I sat down beside One-Eye, sighed, and stroked his back. Was I angry? Hardly. Not to say I wasn’t sad—he was one of the sweetest, gentlest geese I’ve known. But if you ask me, this is how a healthy, wild goose should die, and should become someone’s supper.
Still, Bob was clearly rattled. Not that he has a problem with hunting. In his younger days, he told me, before glaucoma stole his vision, there was never a year his freezer wasn’t full. I know he misses those days. I do, too, actually, but when I stopped eating meat, I stopped hunting. Call me old school, but I believe if you shoot it, you eat it. Nuisance animals excepted.
The trouble Old Bob had with One-Eye’s demise comes from how individually personable and sociable Canada geese can be—and how attached he’s become to them since he started helping here. I can’t tell you how many times I found him sitting with One-Eye, hand-feeding him an apple and sharing whatever’s on his mind at the time. He tried that with me a few times, and failed. Now, if he’d handed me a joint or a splash of The Famous Grouse, I’d be happy to sit (or collapse) and let him drone on for hours.
Duck deaths don’t bother Bob much. Or me, for that matter. Unless a duck is injured or sick, they rarely go anywhere here—and they go anywhere they damn well please, including inside the house if I leave the door open (lesson learned)—without their flock-mates (on average 30). Distinguishing one from another, let alone relationship building, is beyond difficult. Yet, I will always try. Which makes people wonder: what the duck is wrong with me?
But wait, there’s more! I spend thousands every year on feed for waterfowl that have plenty to eat from the land and lakes in my neck of the woods. I risk life and limb placing bales of straw in prime nesting spots when there’s already an abundance of material they can collect themselves. I suffer through sleepless nights nursing the wounded and sick, and half never recover anyway.
Why? For the same reasons you move heaven and earth for Fido or Fluffy: You love them, they bring you joy, and you’ll do anything you can to make their lives better. And should they ruin your favorite (fill in the blank) or force you from bed at ungodly hours, or cause you to pay for the new dock at the veterinarian’s cottage—so be it. Right? But I think this is where we part company: I fully expect my animals (yes, birds are animals) to be eaten. Raise your hand if you want your fur baby to become a meal. I thought so.
One-Eye was resting comfortably in my freezer until a few days ago. I’ve decided to honor him with a place on our Thanksgiving table tonight—in a tureen. I can’t cook worth a damn but I think I can manage making chowder with him. The recipe calls for cream, loads of cream, which should camouflage all my errors perfectly! Old Bob will be here this evening. Will I tell him it’s One-Eye I’m ladling into his bowl? Certainly not. I’m pretty sure my chowder will end up being hard enough to swallow—and salty tears will do nothing to improve that.
According to lore, Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October, a month before Americans, because winter comes sooner and they want the harvest fresh, not frozen. Barbara wishes Christmas was also earlier in the Great White North—so her friends aren’t frozen by the time they reach her door. Turns out they can be de-iced by copious amounts of The Famous Grouse, every hour on the hour. Go figure.