Monday, May 11, 2015

Goose Down

Taking a bike ride on the local rail trail I met the Goose family out for a late-day swim. That’s dad Walter and mom Henrietta along with the kids Donna, Tammy, Skeeter, Stewart, David, Shaniqua, Tanya, Blind Lemon, Larry, Latrell, Hazel, Ann Marie and D-Train.

I thought they were in the creek just for a family outing. Unfortunately after a conversation with Walter I found out they were living in the high grass at the base of the bridge.

Walter used to be a line manager at a pillow factory until everyone’s job was lost. The plant closed up and moved overseas where the pillows are now stuffed by robots with down imported from Indonesia. Walter’s severance kept them for a while but it wasn’t long before they couldn’t pay the mortgage on the split level rancher, Henrietta’s dream home. If things weren’t bad enough with no job, bills piling up, and 356 children spread all over North America that still needed help from time to time, Henrietta found out she was pregnant again. Walter admits he didn’t handle the news well.

“How did she expect me to react?” Walter said to me. “I can’t pay the water bill and soon there will be 5-15 more mouths to feed? I thought we were being careful, but . . .”

Counting himself, Walter now had 15 geese to support. There was a ray of hope when he was offered a line cook’s job at Arby’s but at the last minute assistant manager Lonny Hornberg gave the position to his nephew Darryl instead. Walter lost his temper throwing a squawking fit and flapping his wings wildly. It would have been much ado over nothing had he not also pooped in the French fry grease and stuck his beak into a customer’s strawberry shake. That earned Walter a fine he couldn’t afford.

After that Walter took any odd job he could find to earn money but it wasn’t enough to save the house. For a month following they stayed with Henrietta’s cousin Sharon until her own 11 goslings hatched. Twenty eight honking geese was just too much for one townhouse so Walter and Henrietta took their brood on the road. They’ve been staying near any creek or lake where they can lay low in the weeds. During the day Henrietta raises her kids as best she can while Walter sends his resume to anyone who will take it.

“We were living the Canadian-American dream for a little while,” Henrietta said in a hushed voice. “Now we’re just trying to survive.”

I wished Walter and Henrietta good luck and got back on my bike. I watched as they swam under the bridge to get out of the Sun, the goslings blissfully unaware of anything except their immediate surroundings. Walter put a supportive wing around his wife before they drifted out of sight.

Monday, May 4, 2015