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Rhodina McLemore lived on a farm a few miles out-of-town and for her two nephews it was a major event when they were told that they would be spending the day with Aunt Rhody (because they were small and couldn’t pronounce her name she let them call her Rhody). The farm had all kinds of animals to see; pigs, chickens, cows, horses, ducks and even dogs and cats. Rhodina loved animals and for the most part so did the boys Billy and Randy; most of the animals anyway.

On the farm there was one animal that the two boys hated, especially Billy, and yet this animal was a favorite of their aunt. Strolling around the barnyard like she owned the place was a large goose; not the white, domestic goose normally seen on a farm; no this goose was a Canadian Goose; large and gray in appearance with a long black neck and head and distinguishing white markings under the chin (this breed of goose is known to be a nuisance on most golf courses throughout the country). Rhodina told the story of how the goose had come to visit the farm and apparently decided to stay; no longer flying south in the winter or north in the summer.

Why the boys hated this particular animal is really quite simple; the goose loved to terrorize them and would suddenly attack when they were least expecting it; most often Billy being the target of her ire. At any given moment Rhodina, working in her kitchen, would hear Randy come running up to the front porch shouting, “Aunt Rhody, Aunt Rhody, the goose is chasing Billy again!” With that she would look out the kitchen window toward the barnyard and see Billy screaming and waving his arms, running from the goose as he was being bitten on the buttocks, arms, neck and legs. Not only was the goose large enough, and the boys small enough, to look them in the eye, but she was also faster than either of them. The odd thing was that rather than find a place of cover to hide from the goose; Billy would just keep running around in circles, the goose continuing its attack.

As she observed the scene unfolding in front of her, Rhodina couldn’t help the smile that slowly appeared on her face, but made sure that Randy didn’t notice. She surely loved the boys, but she also knew that they were little terrors themselves at times and this was what some would refer to as Karma and others as payback. She had seen them over the years abuse, for their amusement, some of the helpless creatures on the farm; from throwing cats into the cow’s watering trough to tossing chickens out of the barn loft to see how far they would fly. The coup de grace was when they tied strings of jingle bells to the tail of the Holstein calf; laughing hysterically as it ran around its pen, not quite sure what was making all the racket and unaware of how to dislodge the bells. Life does have a way of coming full circle.

Other than the big gray goose, the boys loved their days on the farm. They got to ride horses, pick vegetables in the garden, go on hikes in the country, swim in the river, eat homemade apple pie, play in the barn, and feed the pigs; so much fun and so much to do. These visits went on for a few years, but when the boys became teenagers they stopped visiting their aunt; girls and other activities beginning to occupy their time.

Upstream from Rhodina’s house was the source of the river in which the boys swam; a large spring that came out of the ground and formed a pond; deep and blue-green in color. From the pond, the clear water became a stream which eventually grew into a river. Years ago, next to the stream was a large mill, still referred to as Riley’s Mill, which was powered by the water turning a large wheel. The building still stands to this day and when the state took it over it became a tourist attraction. A trout farm is nearby and the fish are regularly stocked in the clear, swift waters. Families come from the surrounding countryside to picnic and fish throughout the summer months. Serious trout fishermen come almost all year long.

On a particularly sunny June day, Billy and Randy were fishing together just a few yards downstream from the old mill. They were much older now and their interests had changed from the days of running around their aunt’s farm. The two had become serious fishermen and their desire on this day was to catch their limit of rainbows. A few yards upstream and near the pond were some campsites where a number of families were enjoying the warm sun and cooking out on portable grills; some throwing footballs for entertainment while others played volleyball. Little kids chased each other down by the water and occasionally “Get away from that pond! Do you want to fall in and drown?” could be heard over the other summer sounds.

Suddenly, a little boy came running from the pond back up to the camp area yelling, “Mommy, mommy, come quick. I found a dead duck in the wateh!” The woman at first acted irritated, but after much nagging on the boy’s part, she finally agreed to accompany him down to the water. “Hurry up mommy, it’s a big duck and it’s in the wateh. I think its dead!” “How do you know its dead honey?” The little boy could barely get the words out, “Its feet ah sticking up in the aih and the head is undeh wateh. I can see its face undeh wateh and it isn’t bweathing!”

As they reached the pond the boy excitedly said while pointing, “Theh it is! See, I told you it was a dead duck!” His mother got closer to the water and as she saw the animal upside down in the water she let out a squeal; the sight of it startling her. “Honey, that’s not a duck, it’s a goose. And it does look like its dead.” The little boy wanted to pull the goose out of the water for a closer inspection (as little boys are known to be inquisitive), but the mother was adamant when she said, “Now, stay away from it, you’ll get a disease!” Other campers began crowding around, curious at what was going on. One little kid, seeing the goose upside down in the water exclaimed, “It looks like its standing on its head!” Everybody laughed at his remark and the kid stuck out his chest and strutted in and out of the crowd; proud of himself for being so funny and wallowing in the recognition.

Meanwhile, downstream Billy became a bit distracted with all the commotion going on up the river and he decided to go investigate what was causing the disturbance. Randy laid down his fly rod and followed his brother. As Billy got closer to the scene he recognized something familiar in the dead animal. “Randy, that’s the old goose from Aunt Rhody’s house.” “How do you know?” Randy replied. “Remember when she told us the story of the goose coming to stay at her farm instead of flying away. It was the dog that attacked the goose and damaged its right wing. It couldn’t fly anymore. Look at the right wing on that goose.” Randy could see that Billy was right. “Randy, go tell Aunt Rhody the old gray goose is dead.”

With Randy gone from the scene, Billy waded into the mill-pond to free the animal and take it back to his aunt. As he got closer he could see in the clear water that the goose’s head had gotten wedged between two large rocks. The old goose must have been fishing for small fish and an unexpected current pulled it downstream at an inopportune time; trapping it between the rocks. A painful death for the old goose. Billy freed the animal and began the trip to Aunt Rhody’s, carrying the goose by its two feet; dragging its head on the ground behind him.

When Billy arrived at the farmhouse he could see through the kitchen window that Randy had given Aunt Rhody the awful news; she was face down on the kitchen table, her body shaking as she sobbed. At first, Billy was sad watching his old aunt weeping, but as he began to recall all the times the old gray goose had chased him around the barnyard, biting him repeatedly, a smile began to form on his face. Life does indeed have a way of coming full circle and payback is merciless.

Finally Aunt Rhody looked up from the table and when she saw Billy out of her kitchen window she lifted it and asked, “Where did you find her?” Billy, not wanting to give out too much information simply responded, “She died in the mill-pond.”

Go Tell Aunt Rhody

(Traditional)

Go tell Aunt Rhody

Go tell Aunt Rhody

Go tell Aunt Rhody

The old gray goose is dead.

She died in the mill-pond

She died in the mill-pond

She died in the mill-pond

Standing on her head.

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