Word Count 3,198
The following is a collection of short stories about the goose that belonged to Jelly Hoskins of the Lancer series. All were originally posted on the Lancer Yahoo groups. I revised them in February of 2014 for adding to the files at the Lancer FanFiction group on Facebook. They are given here in the order they were written, which also is the chronological order in which they would have taken place.
Story #1: A New Home
(First Posted November 2004)
Darkness had fallen and the air was chilly. The pile of hay inside the opening into the barn looked inviting, so he hollowed out a nest with his feet, squatted, and wiggled until the sides conformed to his body. It wasn’t home, but it wasn’t bad. Not bad at all.
A puff of cold air ruffled his feathers and made him shiver. He shook his head, arched his long neck, and tucked his beak beneath a protective wing. Ah. That was much better.
His eyelids slid shut, but his mind refused to let got of the unsettling events he had faced that day. Again, his body shuddered. Nothing had gone right. First, he had been rousted from his comfortable abode, stuffed into a dark, musty smelling bag, and bounced around on something hard that rumbled and swayed beneath him. Death had seemed certain until he was released into strange surroundings.
All he had wanted was to take a little gander so he could get his bearings, stretch his limbs, and clear his lungs. Wasn’t nothing for anybody to make such a fuss about, especially those crazy critters that had run off with that rattle trap box thundering behind them.
Another shudder ran through him. He had thought he was a cooked goose for sure when that giant fellow had started bellowing. At least that little man with hair on his face had stepped in and rescued him.
With a long sigh, he burrowed deeper into the hay. He supposed he was lucky he belonged to that man named Jelly . . . but didn’t he know Dewdrop was no name for a gander? And with that final thought, he drifted into the land of dreams.
Story #2: Mother Goose Day at Lancer
(First posted about October of 2012)
Dewdrop stretched to his full height, pointed his beak upward, and aired his lungs as if to say, “Why didn’t you ask me before bringing this intruder into my territory?”
Johnny Lancer jabbed an elbow into Jelly Hoskins’ ribs. “I don’t think he thinks much of your idea.”
“Sure he does.” The Lancer handyman mimcked his gander’s stance. “He’s just lettin’ on how proud he is. Ain’t every day he gets a lady caller. Why look at her. Ain’t she the prettiest thing?”
Jelly puffed out his chest. “Why, in a few weeks, ol’ Dewdrop’s gunna be the proudest papa, you ever saw. He’ll be struttin’ round here likes he’s the gov’ner or the king of England. You just wait ‘n see.”
Another loud blast cut through the late afternoon air. Dewdrop sidled toward the white goose checking out his barnyard.
She edged away.
He shook himself, his fluffy-white feathers shimming in the sun.
She seemed not to notice.
Dewdrop let out a huff and marched up beside her. He ducked his head and gave her a little nibble on the nearest leg.
Her beak opened and her head snaked toward him. Before he could move, she latched onto the side of his face.
Dewdrop squalled like a goose headed for the chopping block. “Honk! Honk, honk, honk!”
Johnny burst out laughing, teetered forward, and nearly losing his balance.
“Stop it!” Jelly’s voice shrilled in unison with that of his gander. “You’ll give Dewdrop one o’ them complexes that new fangled doc we saw in Frisco was talkin’ about. He’ll think you’re mockin’ his manhood, an’ we won’t never get any little ones.”
“Okay. Okay.” Johnny raised his hands– throat aching and a bit hoarse. He bit his lip and willed the corners of his mouth to quit twitching.
A new voice boomed from the shadow inside the doorway of the barn on the far side of the barnyard. “What’s all of the ruckus about?”
“Your son is makin’ fun of Dewdrop,” Jelly said as Murdoch Lancer stepped into view.
“You gotta admit, Jelly, it is pretty funny.” Johnny let a faint chuckle slip out. “The way they’re actin’ you’d think they were a couple o’ young stud colts sizin’ each other up.” A new thought struck Johnny. His grin broadened. “You sure that goose is a lady goose?”
