This month my story “The Christmas Goose” was published in Farm & Ranch Living Magazine. It’s hard to describe the pride I feel whenever I get published. The joy of writing something that might make people smile. Unfortunately, the editor butchered my story worse than I butchered that goose. I could almost here that “Waaa Waaa Waaa” sound as I read the printed version.
Well there is no point in crying over spilled milk. So here is the original version. I hope you enjoy it and, if you do, share it with your friends.
The Christmas Goose – By Wm. Bryan Layton
It’s the dirty little secret that homesteaders never talks about, yet for the fresh-faced farmer, it is a rite of passage. I’m talking about those long days of emotional turmoil that come before you harvest your first farm animal.
Two weeks before Christmas, I purchased two geese – one for Christmas dinner and one to guard my chickens.
I had built them an enclosure, yet on day one, with the evening temperature dropping into the 20’s, the two birds just stood in the middle of the yard. I may have been wrestling with my conscience over the upcoming poultry assassinating but I certainly didn’t want either of the geese to freeze to death.
Suspecting that they were just unfamiliar with their new home, my wife suggested we force them into the enclosure for the night. So I calmly walked them into a corner of the yard – I was calm – the geese were losing their minds.
Just the same, when I finally wrangled the first goose, it became as docile as a puppy. A puppy! An obvious ruse design to chip away at my resolve. It was working – geese are jerks.
However, the other goose, who until now had been trying to flee the scene, became aggressive. It spread its wings and hissed at me to put his friend down. While this vicious behavior helped bolster my avicidal intentions, it occurred to me, that when the time came, I wouldn’t just be killing a goose – I’d be killing a goose with a friend. Oh the humanity.
I handed my wife the first goose but warned her not to pet it, not to look it in the eye, and, for the love of God, don’t name it something clever like, Bruce the Goose. Aw son of a bucket, its name was now Bruce the Goose.
Set for a fight and reveling in the man versus beast conflict, I seized the aggressive goose – who instantly assumed a cuddly demeanor as well. Geese really are jerks.
I began having second thoughts about the upcoming Christmas dinner but I put the geese into the enclosure and called it a night.
The next day, when I got home from work, I went outside and watched the geese in the yard. I could almost swear I heard Buffalo Bill whispering in my ear, “It puts the lotion on its skin!”
I can’t say the thought of snuffing out Bruce had exactly been keeping me up at night but with a 45-year-old bladder, I did think about it whenever I woke up to use the bathroom – so no more than eight or nine times a night.
As I watched them roam, I started to think about Bradshaw – I didn’t mean to name the other one, it just happened. If I killed Bruce, would Bradshaw have survivor’s guilt? Then I thought, maybe I should harvest them both, that way neither one would miss the other. “I’ll kill you… I kill all your friends too just for knowing you!”
I started to wonder if I could do it at all. What if, at the last second, it looked at me? Would my wife find me crying in the floor of the shower trying to scrub the blood off my soul?
I knew I was never going to be a hemp-sandal wearing vegan. I also knew if I wanted a homestead, animals would have to be harvested. So I hardened my heart and I soldered on.
The day came and I took the goose out to the chopping block. I couldn’t help but picture that final scene from Of Mice and Men:
“Lennie go ahead and take off your hat.”
“Are we going to have rabbits on the farm, George?”
“Sure, Lennie. Now look out across the river and imagine how it will be.”
It was over in an instance. And while I felt a sense of reverence, I didn’t feel sadness or remorse. I realized that this goose was no different than the countless other animals I had purchased from the supermarkets. I had just been more involved in the process this time.
Being a homesteader means that I know where my food comes from, how it is raised, and that it is harvested in the most humane way possible. The dirty little secret is that harvesting animals is never easy but it is worth it. Of course hemp-sandals are always an option too.