Matilda, the Christmas goose

Linda Wallace, columnist

Matilda was one of those unusual Christmas gifts you receive once in a lifetime. I received this gift when I was 12. You see, Matilda was a beautiful Canada goose. She came to our ranch when a flock of geese were flying overhead on their way to Canada.

I made my way down to the barn to bring up our milk cows from the meadow for the evening milking time. When I got to the barn I saw a beautiful goose near the barn standing over another goose lying on the ground. He wasn’t moving.

She was frightened when she saw me. She raised her wings, hissed at me and started moving forward toward me. I backed up. She went flying back to the motionless goose on the ground. You could see she was mourning his death. She wanted to fly away. She wanted him to fly away with her, but he couldn’t. Geese mate for life, and he was her partner.

Quickly I ran to find my dad to have him come see the geese. When we returned they were still in front of the barn. Dad walked over to the motionless goose. Matilda flew backwards a safe distance away to watch us. “The goose is dead,” said my father. “I’ll dig a hole in the ground and bury him tomorrow.”

I felt sorry for the goose. For two days Matilda stayed near the barn where her mate had fallen.

We had chickens in a chicken yard with a chicken house near our farmhouse. Mom had a beautiful white goose in the chicken yard we planned to eat for Christmas.

On the third day Matilda appeared in the chicken yard. We watched her go to the seed trough and eat the grain with the chickens. Every day when I got home from school I would run to the chicken yard to see if Matilda had flown away.

But each day Matilda would be there near the white goose eating inside the chicken yard. I loved looking at her silky gray and black feathers, long black neck and white jowls. She was such a beautiful bird.

I don’t know why I named her Matilda, but it just seemed like the right name for this regal bird. As I watched this bird I learned more about geese. How they fly south to warmer climate in the winter and north in the spring to nest and find feeding grounds for their new broods of 10, 12 or more. She taught me patience.

Whenever I went into the yard to feed the chickens and gather the eggs, she would fly to the back of the yard. She wouldn’t fly away.

When Christmas came it was time to dress the white goose for Christmas dinner, but mom didn’t have the heart to remove the white goose from the yard because of Matilda.

We girls were so glad. We loved watching Matilda and the white goose. So I’ll always think of their presence in the chicken yard as a special gift for Christmas.

When springtime arrived I looked for Matilda in the yard each day. Early one morning I heard the sound of geese in flight. I ran to the chicken yard. Matilda took flight. She lifted quickly above the fence, rising higher and higher into the clear blue sky toward the flock of geese. Then she was gone.

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