“‘Coarse I’m sure.” Jelly’s eyes narrowed and his chin dipped up and then down as his shoulders shifted around while he spoke. “I know a girl goose when I see one.”
Murdoch strode toward them. “You’re sure of that? I mean, I have heard tell of someone who thought they had bought a gander only to have it start laying eggs.”
Jelly shifted his shoulders again and gave his boss a cold glare. “Well they just didn’t know geese, that’s all. It takes an expert to tell the difference.” He pointed at Dewdrop’s bride to be, who had released her hold and now seemed to be performing some sort of dance with the gander. “See how she lets him make the first move. And, she’s smaller . . . daintier than him. She was just putting him in his place. You know, let him know not to get too pushy. Like any woman, she expects a little courtin’. Wants to feel she’s special before she lets a fella get too chummy.”
Johnny let out another loud guff-haw. “Jelly, they’re not people.”
“They got feelings.”
The glare in Jelly’s eyes was as deadly as any Johnny had ever faced. If looks could kill, he figured he should be lying on the ground and taking his last breath.
“Well, time will tell.” Murdoch gave his son a look that said, “Let it go. You’re not going to win this one no matter what you say.”
Johnny shrugged, raised his hands again in submission, and looked at Jelly. “Murdoch’s right.”
Dewdrop interrupted with another loud complaint and all three men turned toward the geese. The new addition to Jelly’s flock now had a feather dangling from the end of her beak.
Johnny stifled a smirk with the palm of one hand and elbowed Jelly with his other arm. “In the meantime, you might wanna give Mother Goose there her own place to bed down. Don’t look like she’s quite ready to tie the knot. You wouldn’t want ol’ Dewdrop to lose any more feathers if he gets impatient with this courtin’ game she’s playing. A naked goose don’t look too pretty . . . except on the dinner table.”
Jelly’s chin came up, and he glared at Johnny. “Dewdrop ain’t gunna be nobody’s dinner. And her name ain’t Mother Goose. It’s Snowflake!”
Johnny laughed and turned toward the corral gate. His father joined him and they left side-by-side. For most of the way to the main house, Jelly could be heard consoling his goose. “It’s okay, Dewdrop. Johnny didn’t mean nothin’. He was just joshin’ me. You an’ Snowflake’ll get along just fine. You’ll see. We’ll put her in a stall ’til she gets used to you. In a day or two, she’ll settle in, and it’ll be like the two of you’ve always been together. Wait’ll she hatches out them first eggs. She’ll be callin’ you Papa Goose and you’ll be callin’ her Mama.”
Story #3: Horse Feathers
(Posted November 15, 2012 as my entry into the November Challenge for the Lancer_Writers group on Yahoo. This was written in response to Scenario #4. “Chickens. It all started because of the chickens . . . and the rooster. Who could forget about that rooster? And how that led to the problem with the horses is anyone’s guess!”)
Dust swirled in every direction, alternately hiding and exposing the chaos in the corral. Horses squealed. Frantic squawks answered. Hooves pounded. Feathers floated to and fro, landing here or there only to be launched back into the air. Honks and crows voiced indignation and desperation, as did the curses of men . . . and Jelly Hoskins claimed the chickens had started it all. Horse feathers! Johnny Lancer wasn’t about to swallow that. There had to be a lot more to the story, and he planned to drag every last word of it out of that old man’s mouth even if it took him until Thanksgiving.
Johnny stood with arms crossed and looking at Jelly . “Want to run that by me one more time?”
Jelly tugged at his whiskers. He dropped his hand back to his side and fidgeted. “Like I said . . . the chickens started it.”
“Uh, huh. A few hens set off thirty horses that’ll let the whole flock cluck around under foot and fly onto their backs out in the pasture. Nope. You can’t make me buy that.” Johnny shook his head and motioned toward the corral. “Look at them. Every horse out there has gone loco . . . and so have the chickens . . . and the geese. We’ll be lucky to have one man able to sit a saddle much less a horse that ain’t crippled once they wear themselves out.”
