I got to name them. I don’t know exactly where they came from, or why we got them, but I kinda think ol’ Axel Sorenson had something to do with
it. He had something to do with about everything in that rocky zone between Salmon and the Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness Area. They weren’t goslings
– they weren’t adults either-- but it was clear from the start that George ruled the ranch; even the horses seemed to generally avoid them, except
that one time when Lady didn't care to be run off the water trough, and stepped on George, breaking his leg. I remember George hobbling around in a
splint for six weeks. Didn't help his disposition none.
I fed them, along with all the other animals that lived on or around the cluster of the house, tack shed, chicken coop, corral, root cellar, main barn
and the hay barn. George and Martha ranged over the general area. I hated the rock root cellar, but was fascinated by the rattlesnake skins sloughed
off in the rocks.
I remember when George, no doubt protecting Martha with everything he could muster, ran afoul of a coyote, or perhaps a pack of dogs. We never knew
exactly which. We suspected ol’ Mr. Coyote, as he hadn’t killed him, but had mangled his right wing so badly that by the time they’d lumbered
into the barnyard, George was spent and bloody -- the upper joint of his wing tattered and torn.
Dad carried him to the house and called Mom and me to help. "Now, you’re gonna have to hold him tight, son, he’s not gonna like this one bit."
I’d thought that Dad was gonna kill him with the big double-bit axe, but he assured me that George’s mauled wing had to be amputated, or he'd
never heal. So hold him I did, with my face tucked into his back and my arms around his body and neck, his wing spread out on the bloodstained
chicken chopping block. I mean to tell you, when Dad severed George’s wing at the lower joint, George turned and bit the fire out of my neck, and I
screamed bloody murder, still not letting him go.
I think George kinda blamed me more than Dad or the coyote, but he healed and seemed none the worse for wear in a short time. I thought of it later
much as how Cid, our pointer, bit Dad when Dad had to pull porcupine quills out of poor Cid’s mouth. Cid didn’t mean anything by it, and looked
apologetic afterward, it just hurt like hell was all.
Maybe it was when Peepers ( I know, cute, huh?) was born, I can’t remember for certain, but George took a sorta sudden dis---like to me. He’d
allow me to feed them – that was apparently a no-fire zone – but anywhere else, I was fair game. Geese are funny. When they were fleeing from
danger, they ran and honked and squawked and flapped their wings. I never could figure out how than behavior evolved, how domestic geese survived.
That wouldn’t scare ANYthing away. Maybe, just maybe, animals sometimes are so taken aback by the ridiculous sight before them, that they spare the
creatures just for the humor value.
George, perhaps sensing that he had to protect lil’ Peepers (after all, Peeps was the only one of the clutch that survived) took to attacking me,
and in my view of things, STALKED me, as he’d come out of nowhere, his head lowered perfectly parallel with the ground, beak open, hissing, and God
help you if you fell or faltered in your fleeing, because he’d peck the absolute snot out of you – one time even attacking me in my
unmentionables! I feared him, and he knew it.
So there I was, Mom had proclaimed George a "menace" and Dad was peering at me like I’d complained about being attacked by marauding pirate mice.
"Son, you just have to stand up to him. You’re a human being, faChrissake, six years old."
"But.......but he attacks me!!! HE WAITS FOR ME BY THE HAYBARN!" I wailed.
Dad pulls me aside, almost embarrassed to have to be telling me how to deal with an attack goose.
"Listen, if he won’t leave you alone, just take your glove and smack him on the beak. Dammit, boy, stop yer snifflin'."
"I’m going to pick out a stick tomorrow and hit him good!"
"NO, Good Lord, you’ll kill him. He’s just a goose. Just take off your glove and smack him on the beak."
So I went to ponder, walking far away from the house, to sit on the stump for the trailer tongue at Hattie and Joe’s rock pad, where they parked
their trailer once a year. Hattie and Joe were friends of the owner of the ranch we leased, and friends of us, and they traveled mysterious and
amazing lands and always came around at least once yearly to share their findings, and the strange and often repellant canned food of whatever place
they’d been. I actually liked the chocolate-covered ants, and, in fact, I got to polish off the whole jar.
..........and I thought about George and how he terrorized me. I thought about all the wonderful array of interesting and magical compounds and
mixtures in Dad’s reloading area, the last room of our U-shaped modified log cabin. I fantasized briefly of daring to mix the black powder with the
cylindrical rifle grain, and blowing George to absolute and delightful feathery bits. I knew it could be done, and it almost felt right. I thought
about the 25-lb. bags of # 7 ½ shot, Dad’s favorite all-around shotgun load for both trapshooting and bird hunting.
It was like an old western showdown. I would call it akin to the mood and dramatic music of a Spaghetti Western, except that I imagine in this day and
age, that term is outside the furry bounds of political correctness.
