He bagged the goose — and then we cooked it

Coda • GREG BEAN

In our family, we love to tell the story about Grandpa and the goose, although if he were still alive, he’d probably get a nasty letter from PETA berating him for inhuman cruelty.

That organization got so upset last week when President Obama swatted a fly on camera, there’s no telling what they’d do if they heard about the strangled goose.

Anyway, here’s what happened between Grandpa and the goose:

Grandpa was up at our summer cabin cutting firewood with a chainsaw, and when he came back to his pickup to start loading the wood, he was surprised to see that a huge goose had taken up residence inside the camper shell.

He yelled at the goose to get out, but it wouldn’t budge. He poked at it with a stick, but it hissed at him. He fired up the chainsaw, thinking the noise would scare the critter away, but if anything, the chainsaw only made the goose more determined to stay. That goose wasn’t skeered of no stinkin’ chainsaw.

So Grandpa climbed in after it, thinking he’d just grab it by the neck and haul it out. But it hissed again, spread its huge wings and pecked at his eye. It missed, but the pecking startled Grandpa so bad he reared up and hit the top of his head on one of the bolts that fastened the luggage rack to the camper shell

So there he was, in a cramped space with a wing-flapping, eyeball-pecking, angry bull of a goose, uttering words we can’t print in this newspaper, and so much blood running down his face it was getting in his eyes and he couldn’t see.

It was more than even a card-carrying pacifist could stand, so he went nuclear and “dispatched” the goose (his word). Then he brought it home, where I cooked it for supper in an orange reduction sauce and ate it with a loaf of French bread and a nice Chardonnay.

Yummy.

“I wouldn’t have done that, but it gave me no choice,” he explained. “At that point, it was either him or me.”

I thought about that story a lot after we moved to New Jersey and found the state absolutely teeming with angry geese, who think the place is theirs and get pretty bent out of shape if you invade their personal space.

In the intervening years, I’ve watched as people tried, and failed, at about a thousand schemes to keep the marauding geese at bay.O

ne neighbor shoots off loud firecrackers that explode in the air over the geese’s heads. That drives them off for about 30 seconds, and then they come back — and although my eyes aren’t as good as they used to be, I’m fairly sure a few of them come armed.

Another neighbor put one of those big metal cutout silhouettes of a coyote in his yard, thinking that might deter them. Yesterday as I was driving by, however, there were at least 20 geese taking the sun and sleeping around the metal coyote (no, I didn’t have a camera), so that doesn’t work so well.

Some of the big pharmaceutical places hire guys with dogs to patrol the property and scare the geese away. But the dogs get worn out before the geese do, and if the dogs ever caught one of the miserable creatures, it would end badly — for the dog.

Most people are fed up, and just about ready for Plan B — Alan Caruba, for example.

I got a press release last week from Mr. Caruba, who is the founder of the National Anxiety Center and was so anxious about geese he wrote an op-ed piece about the subject, hoping we’d publish it. I don’t make those decisions anymore, but if I did, I’d put Mr. Caruba’s op-ed in the paper because it had some interesting facts. According to him:

• The government says there are about 80,000 Canada geese in New Jersey, but he thinks there are more. Each goose excretes about a half pound of droppings a day, so at the government’s estimate of 80,000 geese in the state, that’s 40,000 pounds of goose bombs He also quoted published reports that the feds have started a new program to “capture” and remove Canada geese in nine New Jersey counties. They hope to remove 57,000 birds over a decade.

• Mr. Caruba thinks capturing them is an incredibly stupid idea. In fact, he says, it’s the “definition of insanity.” He points out that in a decade, the population of geese in New Jersey will be much higher than 80,000, so 57,000 is just a drop in the bucket. He says there’s got to be a better way.A

nd there is. Here’s my modest proposal:

I say the federal government and the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife should just designate Canada geese a nuisance and declare open season on them. They ought to tell people that for the next six months, people can just go to town and fill their freezers with geese.

I understand we can’t let thousands of people start shooting guns or arrows in public parks and backyards, but there’s got to be a relatively safe way to bag a goose besides strangling them, like Grandpa did. How about slingshots? Boomerangs? Bolas?

I can see the animal rights people warming up their keyboards to send me nasty emails about this proposal. So here’s the deal: since this is SATIRE, I’m not completely serious about this.

Not completely.

I’m just pointing out that in this instance, I agree with Alan Caruba. If we really want to solve the goose problem in this state, there just isn’t a nice way to do it. Which leaves, let’s face it, what the CIA would call “termination with extreme prejudice.”

In the interest of avoiding criticism from PETA, that’s not the alternative I’m advocating. But if that’s the route they chose, I’ve got a killer recipe for Goose a l’Orange from a 1930s cookbook. The first line is really funny: “First, dress a large goose.”

How do you put stockings on a goose, anyway? I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Gregory Bean is the former executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at gbean@gmnews.com.