Goose Hunt

image0Fred Stacey was a strong man. He knew how to work and he knew how to teach his boys to work. He was a man of integrity who taught his sons to be men of integrity. Honesty was a matter of course; respect for women was not only demanded, but modeled every day of his life. As his five sons grew to manhood, they were respected among any who knew them.

On February 14, 1946, Fred had a stroke which left him partially paralyzed and quite incapacitated. All five of his sons were nearby, and ran the farm for him. There is nothing they wouldn’t have done to make him comfortable and give him confidence in the operation of his vast farm and herd. He would never put in a full day’s work again.

One day as he was recovering from the stroke, Fred said to Bill, “I just have a hankering for goose. I wish we could get one for Mom to cook.” Bill was married by then and was planning to leave Woodruff to go to college. He was to be there for only a few more weeks.

Bill would have done anything for his dad. Right then he couldn’t help remembering there were times in his life when he had tried hard to shoot a goose, but had failed every time. His failure to shoot a goose had been a great disappointment to him.

Geese traveled high above Woodruff every spring and fall in their annual migration. Often they would fly down to eat grain from the fields. It was on those occasions Bill would try to take one down for his mother to cook. Unable to shoot one, he had even resorted to running after them in the field, trying to catch one before it flew away. Always his efforts had come to nothing.

image1One year in particular Bill had a plan. There was a deep ditch along the side of the grain field. He lay down in that ditch with his single-shot bolt-action 22 Rifle, knowing his aim had to be good. Lying there in the frozen ditch, he came up with a plan to sneak up so close he couldn’t miss this time. Slowly for over an hour he snaked his way along the bottom of that ditch on his hands and knees. His hands were freezing; his feet were numb, but Bill didn’t mind. He had a plan and was focused on carrying it out.

Silently he crawled forward until when he peeked out over the edge of the ditch he was closer than he had ever been to a flock of geese. He knew this was his moment. He loaded the gun, aimed it, and pulled the trigger. Nothing. He did it again. Nothing. Inspecting the gun, he realized it had frozen. The bolt action which propelled the bullet out of the chamber wouldn’t budge. He even tried to free it with his finger. Nothing would make his gun work. He had to sit in the cold ditch and watch the geese eat from his dad’s grain field in perfect peace. He never forgot the disappointment of that day.

image2Many years later, during his Air Force training, he was required to spend a lot of time in target practice. Since they practiced on skeet shooting, Bill became very adept. In fact, he had to shoot well to continue in pilot’s training during the war. He got so he could shoot 24 or 25 out of 25 most of the time. Therefore he felt a little more confident this day in 1946. He even felt confident this would be the day he could get a goose out of his dad’s field.

Bill walked out to the horse barn. By then he was no longer riding bareback, so he saddled the horse, put a rifle scabbard on the side, put his rifle in it, and rode down to the field. In not many minutes he spotted two geese sitting out on a shallow pond which had formed in one of his dad’s fields. Bill lay down on the ground and aimed carefully. Thoughts of his youth raced through his mind, but he kept his aim.

Finally he pulled the trigger, but it was a split second after both birds had taken to the air. Suddenly they were flying overhead. He had missed. Bill was so frustrated he had missed his dad’s supper, he aimed again, this time at a quickly disappearing bird overhead. He knew shooting a bird on the fly was much more difficult than if it were sitting quietly on the pond. He shot and almost instantly the goose dropped to the ground. Bill’s first and only goose.

Sometimes early failure renders success all the more sweet. That night no one enjoyed supper more than he did.