Wednesday, April 20, 2011

oblio and ophelia

back when i was a kid we always had a dog who barked properly, like any good watch dog should, when people came up the driveway. and for a while we even had two watch geese who honked properly....... at everything! i named them oblio and ophelia because one was male and the other female, and because i liked the sound of all the sweet o's in those two saucy names.

a friend of my brother's had some baby geese hatching over at his house. the family didn't live on a farm, but they had a lovely large man-made pond on the lawn, perfect for geese. we lived on a real pond and suddenly one day we had real baby geese swimming around in it. why we got the two adorable goslings in the first place is a mystery to all of us. did we have a dinnertime discussion about adding two new members to our family? isn't that an important discussion to have? after interrogating my parents thoroughly, neither seemed to have an answer except we thought they might be fun. (why else would you adopt geese?) oh how right my parents were! oh what great times we had with them! we really enjoyed having those two honkers around. oblio and ophelia were sometimes annoyingly noisy, but they were also smart, lovable, loyal, funny, and they were inseparable.

even after they were no longer goslings, they followed my mother around like silly puppies wherever she went in the yard, down by the pond, or on the trails in the woods near our house. ophelia loved to sit on laps. she would burrow her velvety soft sleek head in your armpit and wiggle it around. it tickled like crazy and sent us into giggling fits. imagine snuggling with a large, fully grown, goose baby! she would also move her bill lightly over your arms and neck and give you nibbling goose kisses, causing a cascade of goose bumps.

the two new members of the family always walked side by side, and looked like fat, white, waddling soldiers in a military parade. oblio and ophelia were also stunningly beautiful as they ran, opened their wings wide, and glided low over the pond, their shadows shimmering on the surface of the water as they gracefully landed for a swim. they always swam together; in fact, the goose and the gander always did everything together.

the geese could also be rather frightening as they undertook what they obviously thought was their duty to the family, turning their squawking, blasting duets into a feathered security team assault weapon. anyone who drove or walked up the drive was in for it. those plump, strutting, webbed-footed terrors would begin their organized onslaught by hissing and honking wildly, and then surrounding the "intruder" until they were called off by a member of the family. woe to the person who extended a hand without a proper introduction. those long orange bills could snap at unsuspecting fingers like a mousetrap.

ophelia laid many eggs in the nest she built in the large goose house/pen my dad constructed for the geese. we let her sit on them for a bit, then we took them out. (one of my chores was gathering the eggs.) oftentimes my mother would use an egg or two in cakes, pancakes and omelets. those giant eggs helped to create the most light and fluffy culinary delights. i also painted the eggs for really nice egg decorations at eastertime. i still have some of ophelia's eggs in a basket in the kitchen.
[my next post will tell how to keep easter egg artwork around for a while. some of mine are over 35 years old!]

for almost seven years the oblio and ophelia team were the guardians of our corner of the pond. the geese were cautiously, warily, loved by all. then one winter day, disaster struck.

a large, male alaskan husky showed up at the pond out of nowhere. my parents had never seen him before. when the geese sensed danger, they always flew into the pond for safety. but the pond on that fateful day was frozen solid from end to end. the geese lifted off for some take-offs and landings, hoping to frustrate the dog and send him on his way. but the inseparable pair were, unfortunately, no match for the wily pup. they tired quickly and the dog grabbed oblio as he attempted a hissing and biting ground assault to protect his mate. the dog trotted off into the forest with the valiant goose clenched between his jaws. luckily my parents were home and arrived on the scene just in time to see the husky's backside slinking away. they quickly locked ophelia safely in her cage.

ophelia lived for several more years after she lost her mate, and died peacefully in her pen. but ophelia was much quieter and less feisty after oblio died, as if her fighting spirit had departed right along with oblio when he was killed on that cold winter day at the pond.

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