So, I have a 'blog now, and that means that I get to write about stuff that happens in real life -- particularly stuff that relates to our farm, since this is, after all, the Howling Hill Farm 'blog. Thus, it is time to officially, once and for all, write out the Goose Story.
The Goose Story actually happened a couple of weeks ago. It started with the Northeast Poultry Congress, which is held at the Big E fairgrounds in Springfield MA. I was told about Northeast Poultry Congress by David Touchette, who breeds some of the best Call ducks in the USA and got me started with exhibition poultry. I'd been excited about it for months. More than anything, I wanted to find some exhibition African geese, or some exhibition Toulouse geese -- something big, and with a dewlap, that I could consider crossing with my American Lavenders down the road to make something new. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to afford them if there were any there -- exhibition geese can be pretty pricey -- but I was excited just to look.
On the day of Congress it was snowing lightly, but I've driven in lots of snowstorms and this wasn't so bad. It was less than an hour and a half drive, and once there, I discovered poultry paradise. (It is a seriously awesome event -- highly, highly recommended if you are even remotely interested in poultry, exhibition or otherwise.) There weren't too many geese for sale there, but lo and behold, there was a pair of really excellent Africans, and another pair of dewlap "somethings" that I didn't quite recognize. As it turns out, there was a good reason for that; they were hybrids of exhibition African and exhibition Toulouse, something I had never seen before, and they were really cool. The most amazing part was that they were all way more affordable than I'd been expecting, so you bet I bought both pairs, and man was I ever stoked. I also picked up a beautiful trio of lavender Muscovies from Mark Langerman.
After the breeder -- Bob Bartholomew, whose African from the same flock won Best Heavy Goose; not too shabby for the APA Nationals -- helped me load the geese into the back of my truck. The Muscovies went into one of the cages I had brought for that express purpose, but the geese would never have fit, so we just put them loose in the back with the cap on. I made sure to thoroughly latch the modified truck cap, and I even commented how awful it would be if the cap flew open on the highway. Bob told me a story about having a trailer come open while he was driving and spilling 75 ducks into the road. He said he caught them all, but it wasn't a good day.
It was still snowing as I drove home. On the highway, I missed my usual exit for the "back way" home, but figured that would be fine, perhaps even better; the other route had more highway, and was thus probably safer in a snowstorm. I forgot about a local hill on that route that is known for being abysmally bad in a snowstorm. Driving up the hill, I got behind a line of slow cars. I debated passing them, but decided against it -- too risky in a storm. Suddenly my rear end began to slide, and I thought, "Hey, wow, guess it is pretty bad -- good thing I didn't pass those guys." Then the truck was sliding into the embankment, and I was just starting to think that it would suck to get towed with all those geese in the back when the truck began to flip over.
Yes, after all of that -- coveting the geese, acquiring the geese, and carefully latching my truck cap so as not to lose the geese, I managed to flip my truck while transporting my precious poultry home. You guessed it: the geese escaped (the cap flew clean off). Some amazing men stopped to free my from my truck, which I was trapped in for awhile, but before they could free me, another truck smashed into my truck (this is all true) and crushed the cage that the Muscovy trio was in. My glasses were trapped in the truck, so I couldn't see anything much, but I could see that the geese were wandering all over the highway. Another amazing man stopped and caught one of them for me. I called my husband, and he helped to corral a 2nd goose, but there were still two missing by the end of the night.
That night, I posted an ad on Craigslist about the accident and asking if anyone who saw the geese could please contact me. Remarkably, a number of people did report seeing them on Sunday, the day after the accident. I spoke to one couple on the phone, and they gave me a fairly exact location on a back road off of the highway. My husband and I went to that road and spent about an hour and a half looking for them. We drove up and down the road, got out several times, scoured the curb for tracks in the snow, and then finally stopped and gave one house our information in case they saw something, figuring that the geese had gone into the woods, or into the swampy area that was off of that road, and were probably not going to be found that day. As we drove home, I stared out at the side of the highway. There were tracks in the snow, and I had been looking for tracks for the past hour or two, but I figured these could not possibly be goose tracks -- they went on for over a mile. Then, just before town, bathing in a creek by the side of the road, what do you think I saw? Yes, indeed: a big, fat, dewlap-y goose. I yelled, and yelled, and my husband pulled over, and off we went to collect him.
The goose had just been in a car accident the night before, and had been at a poultry show before that. It had probably eaten nothing for >24 hours now, and had clearly traveled well over a mile. It was also big and heavy and cumbersome. How difficult could it be to catch? I approached it with my poultry net, and managed to get no less than 100 feet from it when the goose looked at me and began to casually walk away. No problem, I figured; it's fat and slow. Then it sped up. It crossed the highway, stopping traffic, and ran down an embankment and into the woods.
We followed it. I was ready to give up -- I was just in a fairly major car accident less than 24 hours prior, it was exceedingly cold, the goose had taken to a stream, and I figured it was pointless. My husband did not think it was pointless. He tracked the goose in the snow for about 20 minutes, then chased it, full tilt, for another ten. That goose did not want to be caught, but by golly, he caught it, and I am so very glad he did: it was one of the cross-bred geese, one of only two I've ever seen.
So, that is the goose story. Given that I had ten animals in the vehicle (four geese, three ducks, two Modena pigeons and one truly awesome French Lop rabbit whose name is now Luther), flipped the truck over onto its side, and then got smashed very hard by a 2nd truck, I think I got off extremely lucky. I lost one goose, and the Muscovy drake broke his wing (though he is very much on the mend), and my truck is totaled. However, I am not dead, or brain-damaged, and 9/10 animals are still alive. Also, I learned that there are a whole lot of absolutely amazing, truly selfless people in New Hampshire. Between the men who risked their lives on the side of a snowy road to pull me out, the multiple people who stopped to make sure I was okay, and the outpouring of support I received in response to my ad looking for my geese -- there are some really really great people out there.
By the way, here are the geese:
Exhibition African x Exhibition Toulouse cross. I have never seen another goose like these guys, either in pictures or in person, and I don't know if anyone other than Bob really ever produces them. Exhibition ("Dewlap") Toulouse geese are very difficult to breed, and don't reproduce for many years of their lives, so I don't think most Toulouse breeders ever do this cross.
K writes this stuff, for some reason that has yet to become apparent.