Farm fowl lives the life of a cowgoose

Monday, March 28, 2005

ASHTON, Ill. -- On a small farm on Flagg Road north of Ashton, a family has come to accept an interspecies love affair, one in which the devotion is second to none.

Though she supplies almost all the love and devotion, Lucy doesn't mind. The life of a cowgoose is satisfying indeed.

"She just likes to hang out with cows," said Lucy's owner, Linda Williams.

A cold, sharp wind blew unimpeded across the prairie. Inside the small barn owned by John White, Lucy relaxed with her "family," five muddy, solemn-faced cows. As White leaned on the top of the gate, Lucy began to honk and hiss.

"She protects them like they were her kids," said White, a friendly sort of guy who is mystified by Lucy's celebrity status within the area. White reported that many people in Ashton and Rochelle know about Lucy and ask about her whenever he goes into town. Even in DeKalb, where White works at Northern Illinois University, people are familiar with the cow-loving goose.

People often stop along Flagg Road to watch Lucy and her cows. They will joke with White, saying they will be coming out to have a goose dinner. One woman told White that she was going to videotape Lucy and send it to the Animal Planet network. He wouldn't be surprised, White said, if he turns on the television one day and sees Lucy.

"I don't understand all the interest," White said, while the muddied Lucy continued to squawk and occasionally flap her wings. As White turned to leave, Lucy started to honk more vociferously.

"Hey, where ya goin'," White said, speaking for Lucy. "She knows she's getting attention."

Lucy piped up even louder, while the cattle looked on in dumbfounded silence, their large, soft eyes focused on their noisy "mother" and the man who provides their food.

"She's showing off now," White said with a chuckle. "I know she is."

Lucy's day, according to White, revolves around her cows. She sleeps with them, her head tucked under a wing. She wakes with them and waddles behind them into the barnyard.

"When I feed them at night," White said, "she stands by the feeder and cackles."

Lucy herself eats corn and some dog food, which she shares with Sammy the Saint Bernard. The goose has a good relationship with the dog, though nothing like the one she shares with the cows. Lucy is protective of her herd. Whenever a stranger comes around, she starts honking as a warning to the cows.

White said Lucy always picks out one cow in the herd to be her special friend. Sadly for Lucy, even her favorite companion is inevitably taken from her and shipped off for slaughter. The departure, White said, always breaks Lucy's heart.

"She hangs her head and cries," he said. "It makes you feel kind of bad."

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