Lucy in the sky
January 8, 2005 9:30 PM   Subscribe

There's a lot to be said for a town that mourns a goose. While on an early morning walk last month, a newspaper reporter happened upon the body of Lucy the goose, who, up until then, had been holding court on the town's waterfront for more than ten years. Kind of a touching story, from a tiny town in Maryland.
posted by emelenjr (26 comments total)
My first post-college job was working as a reporter for the newspaper in the FPP. The author of the article became a colleague of mine when I transferred to the newspaper she works for. I've lost touch with all the parties involved, but stumbled upon this story today.
posted by emelenjr at 9:30 PM on January 8, 2005

Thank you for this. What a sad and touching story.
posted by interrobang at 9:37 PM on January 8, 2005

My father's last pet was a white goose named Henry. It took a few years, but once 'Henry' laid an egg it was determined that he was a she and should be called Henrietta from then on.

The day my father died she came into the house [there was no stopping her] and straight to his bedroom, hopping up onto his bed beside him. She sat there with him until he died, then with a last peck on his cheek she hopped down and went back out of the house to the bench they had often sat on to watch the guineas make fools of themselves. She sat on that bench until his body was removed from the house, then she disappeared.

The following spring I was tilling up the garden and came across the remains of 'Henry'.[no one could get used to calling her Henrietta] Bill and feet had been buried in the yard not five feet from where the bench was. I never did tell my mother that I'd found Henry, rather took the rest of the remains and buried them under the bench. I figured the coyotes got her.

Henry was much like Lucy, quick to decide who was worthy of her and who was not, Dad was the only one worthy that I could recall. Everyone else got the flapping wings and snapping beak.

Damn, I miss Henry.
posted by kamylyon at 10:16 PM on January 8, 2005

There are times when I actually like people.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:26 PM on January 8, 2005

Now there is an eery symmetry--Lucy's was the story of a touchstone and talisman and point in common, a goose whose death evoked a ceremony from a griefstricken town while Henrietta's is one of devotion of one goose to one man, whose death evoked a ceremony from a griefstricken goose.

Well, kamylyon, that makes two sweet stories. Thank you for telling us that.
posted by y2karl at 11:10 PM on January 8, 2005

posted by kamylyon at 11:30 PM on January 8, 2005

kamylyon, your story brought a few tears to my eyes. I just *love* stories of unusual pets and their owners, and the special bond between them.
posted by davidmsc at 12:30 AM on January 9, 2005

Dammit...I just read the linked story about Lucy, and I've got a few more tears. Not too many things tug at my heartstrings like these kind of stories.

posted by davidmsc at 12:33 AM on January 9, 2005


That was a really neat little story--I love those little slices of small-town life that, as mudpuppie said, make you remember that people are an ok lot some of the time.

Also, like those commenting before me, I'd like to thank kamylyon for that story; it was the perfect complement to the linked article.
posted by The God Complex at 1:18 AM on January 9, 2005

My friend and neighbor is from Chestertown, and just got back from being there over christmas. He remarked on just how pathetic it was to have 150 mourners at a funeral for a goose.

He freaking hates that town...
posted by blasdelf at 3:13 AM on January 9, 2005

Another very sad story about a bird.
posted by shoos at 3:36 AM on January 9, 2005

meh. let me know when they're coming home secretly in flag-draped coffins.
posted by quonsar at 5:45 AM on January 9, 2005

posted by Dukebloo at 7:49 AM on January 9, 2005

Any homeless people in that town?
posted by meehawl at 8:30 AM on January 9, 2005

Any homeless people in that town?

At the risk of public onanism:
The median income for a household in the town is $31,530, and the median income for a family is $40,960. Males have a median income of $27,283 versus $25,513 for females. The per capita income for the town is $18,769. 18.5% of the population and 12.8% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 26.2% of those under the age of 18 and 13.9% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
Funerals for communal pet mascots are like mini versions of Diana Spencer's funeral: emotionally distracting palliatives. Throughout history many towns and cities have even institutionalised such rituals into annual animal-centered observances of death and rebirth.
posted by meehawl at 8:41 AM on January 9, 2005

Truth be told, I kind of tired of living there myself. I graduated from Washington College, the college mentioned in the FPP article, in 1998 and worked in Easton and then Chestertown for about two years before returning to Virginia. But by the end of my stay up there, I was walking two blocks to work at the Kent Co. News instead of driving 35 miles to the Star Democrat. That was kind of nice.

Anyway, I knew Lucy was chased off by Lucy a few times. With the amount of hunters and crazy college kids up there, it's a wonder she died of natural causes.

