When Bruce Cottington enlisted in 1942, he joined the Navy, but was later assigned to a new Marine Corps unit called the Amphibians. The unit fought on land and sea, and Cottington prepared battle sites in the Pacific during World War 2. (The amphibian unit was the precursor to the Navy SEALS.)
In the heart of March Madness, residents of the Biggs-Anderson homestead cope with the aftermath of an attempted goose suicide. In this commentary, Vicki vets her injured goose, plucks cashmere from her goats, and reflects on the changing landscape of her farm.
Winter was hungrier than usual this year. Our well-stocked woodshed is nearly bare. So too the hay storage garage. And the last bales are so dry and yucky that even the goats turn up their noses at it. It’s not that I can’t get hay and wood this time of year. But, it comes dear. In my March madness, I wonder if it wouldn’t be cheaper just to chop up and burn the furniture. The goats would love upholstery. Oh, dear. The wheels, they are surely comin’ off. ‘Tis the case every year when - regardless of the amount of snow or cold endured - I look out the window and hear a voice whispering, “I’m not going to make it!” And the voice, of course, is mine,
And still, have not been so battered in mind or spirit to contemplate doing something drastic, like moving someplace crawling with kudzu or cactus.
However, one of my white Chinese geese tried to hang herself yesterday. She failed, but just barely. Gosling, the offspring of Hold Me and Touch Me, is in her preteen stage and pulls something weird almost every day. But this was a doozy.
As we all know, geese love grass. Preferably growing grass. But not until I found Gosling hanging by her slender neck from a wire hanging flower basket did I realize that geese will even go for sphagnum moss in the dead of winter. Even if they have to jump two feet off the ground to get to it.
When I entered the garage, Mom and dad goose were making their pitiful squeaky door sound, instead of the normal full out honk. They normally go totally nuts when I touch their big baby. But this time, as I cradled Goslings body and eased her head up and out of the basket’s grip, the two older geese just stood by.
Initially, it appeared Gosling was just weak, but not injured. So I gave her back to her parents. But once the pressure of the wire had worn off and circulation to her neck was restored, Goslings feathers began to go red with blood. This time, when I scooped her up, her parents went into their usual hysterics. They pecked at my heels as I swept Gosling into the house where I keep my vet supplies. Then they stood wing to wing at the back door waiting noisily for me to give her back to them.
“What’ve you got now?” Paul croaked, just waking up from a nap on the couch. “You can’t tell this is a goose on my lap?” I shot back. Gosling didn’t look injured. Now honking and biting, the young goose resisted all my ministrations. And rightly so. She’s never had antibiotic gel smeared on her neck before. Never been in the house. And probably never felt so sore and abused. The only plus for her was the unexpected warmth of the heated living room. A few times during her treatment, she even snuggled her beak under my barn coat and lingered. By the time I carried her out, my little patient was definitely feeling better, perhaps even enjoying her place in the spotlight.
For my part, I felt quite goddess-like. Vetting my own critters is one of my joys. That is, when it works. My failures rest under the ancient white pine on the southern border of our meadow. A plot well watered with tears. And well tended by the wild things of the air and earth over the years.
The past few days I’ve spent most of my critter hours pulling cashmere tufts off my goats. It’s a chore I alternately dread and adore. Dread, because starting anything is a big deal for me, a professional procrastinator. Adore, because each tuft of luscious cashmere fiber gives me shivers of delight. I feel richer even than when I find a clutch of more than six eggs in my chicken coop. Bosco’s fiber is a light caramel color and easy to pluck off him. He loves my touch. Not so, his sister, Bunny. Her fiber is light gray. Her attitude is part disgust and part fury. Even so, she gave three bags of fiber this year, a personal best for Bunny.
These sunny, warm days I sit on a new bale of straw in the corral, the goat of the day either tethered by my side or - in the case of Bosco - leaning against me lost in ecstasy - I find my mind wandering to other years and other goats. Baby, Nimbus, Tory and the notorious Nightshade. Each gave up his or her fiber in their own way. And their colors and temperaments are as much a part of my mental landscape as the old white pine is. There is an always-ness to this odd hobby of mine that anchors me in a way nothing else can. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Here’s hoping your soon-to-be born springtime is as delightful. Or, if not, you happen upon a bliss you can call your own very, very soon.
For WTIP, this is Vicki Biggs-Anderson with Magnetic North.