Commentary by Ward Degler
Of all the birds I’ve seen, I hold the greatest respect for geese. I didn’t say I liked them, only that I respect them. That’s because they are cunning, powerful, aggressive and territorial to the max.
They also go insane when anyone challenges their right to whatever they think they have a right to. This renders them capable of unspeakable damage to people, pets and property.
In 2001, workmen’s comp paid $17,000 to a man for injuries he got from a goose while making a delivery. In Buffalo, N.Y., a bunch of berserk geese caused $2 million in damages. In a Cincinnati park, Canada geese have attacked picnickers on numerous occasions, causing serious injuries, including broken bones.
Such capability of mayhem also makes geese excellent watch dogs. People knew this in ancient Rome. It was a flock of geese that warned the Romans of invading Gauls. Since then, they have been put to work on farms, factories and military compounds.
The United States Air Defense Command installations in Germany were guarded by patrolling geese. The Ballantine Distillery in Scotland kept the brewing vats safe with geese. Police stations in China and a prison in Brazil rely on geese to keep things safe and secure.
Back when I was a gentleman farmer in Valley of the Jolly Green Giant, I bought a half-dozen newly hatched African geese from a neighbor. After a few days of feeding them, watering them and herding them into shelter at night, they looked at me as some kind of parental figure. They would follow me around the yard and would rush to greet me when I got home from work.
I thought this was charming until one Saturday when some friends came to visit. As I left the house to meet them, the geese formed a defensive line between me and my friends, refusing to let them move. I don’t remember how I persuaded the geese that the visitors were OK, but I recall the incident was the primary topic of conversation that day and long into the future, and not in a good way.
As disturbing as it was to see friendship sullied by farm animals, it was a delight to note how quickly traveling salesmen returned to their cars and left the premises when confronted by indignant geese. During the summer, my loyal watchmen drove off tinkers, knife sharpeners, insurance agents and the local representatives of at least six different paint companies.
All good things must end, of course, and when fall came and it was time to butcher the chickens, we added six African geese to the list of items in the freezer. We made a point to invite our friends to dinner.