It's a little creepy that the mayor (the same woman who was mayor when I was still living there) kept Lucy's remains in her desk, though.
posted by emelenjr at 9:32 AM on January 9, 2005

kept Lucy's remains in her desk

The remains were ashes, not the actual body, so not all that creepy.

My father's ashes reside on top of my mother's computer, in an oak box. [sealed]
posted by kamylyon at 10:14 AM on January 9, 2005

Funerals for communal pet mascots are like mini versions of Diana Spencer's funeral: emotionally distracting palliatives.

I disagree. People had a common object of affection, about whom they could make that phatic conversation on a topic of agreement. There will be always be those who see themselves aloof and apart from the crowd who will decry and disagree but in fact people who have a hunger for human contact treasure a common point of conversation upon which they can agree and pass the time in a friendly manner. In this respect, the service for Lucy was a logical response to the loss of a touchstone. No one was harmed by the ceremony. One can bring up Won't anyone please think of the poor people ? in paraphrase of Maude Lovejoy anytime anyone eats a rich dessert or takes a sip of microbrew beer or buys an unnecessary consumer gewgaw.
posted by y2karl at 11:07 AM on January 9, 2005

Do they still eat poultry?
posted by Vulpyne at 11:36 AM on January 9, 2005

I decided not to read the linked story because it sounded like it would be too sad for me, and headed straight for the comments. Of course, Henry/Henrietta's story now has tears streaming down my face.

I'm also reminded of another poignant goose story I read years ago in Reader's Digest...this guy had a pet goose, and a dachshund, and the two were best buddies. The doxie fell victim to some sort of paralysis common to the breed, and was unable to move his back feet. The vet advised swimming therapy - holding the dog in a shallow pool and encouraging it to swim. The guy tried it a few times with no success, but then one day he tried it again, and the goose saw what was going on and got into the pool. She swam around the dog, honking at it the whole time. Slowly, slowly, the doxie began stiffly kicking his rear legs in imitation of the goose. Some months later, he was as good as new. Sadly, when the goose died, the owner buried her in the yard, but the doxie was so distraught that he dug her up. This happened twice more, in different locations...and then the dog became despondent, fell victim to paralysis again and showed no interest in getting well... excuse me, I need a tissue.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:38 AM on January 9, 2005

Oh, I know the remains were ashes. I just thought it was weird. Why tucked away in the desk, rather than on it in some kind of urn or other container? I remember going with my mother years ago to pick up the remains of one of our dogs who had to be put down, and we drove home with a paper bag of cremains. With that in mind, I just got the impression that there was a bag of ashes tucked away in a desk drawer until the memorial service.

I didn't expect this thread to turn into such a weepfest with the amount of cynical folks here, but that's a good one too, Oriole.
posted by emelenjr at 11:58 AM on January 9, 2005

They were probably put in the desk to keep the cleaning crew from tossing them out? Just a guess on my part.
posted by kamylyon at 12:19 PM on January 9, 2005

tears streaming down my face.: you should have seen MY face when I found the remains!
posted by kamylyon at 12:21 PM on January 9, 2005

There will be always be those who see themselves aloof and apart from the crowd who will decry and disagree

I don't see myself as aloof, or apart from the crowd. I *like* crowds. I revel in mass humanity. I've been to a few riots in my time and they are a rush. But thanks for diagnosing a hint of incipient sociopathy...

I really do feel that people have a should perfect right to venerate a bird, just as others should have a perfect right to eat a bird, or to analyze the behaviour of people towards poultry.

Then again, I am Irish, from a culture with a notoriously instrumental approach to animals. I think it partly stems from the Great Hunger - within six months every small animals and pet in Ireland outside of cities had been eaten. When they ran out of pets, they began to eat the human corpses, and then to kill each other for food. I've noticed a definite tendency for USians to refer to their domesticated animals in terms of gender ("he", "she") while Irish people will more readily refer to animals as "it". Also, Catholicism is very specific about denying immortality to animals - they are without soul, free will, or subjectivity. This ideology has probably permeated the culture, and my subconscious.
posted by meehawl at 12:44 PM on January 9, 2005

But thanks for diagnosing a hint of incipient sociopathy...

It was but an idle speculation, at most, made in the age of the cult of the unique individual. No slight was intended.
posted by y2karl at 1:04 PM on January 9, 2005

meehawl: I have no problem with eating a well-cooked bird, goose is a favorite, as a matter of fact.
I grew up on a farm where, whether they had a name or not, livestock was livestock and when it was their time, they became food.
posted by kamylyon at 1:08 PM on January 9, 2005

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