Jelly glared up at Johnny. “The chickens did start it.”
“How? You just tell me how. And it better be good, because Murdoch’s not going to believe a word of it, if it ain’t.”
“Well.” Jelly squirmed a bit. “You see I was looking for Snowflake’s eggs. She’s been here more than three weeks and ought to be laying by now.”
Johnny rolled his eyes. “I thought you said this started with the chickens.”
“It did. Just give me time. I’ll get there.” Jelly took a deep breath. “Like I was sayin’, I was lookin’ for Snowflake’s nest.”
“Yeah, I found it.”
Jelly seemed a bit hesitant and Johnny wondered why. “And?”
“Dewdrop was guardin’ it.”
“Well.” Jelly squirmed some more. “He was sittin’ on it.”
Johnny grinned. “Sitting on it?” He started to chuckle.
“What’s so funny about that? Ganders sit on the nest, too. I told you he would guard them eggs. He knows they’re his young’ns in there.”
“You expect me to believe that?” Johnny ran a finger down the bridge of his nose. He didn’t know that much about geese, but this was too good of an opportunity to pass up. “You know what I think, Jelly? I think ol’ Dewdrop laid them eggs, and you don’t wanna admit you don’t know a goose from a gander.”
Jelly’s cheeks flamed. “If you don’t wanna hear this, just say so. I got better things to do than stand here listenin’ to you insult Dewdrop and my intelligence.”
Johnny did his best to keep the corners of his mouth from twitching. “Calm down, Jelly. I was just joking. Go on with your story. What happened next?”
“You know that hen, Scratches? She’s one of them four Teresa practically lets come in the kitchen after table greens. Well, she showed up. Went bwalk-bwalkin’ right up to where Dewdrop was hiding over there in a cubby hole between the corral post and the corner of the block house.”
“And I suppose Dewdrop didn’t like it?”
“Of course he didn’t like it.” Jelly snuffled in a gurgling breath. “I told you he’s pur-tective.”
Johnny raised both hands in front of his chest. “Okay. Don’t go gettin’ your feathers ruffled. Just tell me the next part.”
Jelly took time to draw in a big breath before going on. “Dewdrop came out at her, like you’d expect he would. Not that he’d hurt her none. He just wanted her to keep her distance. Only . . ..”
“Only, I guess Squawks thought Scratches was in danger, ’cause she came on the run a squawkin’ like only she can squawk.” Jelly’s arms mimicked the flapping wings of the chicken.
“Yeah, she sure lives up to her name, that’s for sure.” Johnny smothered another grin with the swipe of one hand.
Jelly craned his neck and looked over toward the corral.
Johnny followed the older man’s gaze. Dust was still flying and the noise hadn’t let up any. He wasn’t about to go in and try to put an end to the fracas. Right now it was every man for his self, and he planned to stay right where he was, on the safe side of the fence.
“Was that when the horses spooked?” Johnny asked.
“No, it wasn’t when the horses spooked. They weren’t even in the corral, yet.” Jelly sounded rather perturbed.
“So when did they show up?” Johnny kept his tone soft. It wouldn’t do to get Jelly riled up any more than he was. The truth about the chickens and the horses would never be told.
Jelly let out a huff. “I’ll get to that. Just give me time. I ain’t got to the part about the rooster, yet.”
“The rooster?” Johnny sighed. “I should have guessed the rooster would get into your tale sometime or another.”
“Don’t be so sour-castic. You wanna know what happened or don’t ya?”
“Oh, I want to know. I wouldn’t miss this for nothing.” Johnny patted Jelly’s shoulder. “So Squawks came to rescue Scratches. Then what?”
“Cackles and that new chicken that Teresa took a shine to . . . the one with that funny ball of fluff on her head. The one she calls Silkie on account of its soft feathers. Didn’t Scott say it was a–“
“I know the one. You don’t have to give me its life history. Just go on with your story.”
