Huddersfield Chronicle (03/Aug/1895) - Sol, the Lockwood Goose
SOL, THE LOCKWOOD GOOSE.
(From Our Correspondent "Cid.")
Most of my readers will know a great deal about the “Lockwood Goose,” and many will have seen Laycock and Sol together in their journeyings from house to house on their milk round. There is an affection between them that is most touching, indeed, they seem inseparable. He loves it and it fully reciprocates the sentiment. It knows his language and he knows its. They talk together like father and son, and are all the world to one another. He talks interminably about Sol, and makes the story of his feathered favourite as interesting as a Persian tale. There are no more familiar or interesting objects in Lockwood than Laycock and his Goose. Personally, I could tell any number of stories about the affectionate companionship between man and beast, bird and insect, and even of creeping things, all showing that man can neither claim love, affection, nor unselfishness as his sole prerogative; indeed, he is often put to shame in these high attributes by the lower creation. Yet, in all my experience, I never came across such a close companionship between a man and a goose (of course it is a gander) as is manifested between Sol and Laycock.
Man has trained many animals to serve himself and minister to his uses and necessities. From their natural wildness he has reduced them to a domestic state, until they have become a valuable portion of his property. Of course many are useful to him, though not so closely or completely domesticated, such as deer and other game, and fishes generally. Still, most living creatures are amenable to domestication, and may, by kindness and careful training, be made to almost change their natures, especially when under exceptional environment. Among the ruminants the ox, buffalo, yak, sheep, goat, reindeer, camel, llama, and alpaca are readily tamed, while the horse, ass, elephant, kangaroo, and hog show capacity for affection and the truest service. Then there are the rabbit, cavy, hare, guinea pig, dog, and cat which now seem inseparable from man. Even more savage creatures are trainable, and may yet become more amenable to intelligent kindness. Then there are the domestic fowl, turkey, peacock, guinea-fowl, swan, goose, duck, &c., while there are any number of sand-birds that prefer to live near mankind rather than otherwise. Rats and mice may also be tamed and even reptiles taught, and as she world becomes more fully peopled and civilised other kinds of animal life will come more closely under man’s sway. I have a cat which has long since become an integral part of my family. On one occasion she had kittens, one of which was kept, and which continued to suck even after its mother had a second and a third litter. In the course of nature the daughter was fruitful and multiplied and brought forth after her kind, and singularly enough the old cat had another lot at the same time. The old pussy's kittens were drowned, while the younger tabby was permitted to have one preserved. For a time it was an interesting struggle as to whether the grandmother or the mother should suckle the solitary kitten, and the matter was solved by the mother being suckled by the grandmother at the same time that the mother suckled the kitten. This continued so long as I kept the kitten from a watery grave. It was a most interesting sight, and well might my eldest boy remark on seeing it: “See, father, a system of pipes!” Further, I once had a rabbit which, along with two cats, had the run of my house and homestead. It had the fullest liberty to roam in the fields and woods. It was as faithful as any dog or cat could be. Occasionally it went on a tour of inspection or pleasure, or may be to find a mate of the opposite sex, when it would stay away for days together, but it always came back again. Once I thought I had lost it. It was away for nearly a fortnight,
but I had full faith in bunny. I lived in a locality noted for poachers, with whom I was on good terms, and on two or three occasions they informed me that they had seen my rabbit a mile or two away. They might have shot or caught it, but they were as interested in it as I was, and persisted in saying it would come back again, and, of course, the dear creature did. When it arrived and saw me it gambolled like a child. It would hob-nob with the cats quite fearlessly, in fact, it was their master when it thought fit to assert itself, but it was fuller of play than fight, yet it would not be put on, and pussys had to make tracks if they teased it too much. It knew us all, and would come or go in answer to our requests, almost as readily as a dog, and would jump and frolic with my children the day through. Again, I also had a pig that formed such an attachment for my baby girl, and she for it, that on every possible opportunity they would be together and play with each other. She would twist its tail, tickle its snout, and climb over it to the grunting delight of piggy. It would share her food from her hand and follow her up and down for more, while if the sun was very warm it would lie down and squealingly call her to it, that she might thrash, rub, scratch, or make a “popo” of it, both being highly pleased with each other. At last the rude hand of misfortune came, and pig, rabbit, and cats had to go, but notwithstanding the supposed great dividing-line between man and the lower creation, the parting produced similar pain, if not quite as intense, as death does when it remorselessly removes to the land of shades a human being. I know not why, but I never think of or experience the affection of animal life without calling to mind Pope’s lines, which have ever had the effect of making me wondrous kind to God’s lower creation :—
- Lo! the poor Indian, whose untutor'd mind
- Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind.
