Whose idea was it to put a goose in charge of children’s storytelling?
Mother Goose has apparently been around for several centuries. The drawings of her in children’s books usually show her with a cute little bonnet and a shawl or apron, looking like a kindly grandma with feathers. If a child said to her, “But Grandmother, what a big beak you have!”, she would just smile indulgently and give the kid another cookie.
Real geese aren’t like that. I have a faint memory (very faint—I’m sure I blocked it out because of the trauma) of a pair of geese my own grandmother had when I was little. I was scared to death of them. True, I was scared of a lot of things when I was a kid, but with the geese I think it was justified.
This week we visited some friends who have two geese. These birds enjoy a pampered lifestyle that Mother Goose herself would have envied. They live in their own custom-built house and have the run of the yard, where they bully—er, supervise—two dogs and a flock of chickens. They are fed well and even get extra treats in the form of dog food.
Not only are they well provided for in terms of food and shelter, they have their emotional and social needs met, as well. While she ate her supper, the goose was carrying on what certainly sounded like a real conversation with her servant—er, owner. And of course, neither goose nor gander has the slightest worry about someday ending up as Christmas dinner.
These birds have no reason whatsoever to be foul-tempered.
Yet, as we walked across the yard with our hostess, the geese apparently decided we were trespassers. My first clue was the noise behind me—a discordant combination of unoiled hinge and barking pit bull with asthma. I turned, and there was the goose, wings spread and bill open, in full threatening cry. The gander was a safe distance behind her, making less strident squawks that no doubt meant, “Atta girl, dear; I’m with you all the way.” They kept coming in a slow-motion chase that made me wish for a nice, stout stick.
This display of avian aggression was enough to intimidate even an adult. Then I imagined myself as a toddler, with that hissing beak and thrusting head at my own eye level. No wonder I was terrified.
And this is the critter that represents children’s nursery rhymes? It’s hard to imagine her as the kindly Mother Goose telling little kids a story.
But if she told them to sit down and be quiet, I bet they wouldn’t argue.