“Well. They come cackling through the gate into the horse pasture. The hands left it open when they went to gather the horses.” Jelly paused.
“That’s when the horses showed up.”
“And got spooked by the chickens.”
“No. They didn’t spook. They walked through the gate calm as you please and went to eating on the hay I put out for ’em this morning. You know Murdoch told Walt he didn’t want the legs run off them horses before we even started the drive.”
Johnny nodded. “Yeah, I know. So the horses are over there minding their own business. Then what?”
“That’s when Cocklebur had to stick his nose into what was none of his never mind. Dewdrop hadn’t done a thing to his ladies other than honk at ’em a bit. If them hens had left well enough alone, this whole mess wouldn’t be happenin’. So, you can see how this is their fault, can’t you?”
“You haven’t told me what happened with the horses, yet.” Johnny wiggled his fingers near the handle of his gun. Getting anything out of Jelly was worse than trailing a snail. At least he could get around the snail. He didn’t have that choice where Jelly’s story was concerned. Murdoch was going to want to know why the men were late and why the horses were worn out, if any of them got there at all. The Old Man wouldn’t want to waste any time hearing it, either.
Jelly didn’t look too anxious to cough up the next details.
Johnny tapped the sole of his boot on the ground. “Come on, Jelly. Quit stalling.”
“Okay. Like I said, that rooster busted in right about the time the last of the men got through the gate and got it latched behind them. He flew up on the top rail over there by the corner of the barn. So as he could get a better look, I suppose. He had to flutter his wings and let out a couple “er-er-errrrs”. Get all them horses lookin’ at him. Then he flew right over the top their heads and landed smack dab into Dewdrop.”
“And that’s when the horses bolted. I can see where that might spook ’em. Murdoch would probably go for that.”
Jelly looked down and scuffed up a puff of dust with one foot. “Wasn’t quite like that.”
“Oh?” Johnny said. This was turning into quite a tale. He couldn’t wait to hear what Jelly would come up with next.
“Well, you can’t blame her.” Jelly took a defensive stance. “She was only looking out for her family.”
“She? She who?”
“Snowflake. She must’ve heard the ruckus. Next thing I knew, she came a hissin’ right through the middle of them horses–her wings spread wider than the barn door. They had to get out of her way. That little roan that Walt thinks so highly of jumped sideways and slammed into Juan’s horse. Bein’ a bit green, it went to buckin’. First thing I knew the whole bunch was stirred up.”
The events unraveled in Johnny’s mind. Horses sensed fear. Once a couple got spooked and went to running and bucking, the rest would follow, especially on a cool morning when they were still fresh. With thirty or forty scared horses scattering in all directions, the birds probably went wild. Their squawking and honking would have added to the terror of the horses. A few dumped cowhands later and the air would be filled with a lot more than dust.
Resting his chin on one hand, Johnny silently nodded his head. Yep. Murdoch just might believe it. He wouldn’t be happy; that was for sure. The drive might have to wait a day. Hopefully, no more than three, at the most, provided those critters ran themselves out before they all dropped dead. He shifted his head side to side. Nope. The Old Man wasn’t going to be happy at all.
Johnny drew in a long breath and blew it part way out. “Come on, Jelly. Let’s get ready to pick up the pieces.”
“What’re yuh gunna tell Murdoch?”
“Just what you told me. The chickens are to blame.” Johnny’s lips twitched into a smirky little grin. “Or . . . I could tell him it’s all Teresa’s fault. After all it was her pet chickens that went snoopin’ into something that was none of their business.”
Jelly smiled back. “That’s right. She started it.”
“Who started what?” a feminine voice asked from behind them.
Both men turned around. A short ways from them, Teresa O’Brien stood with her hands on her hips, eyes boring into theirs.
Johnny shrugged. “Oh, nothing Teresa. We were just talking about that mare of Walt’s. She got spooked and–.” He swept one hand toward the corral. “Just look at the mess she started.”
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