odd mix of yellow down and small dark feathers. Their necks got longer, and their voices changed.

He knew that the geese were migratory waterfowl, protected by federal and state law. He also knew that it was unlawful to "take" them without a permit or hunting license during a regulated hunting season. His intent was to keep them for a short time and release them back into the wild when they were able to survive on their own. He would take his chances with the law.

The Canada geese that inhabit this part of the world are descendants of transplants from the North. They were brought here by the wildlife department in an effort to establish a wild population. They live on golf courses and subdivision lakes and are semi-domesticated. They are wild in name only. Many people consider them pests because of their tendency to leave behind generous amounts of droppings across lawns and sidewalks. They are just being geese.

Unknown to him, the little geese had become somewhat imprinted on him as a surrogate parent. They greeted him with excited calls at feeding time. Since his back yard was fenced, he decided to let them out in the afternoons when he was home. They followed him across the yard and would stop and sit on the ground when he stopped. The largest one in the group was especially friendly and would approach him and chew on his shoes.

The baby geese were soon covered in feathers and looked like miniature versions of adult geese. Even though they considered him a parent, they did not like to be touched or handled. The biggest one was an exception, and he named him Friendly. The smallest one in the group was the wariest, and he named him Squirt.

The wing feathers were the last to develop and seemed to take the whole summer. They were fully grown by the time their wings were strong. The young geese would stand facing into the wind and flap their wings and hop across the yard in an odd dance. He knew the time was near for them to leave.

One day Friendly got up into the wind and circled the yard, then he was gone. The others called out to him, then they took off into the wind. Only Squirt stayed behind. A few days later Squirt faced into the wind, and then he was gone.

He was happy and sad. A year later two geese from a flock landed in his yard. Were they Friendly and Squirt? Maybe. After a few minutes, they lifted off into the wind and were gone.

Email Dan Geddings at cdgeddings@gmail.com.