Community Agriculture Alliance: The Christmas goose
Editor’s note: This column was originally published in the Dec. 21, 2003 Steamboat Pilot & Today
When I think of a goose at Christmastime, the mental image is of a based and browned bird sitting on the dinner table, much like the Thanksgiving turkey.
This must be from books or television that portray an old English Dickens holiday scene and seem to include a goose as the dining centerpiece. Even at my grandparents’ farm many years ago, I do not recall ever actually having a Christmas goose dinner.
The story of our Christmas goose has come in bits and pieces through grandson Noah.
As I understand it, there were a pair of geese that were sold at the Routt County Fair. They were taken home by the purchasers, but within a few days, one of the geese had fallen preay to a fox or, in Noah’s version, to a mountain lion. In any event, the survivor ended up at Noah’s house, where it could be watered and fed with the chickens.
No one gave this goose much of a chance for survival, since she could not be effectively penned, and the predators of small fowl are always nearby.
However, the resourceful goose had apparently learned from her mate’s mistakes, and Lucy (as she had by that time been named by Noah and his sister, Amber) adapted to the characteristics of the family dogs. When the dogs barked at an intruder, Lucy honked. When the dogs ran out to greet a visitor, Lucy ran with them. When the dogs came onto the deck to be petted, Lucy wanted to be petted, too.
To Noah and Amber, this seemed to make sense. After all, Lucy was much larger than the chickens and the cats. She could keep up with the dogs and wanted the children’s attention, just like the similar-sized dogs.
“Lucy thought she was a dog,” as Noah said.
Late in the fall, with winter approaching, Lucy’s focus suddenly changes. No one is sure why — whether it was because of the cold weather, whether it was because there was a new puppy in the family and Lucy got a glimpse of his sharp, little teeth, or whether it was a sense of foreboding as the holiday seasons approached.
In any event, for whatever reason, Lucy started to stay with the horses and the donkeys.
This was a surprise to everyone, because the donkeys are very aggressive and territorial. They will run, shoulder-to-shoulder, to chase any intruder (except those bringing food) from their area and, if given the chance, will trample the unwanted skunk or porcupine or fox.
When Lucy stopped running with the dogs, she would no longer let the children pet her.
“Now, Lucy thinks that she’s a horse,” Noah said.
Clearly, for any of the reasons suggested above, Lucy will not be gracing our family dinner table this Christmas. Though the fact that she was given a name might have been enough, the fact that she acted like a house pet with the children for several months gives her a high level of immunity.
Her more recent actions of aligning herself with the larger barnyard animals were really not necessary to protect her through the holidays.
This was confirmed when I read a draft of this story to Noah to confirm its accuracy, and he was truly appalled that someone might actually eat a goose for Christmas dinner.
“Not my goose,” was his prompt reply.
So, the image in my mind of how the ranch will look on Christmas morning this year after Santa’s visit is similar to last year’s.
The elk herd will be walking single-file along the horizon in the distance, beyond the sparkling snow; the chickens clustered around their shed; the dogs and cats still napping; and — standing between the horses and the donkeys, waiting for their Christmas feed — the Christmas goose.
Rich Tremaine is a local attorney with Klauzer & Tremaine, LLC
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS ¬— Just inside the doors of Kevin Dietrich’s Natural Exposure Gallery in downtown Steamboat Springs, there are moose, bears and some of the town’s most scenic landscapes captured in perfect light.