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Along the Fraser: Waiting for the eggs to hatch

Big Buddy seemed upset and confused when he called the first time.
A mother goose and her goslings by the train tracks.

Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly,

Man got to sit and wonder ‘why, why, why?’

– Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle.


Big Buddy seemed upset and confused when he called the first time.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

He was talking about a goose egg he’d seen last fall resting in a hole between seldom-used railroad tracks. This spring he found it – still intact - in the same semi-remote location.

“I don’t get it,” he began. “I know it was a dead egg, ‘cause I seen it last year.’”

Big Buddy says he gave the goose egg – “it was kinda neat lookin’” – to a woman supervisor where he worked. He couldn’t say why he hadn’t given her flowers, or maybe chocolates.

“Tom Sawyer kept his favorite frog in his pocket,” I said. “One day, on impulse, he gave it to Becky Thatcher, the only girl he would ever hang out with. Was it like that?”

“Ya, maybe. She’s always nice to the guys at work. I respected her, so I gave the egg to her. Maybe she could put it on a mantle or something.”

“It’s the thought that counts, Big Buddy,” I opined. “Did she appreciate it, your gift?”

“Pretty sure she did. She looked right into my eyes to see if I was messin’ with her, said ‘thanks.’ Then she told me the right thing to do was to take it back.”

“End of story?”

“Nope. Three days later, there was a goose sitting on the egg. Why? I thought, maybe this mom couldn’t lay her own eggs, so when she found this one nobody wanted, she adopted it, hoping it would hatch.”

“But it won’t.”

“Yep, ’cause it’s dead. That goose knew that ’cause it had the saddest eyes I ever seen. Should I chase the goose off, Little Buddy, get rid of the egg? It’ll starve sitting there.”

“I’ll tell ya what,” I said. “I’ll ask a biologist I know.”

“I keep Muscovy ducks,” my biologist said. “They’ll sit on dead eggs, even ones laid by another goose, but not forever. But, tell Big Buddy if he tries to take the egg, she’ll give him hell. Best to let Nature – who knows best – handle the situation.”

Big Buddy didn’t interfere. Once, though, when he came to take pictures, he was charged by a gander that came out of nowhere. Big Buddy’s well over 200 pounds and towers over most men, but he retreated. He was a friend who wanted the best for the them, and watched over them protectively.

About a week later, Big Buddy phoned again, excited this time. “She’s sittin’ on four eggs now, Little Buddy. “Gotta be three of her’s and that dead one. Pictures in your email.”

Big Buddy phoned regularly with updates – mom goose getting up to stretch her legs, but hovering close to her nest. Then, about three weeks later, another photo. This one – four fluffy goslings beside the tracks with mother goose at attention, guarding them. The dull sadness in her eyes was replaced by the bright light of pride and joy.

“A happy ending, Big Buddy,” I said when he called the last time.

“Ya, I keep smilin’ and smilin’ every time I see them,” he said. “Just one thing bothers me, though.”

“What’s that, Big Buddy?”

“There were four eggs in that nest. I put one of them there. So, there should have been three goslings, and one dead egg that didn’t hatch, but there’s four goslings. Did she lay four? If so, she must have moved the dead egg some where and buried it.”

“You looked around?”

“Everywhere. Nothing there. I don’t get it. Why? Why? Why?”

“Only Mother Nature knows for sure,” I said.


–  Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.