Column: Mr. Piggy and the stranger gather at my home

Published 11:10 am Thursday, December 22, 2005

By Staff
Few things are as fascinating as watching nature's dramas unfold, even though it is usually life at its rawest. Such a soap opera is underway at our house now with Mr. Piggy and The Gang, the four Canadian geese holed up at our place for the winter. They should be somewhere else, wherever it was up or down stream that they got their wings clipped, but they've chosen us instead. Maybe our chow's better. Mr. Piggy's the Gang leader with, as his name suggests, an insatiable appetite. Whenever I'm outside Mr. Piggy brings The Gang a-begging for food and some man talk, which are mostly one sided discussions about the incivility of going poo in the yard. The two girls follow closely behind with Wimpy Chuckie bringing up the rear. Mr. Piggy's a heartless brute, always making Chuckie stand guard while the others eat. Only after they're done does Chuckie get to eat, if there happens to be any left. Poor Chuckie is so intimidated by Mr. Piggy he always shuffles around locked in his best submissive posture, his neck arched sharply toward the ground and head low and cocked to the side. It must give him an awful crick in the neck, not to mention a cockeyed outlook on life.
At first The Gang used to huddle under the bird feeders wearing their most forsaken, starved look to lure me out. However, early one frigid morning my first cup of coffee had priority, which one of the girls decided was totally unacceptable. She marched cockily across the lawn, up the steps and rapped on the patio door with her beak. “Hey Dude! Can't ya’ see we're starvin’ out here?” Now the summoning rap is standard procedure. Anyway, about a week ago, just at dusk, I was out shoveling snow and The Gang showed up to supervise. “Hey Dude, make the dining area bigger. Yea, and a wider path to the creek.” Something seemed odd, though.
I paused and perused The Gang. One, two, three, four, five! What! Five? There, on the outskirts of The Gang was another goose. It was an unwelcome stranger, though. Whenever she moved closer with a hungry eye on the corn pile they took after her, chasing her back and forth. The stranger had an advantage, though. Her wings were whole and she could fly. The Gang eventually retired to the creek for the night. Stranger remained but was extremely leery of me and lurked far off in the shadows. I sensed she was desperately hungry so I spread some piles of corn around then retreated to the house. It was well after dark, before she ventured forth and ate and ate and ate. I swear she must have eaten half again her weight. She had been on the edge of starving to death.
That problem solved, she now faced another dilemma. The thermometer had dipped into the teens and the warm creek water was life, yet somewhere out there lurked The Gang eager to assault her. She hunkered down in the yard, shivering. At seven o'clock the dark motionless lump was still there, as it was at eight o'clock and nine. I figured, sadly, that she was dead or certainly would be by morning. However, the next check revealed only a trail toward the creek. She would take her chances with The Gang.
The following morning Stranger reappeared, trailing behind The Gang. It's an inconceivable concept for a goose to not be a member of good standing in a flock. A lone goose does not survive. With The Gang Stranger's only option is to somehow become accepted or die. It seems like she knows she has to do this right. She is ever so patient and polite. She hangs back while they eat, only moving in after they leave. But she's cagey. Each time she looks on from a teeny bit closer. What started as a tolerable separation of 40 feet has now, many days later, shrunk to under 10 feet. Stranger still endures an occasional thrashing but even these are less violent. Maybe, just maybe she'll woo them over, which she must do or die. Carpe diem.