Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Day Bud Killed the Goose

On the Sundays of my childhood the table was always stretched to the limit with extra plates and extra people, neighbors, stray relatives, kids kicked out by their more discerning parents, friends and often the unsuspecting prey of one of my older siblings.

On these occasions the menu was expanded to surpass the ordinary weekly suppers of meatloaf, beans and ham, tuna and noodles, goulash etc. This added Sunday touch usually meant a trip to the back yard for somebody, hatchet in hand, to do in a chicken or two or even on rare occasions a duck. They were quickly scalded, plucked had a little cold water run over them and popped into the skillet if young enough and if not, sentenced to serve considerable time in the oven. This kind of menu, with Mom’s biscuits and gravy and anything scrounged from our ill-cared-for garden, could be stretched a long way and always was.

Not a member of our family reached adulthood without acquiring the skill to look at a platter of chicken, mathematically determine the number of pieces divided by the members of the board, so to speak, and know without asking how many pieces or what piece would be their lot. The old saying ”I get the neck of the chicken..” did not come out of thin air. Merle and I generally got the wings.

The day Bud, the newest and, on this occasion most unfortunate, member of our coterie of friends, was charged with killing the goose, I was very uneasy. In the first place I was sorry to kill the goose, even if we had worked our way through all the chickens for the year. He was not a bad old goose and liked to follow me and my brother around. I would miss him.

And then Bud was a novice at goose killing. That worried me a little. To me, even with his sleeves rolled up, Bud looked awfully dressed up for goose killing. He was not and never became, a country boy. He came courting in the dress of the day, that is a white dress shirt, neat grey slack pants and shiny brown oxford’s. I sure hoped he wouldn’t get goose blood on his good shoes.

But what I should have been worrying about was my brother, Merle. Merle was what you might call accident prone.

The goose was easy to catch. Like everything else in the backyard in hopes of handouts better than their regular fair of dried up grass hoppers, half cracked walnuts and June bug grubs, he followed anyone who made the mistake of going out there. He never seemed to catch on to the Sunday dinner thing.

With Merle in the lead and the goose under his arm we angled down the path, through the weeds, to the spot where the chickens were generally killed. There past the cinder pile and under the walnut tree was a big rock.

The general run of things was that someone would hold the victims legs while someone else stretched the neck out over the rock and someone else swung and whacked. Miraculously on rare occasions, if pressed for time, Mother was able to single handedly do the deed and be scalding and plucking in half the time. But for the rest of us it took three people. It was not a pretty sight and I don’t think any of the victims liked it.

I know Bud didn’t. I don’t think Bud had ever killed anything in his life and I’m sure he never did again. His mistake was he was just not forceful enough! His first whack missed completely causing Merle’s hand to slip on the goose’s squirming neck. Just as he was taking a second swing Merle let go to get a better grip, just in time to get his thumb in the way.

Missed the goose again..got the thumb. Blood spurted..not goose blood..all over the shiny shoes. I forgot I wasn’t supposed to cuss and said “Damn, Bud.”

I glanced up to see if he was mad about the blood thing or the cussing thing and he didn’t look mad but his face was whiter than the goose. I think he would have passed out if he hadn’t been afraid of falling on top of the goose and Merle’s bloody thumb.

Merle sucked on his thumb and hollered, “Hit him again” and Bud did and the goose was dead, or at least trying to be. He was harder to catch dead than he had been alive..flopping around in the tall grass.

Merle finally got hold of him and we hung him up to bleed out before taking him in to Mom. Merle stayed with the goose but I felt like Bud needed someone worse than the goose did at that point. Anyway, he let me hold his hand all the way to the house.

He continued to date my sister and turned out to be a great brother-in-law. We loved him dearly. After all, you can't hold one little accident against a person.

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