I’m walking toward the wooden bridge over the creek, headed for the rock root cellar, thankful to be sent there in the DAY (all manner of haints
occupied that dank rocky house of horrors at night).. and here comes George and Martha, approaching the wooden bridge from the other side.
I carefully pulled my bulky pigskin glove from my left back pocket. I was ready. Showdown at the bridge, sunlight slanting through the willows waving
in the wind. George waddled up, assessing the situation, surely seeing that I was in a vulnerable position, far too close to the latched fence gate
behind me. He dipped his head and I’ll never forget the thump of his flappy little feet as he drove toward my soft, bare ankles. I held my ground,
and swung the glove from somewhere behind me and upward, carrying through with a perfect arc. George did at least one complete flip in the air,
perhaps more, as the glove impacted under his head. "Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesus CH*IST!!!" Dad screamed, as he saw George do a double-duck gainer and
splash bonelessly into the creek. He waded into the creek, scattering water skeeters in the pool, and grabbed George, flipping him onto the bridge.
"What the HELL did you do???"
"I smacked him with my glove, "I answered truthfully, " I filled it with 7 ½ shot."
George left me alone after that. We had come to a meeting of the minds.
Long about the time Peepers was well past his fuzzy yellow phase, and looking more like his Dad, I was amazed, sometimes at how far George, Peepers
and Martha would range. Their food and water was at home, near the quail box, and in fact, sometimes they’d peck a grain or two from the box. When
the Bobwhites would come out of the thicket, walking quickly all in a row, even George and Martha got out of the way. The quail always seemed to be on
a mission, and they’d attack that grain box almost in a frenzy and then ZIP! back to the safety of the thicket. They only allowed Mom to get close
So, one day I come home from school. As I walked down the winding gravel road past the Mulberry trees, I thought I could hear Axel and Dad screaming
at each other. Axel was ‘deef’ and had taken on the habit of yelling his proclaimations, most often from horseback on a spotted Appaloosa. Dad
would yell back so Axel could hear him. As I recall, this was around the time when I had to hide under a car on the way home from school, to keep from
being pelted by 1-inch hailstones, but I could be wrong. I know for certain it was before Bill Schulenberger and I came running and screaming back to
the house that we’d seen a flying saucer sitting it the gravel pit by the Elk’s Club, but......... that’s another story.
I looked around for George and Martha and Peepers; I could tell SOMEThing was up. . Mom told me. Dad came later and said that it might’ve been wild
dogs that got them, but got they were, and Axel'd found them near the northern end of the pasture, more than 1/4 mile from the house. There was
nothing to be done, but to bury them. They didn't look injured, they looked flattened.
A few weeks later, I asked Mom if dogs had really killed them. Her hesitation made my jaw tighten, because at that moment, I thougt "those DAMNED
Those boys, for the most part, had been the bane of the whole Upper Bar Area – those of us that lived North of the Salmon River. Oh sure, I was
friends with Larry, but his BROTHERS..... well... my friends ranged between fear and a sort of quirky attraction to the DeW**t boys. They just
weren’t right somehow. We could tell. The youngest DeW**t, (and I’m wracking my brain, and cant......... wait.......... Phillip!!) Phil was okay.
We all watched out for him. He was slow, but didn’t have a mean bone in his body, and he was our friend.
So, Mom ponders and says, "does it matter who did it? You can’t bring them back, and you have to live with these people."
"It’s those ............... [mouth twitch] DeW**ts isn’t it?
"It might not be. It might’ve been dogs. It might’ve been people, but it might’ve been dogs. "
Dad wouldn’t say. It was over and in the past. I thought that I knew, but couldn’t act upon not knowing for SURE. I tried to eavesdrop on he and
Axel screaming for the next month, but never got any definative information, until years later. Apparently, the DeW**ts boys had thought it a fine
afternoon’s sport to run down the geese. Sure as I’m sitting here today, I’m glad I didn’t know that then. God only knows what turn that
information might’ve taken me, and I’m pretty sure Mom and Dad both knew that. Inasmuch as I was characterized as a gentle child, even then I was
learning to pick my battles carefully.
It was a long time before I stopped wondering about what fate befell the DeW**ts. I looked for them once, when I went back to Salmon at age 19 to look
up my old girlfriend, Jamie S. Jamie had gotten married, had two children and a full life, and I found, as I stood on Island Park, where so many good
times had been borne as we played in and around the banks of the River of No Return, that there was nothing left for me in Salmon. No hate, no love,
no indifference, just good memories.
That day I learned the true essence of forgiveness – to take the anger out of your heart. To this day, sometimes, I think sometimes that I don’t
want to know things, until I’ve first decided how I want to respond to the knowledge.
Edit to remove a coupla hillbilly exclamations.
[edit on 7/6/10 by argentus]