Sunday, January 13, 2013

In An Earlier Post I Mentioned the Goose Nest

When we moved to Grandpa Easley's place at the end of January 1941, there was evidence of geese, though I don't remember seeing geese.  I know that geese go way back in the history of the family.  On the Easley side, there had to be geese, because I found that goose nest in the milk barn.  And I know the Luker side had geese because  Granny and her just older brother, Uncle Tom, were responsible to drive the geese through the peanut fields in north central Texas.  The geese's jobs were to eat the grass seeds off the grass heads.  As "little granny and little Uncle Tom" followed the geese along, the geese talked:  quack, quack, "you take this one and I'll take that one."  Weed control was their job.  They also served as "watch dogs."  Goose feathers was one of the ways people had good pillows and mattresses.  I think they used straw, cotton or wool as well.

Aunt Thelma's gaggle looked like the goose we had on Grandpa's place.  On the internet I found this information about  "Domestic geese in America generally came from German language countries.  They were bred mainly for meat, eggs, and fattened for liver (foie gras).  These were descended from Greylag geese (Anser anser)."  But the picture I saw seemed a bit different from our geese.

I asked Aunt Thelma once what kind our geese were.  I thought she called them "Tulaps", and she said they were French.  So that part fits better with the information about "the Toulouse breed which originated near Toulouse, France."
They were said to be "ponderous in appearance and to have large dewlaps {flaps of skin hanging under the jaw.)"

It could be that I misunderstood her to say 'Tulap' when she meant to say dewlap.  They were gray like a picture of them.   The picture shows them with the "dewlap," but I don't remember those.  The article said they didn't need a pond. And that certainly was my observation.  It mentioned they would enjoy bathing and playing in water.  Since we seldom had rain, I never saw that trait in action.  It did say they preferred "to stay close to home and made them ideal for large gardens or orchards."  I concur with that idea, except our orchard was so far over in the far side of the fields, the geese never went that there.  It is my belief that they were descended from those "Toulouse, first recorded in 1555."  "Lord Darby first brought them into the United Kingdom in 1840."  Use your imagine to figure how they might have come to America.

I don't remember our geese looking exactly like this one, which I copied from the internet, but I do think it is awfully close.
A tufted Toulouse

So far as I remember, we never butchered a goose or used their eggs.  But of course we had only  that one of gander.  Aunt Thelma was the only one with a gaggle of 10 or 12.  They all wondered around together between her house and the barns and chicken house out back.  When we played at their house, we often met the geese.  They always stuck out their necks and hissed.  We weren't afraid of them, but we moved on one direction and they went the other.  The only real problem I had, was over many years I had recurring dreams  about those geese hissing and then their necks turned into rattlesnakes and came after me.  THAT WAS A PROBLEM!!!

I don't know how many times the family gathered at Thelma and Dillon's house to pick feathers.  People who are serious about it start checking the geese about the middle of April.  When you pluck a feather off the breast and it doesn't have a bloody tail, it's time to pick.  And then ever 6 weeks until the last picking in September.  The time I remember, women and kids were all in the chicken house with all the geese.  Each person had a goose under his left arm with a sock over the goose head.  Geese have 3 weapons of warfare:  claws on their feet, wings for beating you, and a beak for biting anything you get in their way.  We held them under our left arm, their wings tight against our body and their head turned back under our armpit.  With the right hand we picked breast feathers and put them into a paper bag.

People probably have not had paper bags all that long, but I think probably as long as time has been, folks must have been picking feathers off fowls for use in pillows and mattresses.  I have no idea how many feathers a goose will yield in a season, nor how many is required to fill a pillow or a mattress.  Mother sometimes kept the smaller feathers off chickens, when she was cleaning them.  I think feather cleaning must be a real science.

Now back to the River Farm.  We never named the old gander.  Since there were no other geese, the ole fellow got himself a girl-friend.  We had an old brown brindled milk cow, that had some how got crippled.  She couldn't keep up with the other cows when they went out to pasture.  The gander took up with her.  At night in the cow lot, when the cow lay down, the goose hunted her up and squated beside her head.  It was so funny.  There was the old cow, dozing away, and the gander muttering beside her until they both fell asleep.

In the morning, after milking when the cows went out to pasture, the goose waddled along with old brindle.  Probably not every morning, but often, about 10 or 10:30 a.m. from the south pasture there arose such a clatter, we rushed out the door to see what was the matter.  Honking and squawking the old gander appeared in the sky.  He circled the dairy barn a time or two, getting lower with each twist around as he got lower and lower.  He had never learned how to land.  So finally he just ran into the hillside and then the feathers flew.  And the old gander quacked and shouted that he had returned safely home!

Every year the Church Easter Egg Hunt was in Thelma and Dillon's pasture to the west of their barns.  The "prize egg" was one Thelma had decorated and donated to the Saturday hunt.  One year Aunt Thelma gave us one of her hens.  Gander appeared to totally ignore her.  But when her nest of 6 or 8 goslings hatched, he was all "Daddy/"  He proudly quacked along with her and them for several weeks.  But by the time their yellow down had turned gray, he lost interest and hunted up the cow.

For several summers, during really dry weather, Daddy rented cow pasture 8 or 10 miles to the northeast of our place.  We drove all the dry stock 4 miles north of the farm to the east-west road from Dillon's farm to Hi Point Church.  We turned them toward the Church.  At the end of that section, we turned them north again at least 3 or 4 more miles, toward Creta.  When we were in front of Mr. Yeats place we put them in a pasture west, across the road from his mail box.

When autumn came we rode the horses over and brought all the cattle back home.  In about an hour after they were all back in our cow lot, old gander was quacking away right beside the brindle cow.


  1. Most interesting. Do you remember Granny's geese were white? Seems to me they were. I remember holding their necks and learned you had to hold the neck close to the head or they could still bite, and it really hurt!
    Keep writing it is fun to read and learn some things I didn't know or remember. Donnie

  2. Wow, not that something to learn that I don't remember. I just knew in my head that Granny surely did have geese. But I don't remember them at all. I'm so glad you did and that you've mentioned it. Thanks, Donnie!