- His soul proud science never taught to stray
- Far as the solar walk, or milky way;
- Yet simple nature to his hope has given,
- Behind the cloud-topp’d hills a humbler heaven;
- Some safer world in depth of woods embrac’d,
- Some happier island in the watery waste.
- Where slaves once more their native land behold,
- No fiends torment, no Christians thirst for gold.
- To be, contents his natural desire.
- He asks no angel’s wing, no seraph’s fire;
- But thinks, admitted to that equal sky,
- His faithful dog shall bear him company.
I could give any number of personal reminiscences, but my present intention is to tell the story of “Sol, the Lockwood Goose.” Laycock is in his best form, and he, like Meltham singers, begins at the beginning, and tells me as interesting a story in a road-side inn as ever Dickens heard, or imagined, which is as follows:—
Sol is a fine fellow, a very wise goose, and if there are any creatures besides man that have reason and a soul, I really believe my goose is such a creature. Talk of being “as silly as a goose,” you will not hear me make that expression again, but rather I shall say as wise as a goose when I want to convey the idea of common sense and filial affection. I would not part with Sol at any price. I shall keep him as long as I live, for if geese live, as is sometimes stated, to be 100 years old, I shall die first. Then when I have been my last “round” I should like to make Huddersfield a present of him, that he might end his days in the happy freedom of Beaumont Park. I feel so attached to him that I sometimes think I could not live without him. He is so faithful, intelligent, and sensible, and so attached to me. Talk of birds and beasts reasoning, I am sure Sol has more sense and can reason better than plenty people in Huddersfield, while as for knowing the difference between right and wrong, he knows the difference and no mistake. Why, bless you, he fairly worships me when I treat him rightly and kindly, and shows that he understands when I purposely, or accidentally, do him wrong, by the manner in which he protests in voice — nay in speech — and action. Of course Sol is a gander, though people call him a goose. He is an ordinary goose, almost as white as snow, and has a rather larger head than some of his kind, while his eye bespeaks more intelligence than most geese possess. Before I bought him he belonged to Mrs. Clay, of Albert Street, Lockwood. When I first noticed him, he was a poor, dirty-looking, bedraggled creature, doubtless made so by his having few means of washing himself, and by being obliged to spend most of the day in the street. Like most of our streetlings, he was ill-used, chased to and fro and shied at, until there is no wonder he concluded that his worst enemies were also two-legged (though not feathered), very cruel, and that their cowardice was most shown when they threw missiles. The result was that Sol became suspicious and vicious towards mankind, biting and fighting them indiscriminately. He treated me like the rest, and sometimes attacked me furiously when I called with milk. As I hate cruelty, and always kindly interest myself with the lower animals. I began to notice the goose, spoke kindly to it, treated it gently, until in time it gained confidence in me, permitted me to stroke it, and evidently concluded that I meant it no harm, for it ceased to peck at or bite me, and after a week or two it began to look out for me and the food I usually gave it. At last there was a friendship sealed between us that has never been broken, and seems likely to last till death does us part. Sol was ever ready to greet and meet me in my morning milk-round, and if I happened to pass where he lived in the middle of the day, even if he could only hear and not see me, he would rush into the street and not rest satisfied till he found me. Then no sooner did he see me than he would cackle and half run or fly to me, manifesting the greatest pleasure as I fondled and caressed him. It would do your heart good to see how he appreciates and reciprocates kindness. After a time he began to follow me from house to house, and soon learned where I delivered milk, leading me to the doors and waiting outside for me. My customers also began to be very kind to him by giving him food and clean water, and he soon showed his appreciation of past favours by reminding his benefactors of their duty and opportunity in supplying his present needs. What always pleased him most was when some kind housewife gave him a dish of clean water. It was a treat to see how he enjoyed it, and to hear him cackle his satisfaction. If a big dog were about, or he suspected a human enemy, he would cling closely to my side, but at other times he usually walked either just in front of or behind me. Wherever I went Sol would go fearlessly, into cellar dwellings, up a flight of steps, through dark passages, and into yards, no matter who or what may be present, chattering the while as if talking to himself, or trying to make me understand what he thought about it all.