So there’s a legend that has circulated around my family since I was about 5 years old, and it has to do with a goose. The fear of birds is called “ornithophobia”, or something akin, and I guess you could call my experience with this particular bird “goose-from-hell-phobia”. Or some such.
Let me tell you a story.
My childhood began on a Hill, and by Hill, I mean mountain in Alabama. My dad has always been a little “think-outside-the-box” kind of guy, and when I was 3, he built his office/home in a 27 room building on top of 48 acres, with the house/office right on top. This made for a very cool, but quite eccentric, upbringing. My dad loved animals, and he had a mini-farm on the Hill, with buffalo, deer, guinea hens, peacocks, pigs, goats, ducks, and catfish as part of his menagerie. I remember getting calls often, of the buffalo roaming on the highway by the Hill, the big bison having broken out of thier fence. I remember catching catfish in my dad’s pond, and him nailing their heads to a tree, and skinning them, getting them ready to go into a deep fryer, breaded to perfection and accompanied by golden brown hushpuppies and coleslaw dripping with mayonnaise.
I remember feeding the baby deer with a bottle, and taking delight in the fear of my spend-the-night company when they heard the cries of the peacocks at night. We went around the Hill collecting peacock feathers, and I never realized just how exotic they were; to me, they were just a part of my landscape.
I had the run of the Hill with my older brother, and we took full advantage of it. We grew up in safety, in innocence, in peace. The Three Stooges was the most violent show I ever saw, and my older brother was the only source of terror, telling me that our house had been home to an ax killer at one time (our house was new, but that basement was scary and still is, and to this day, I am not sure I could stay all night at the clinic/house without having a come-apart).
But the one thing that has stayed with me since childhood, that affects me everytime I see this animal, is my trauma at the hands of a devil-spawned goose.
My dad had this duck that had laid eggs at the bottom of the Hill near the chicken house. My older brother and I were very anxious to see the baby ducklings, and were ecstatic when Dad told us they had hatched and were ready to be looked after.
Let me set the scene. I am about 4 or 5 (accounts vary), and I am dressed as my mother preferred (not as I would prefer): a cute little dress with ruffled panties. Get that picture in your head; I had on underwear with these gigantic, long, accessible tags on them, which is like having long hair with zombies. Long hair with zombies gets you grabbed; ruffledy panties work the same way with geese.
So older brother and I make our way to the bottom of the Hill to goo and gaw over the newborn ducklings. I am holding one, loving the feel of the soft feathers, and imagining how it will grow up and recognize me, and fly by my side. It would be my pet, and I its master.
Basking in the moment, I must have ignored the HONK that first alerted my older brother to the presence of the goose. When he started running up the Hill, however, I realized that the goose thought that I was holding her precious baby and was about to forcibly make me put her baby down. My brother is almost halfway to the house by this point (I think, my memory might be making him a little scapegoatish); I scream and throw down the duckling (bless his little heart), and I start running up the Hill in my cute little dress and my ruffledy panties.
Now this is the point in the story when my family has a hard time talking through the snorting laughter that is escaping through their lips. I am running up the Hill, as fast as my little legs will carry me, I am sure I was screaming my head off, and this satan/demon-goose is grabbing my ruffledy panties with his beak, and actually succeeding in slowing me down a little. I cannot explain the terror that went through me at that moment, except that even now, I start hyperventilating when a goose gets near me, and I still cannot walk at our local park because of those beasts.
I make it to the top with the goose still nipping at my stupid girly panties, and I think I must have blacked out after that, because the next thing I remember, this story is being recounted to numerous people while my family laughs out loud. I have to admit, it got funnier to me after the fact; I gave Virgina (My adoptive mom) a figurine of a little girl with a goose for Christmas one year. I will yard sale that thing if I inherit it, though.
This story has been in my mind and fingers lately…there’s no moral here. I grew up in the South, raised by an animal lover, blessed to have brothers, and will hate geese till the day I die. Yet now that I think about it, I wish that a fear of a big, mean bird was all that my boys had been exposed to, instead of our world today. Maybe that’s my story behind the story…the fact that my boys have such bigger fears than that. I pray that they are able to conquer them better than I have.