Friday, December 30, 2011

Pilgrim Geese

When I worked at Virginia's Explore Park, one of my jobs was to care for the historic breeds of farm animals. While there were aspects of animal care that were not exactly fun, it was one of my favorite tasks. All of the animals that we had were minor breed animals. (For more about minor or rare breeds, click here.)

The Park had geese from the time it opened in 1994 until 2006. Over that time span, I allowed the geese to hatch out goslings three or four times. The goslings went to other historical parks like Booker T Washington National Monument in Franklin County, Virginia. One year, I had the heartbreak of coming in one morning only to find that some wild critter had managed to get into the goose pen and kill all of the goslings. We thought that we had the pens wired up like Fort Knox, but fowl-eating creatures are a sneaky lot and they can gain entrance at the most tiny of places.

Hansel, the big white goose that I am holding in the photo below, was my love. He could be a real meany and he was not really discriminating about who he would chase and bite and that included me as well as co-workers and park visitors. I still have scars on my legs where he would bite me and take a chunk of hide with him! While some of my co-workers took to calling him "Lucifer", I really had to respect him.  He was protecting his mate, family and territory. He was simply being a good goose, doing goosey things. In an effort to make him more friendly to his caretakers, I jokingly gave him what I called "Goose Therapy". This involved catching and petting him on a regular basis no matter how much he seemed to dislike it in the beginning. You can see in the photo, he is not trying to bite me and he would actually nuzzle his head against me after SEVERAL sessions of goose therapy!

As financial problems began to plague the park and the closing of the park was looking more and more like a reality, I had to find homes for all of the farm animals. The geese went to a farm in Bedford County.  I think about all of the animals often, but Hansel especially. It is very likely that he could still be alive since Pilgrim Geese can live to be 40 years old  Hansel was only 15 when I had to say goodbye.

Me and Hansel

Lilly warns me to back off from her babies by hissing

Hansel would do more than hiss at me for getting close.  He would BITE!

Hello!  Ain't  I cute?

This is how to swim, children.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, six geese a-layin, five golden rings, four colly birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. 

1 comment:

  1. I forgot to mention in the above post that Pilgrim Geese usually mate for life. The males are always white and the females are always grey. When they are little goslings, the females look almost green and the males are bright yellow. Originally, there was a Gretel that was Hansel's mate, but she did not survive an animal attack one night. Hansel did mate with other females after Gretel died, but he never did bond with another female.


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