Wild Goose Haven, Page 2

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This flock remained around the pond for a few days, and then, calling clamorously, went on north, possibly to join the larger flocks around Grant's Lake. Other smaller bands came to stay for short periods and four slightly wounded blues and a snow remained after all the others had gone on.

John was ploughing one day when he noticed a line of birds winging swiftly from the South. He halted the horses and stood watching them. In a shaft of sun¬light they were revealed as large, pure white birds, and he saw that they were swans. As he stood, exulting in their grace and beauty, wondering if any of their species would ever stop on his little pond, there was a flash as a sunbeam was reflected from a rifle barrel, and one of the great birds wavered, turned and sailed heavily in his direction.

Through mud and water he ran to get the lovely creature, praying, hoping that it might be only slightly wounded. He had just picked up the almost lifeless body when two men, panting heavily, lumbered up to demand it as their quarry.


"I'll report you both for shooting in the spring and for killing a protected species," John said angrily.

The men blustered, coaxed, but John was adamant and at last they went off vowing to get even. Leaving the patient horses standing, John hurried home with the swan. For some weeks he nursed it almost hopelessly. The bullet that had grazed the curving neck had also crippled one thigh, and there seemed to be internal injuries as well.

"You're just wasting your time," Alec assured him. "You can't possibly bring it around."

Kindness often works wonders, and so it was in this case. Soon the bird began to eat a little more. It became livelier and now it floats gracefully upon the pond or hurries awkwardly about the yard after John.

Nor is it companionless, for that fall another swan, a juvenile in its grayish plumage, dropped in beside it and has stayed ever since. Two more, picked up in the fields, were brought in to be nursed back to health. Their wounds are healed now and they are free to leave, but the pond has become home to them and here they are content to stay. So far none of them have nested but the boys are hoping that they will. Other swans have stopped to rest or to feed, but have gone on again.

With so many birds accepting their hospitality the Gebauer brothers decided to give them more space. Two more ponds were dug and filled with water and low bushes planted on the mounds of earth forming the sides of the pond so that ducks and geese would find suitable spots for nesting. The oldest pond, the one farthest from the house, has reeds and wild rice growing at one end, and here those birds that prefer nests surrounded by water have their homes. Three pairs of Canada geese pre-empted one pond and nest on its banks. Of course the other water fowl come in and around this pond but not near the precious nests.

One of the pets on the farm is a beautiful blue goose whose arrival one fall proved that a few of these geese do go south again over Manitoba, instead of keeping far to the east over the Great Lakes. All winter he was shut up, unable to use his wings. When spring came he was wildly excited. The first day the doors were opened, he flew up as if to go off, but inaction had made him clumsy. He crashed into a pole and his neck and breast were badly torn. He was bleeding when John ran to pick him up.

Could the skin be stitched back? John decided it was worth a try. Getting needle and thread, he drenched the wound with iodine. Carefully he drew flesh and feathers into place again. Today only a tiny mark is left.

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