Huddersfield Chronicle (17/Aug/1895) - Sol, the Lockwood Goose
SOL, THE LOCKWOOD GOOSE.
(From Our Correspondent "Cid.")
Talk of human love and affection, why, bless you, they will not for a moment compare with that of the feathered tribes, while many men and women are too cruelly heartless to be mentioned in the same street or breath as Sol and Sarah. Sol is every inch a gentleman, and there is not a day passes without someone wanting to know “Hawst dog, lad?” or “Haw is’t t’owd friend?” while the womenkind will ask me if “the poor creature is living yet.” In the latter part of 1892 I met a man who had first read of Sol in the newspaper in Australia, and he was heartily pleased to see him in the flesh, or rather in the feather, I can assure you! When I purchased Sol and Sarah they settled down in their new home without the slightest trouble, and seemed quite happy. Never did two human beings more fully understand each other, or strive to make each other so comfortable and happy, as did Sol and his wife. Sarah manifested perfect affection and patience, and apparently approved of all her husband did. She left the ordering of affairs to him, and uncomplainingly carried out all his wishes with ready and dutiful honour. I wish I could say the same of many wives in petticoats. Still, these two creatures were far from being of the same temperament, indeed, they were as unlike as cheese and chalk. She was quiet, submissive, easeful, and seldom “put out.” He was, and is still, excitable, always on his guard, and fearlessly ready to run at an offender on the slightest provocation. She would lie in bed till noon, like other easy-going women, if anyone would take her her food; while he would be up by half-past five in the morning, indeed, it is to me a wonder when and how he gets his sleep, as I have crept to his pen, without boots, as quietly as I possibly could at all hours of the night, but he was ever on the alert, and never have I caught him napping. Probably he got this habit of early wakefulness from his former owner, who called the family up at 5-30 each work-day morning. However that may be, Sol soon began to call out at that time as faithfully as an alarum. He would give one good cackle and then be quiet for a time, but if no one stirred he would call out louder than before until he had roused the household. When he was let out of his pen he would first give a loud shout, as he lifted his head and his voice to heaven, and the next thing would, if there were any water near, have a cold bath. You see, Sol not only acted like a Christian does, or should do, but he practised the virtue of cleanliness at the same time, and also set his man-fellow-creatures the best of examples. With Sarah, however, the first thing would be something to eat, in fact, as I have already told you, she was so indolent as to require to be fed in bed. Not so, Sol. Time after time, when it has poured with rain, he would stand in his pond, vigorously and delightfully enjoying his bath; after which he would mount some stone or mound in the garden, face the wind and all kinds of weather for hours, and if his joyous shoutings could have been fully interpreted no doubt they would have been like the words of William Tell:— “Blow on! blow on! This is the land of liberty!” or, may-be, something like the following from a local poet, who, if the Poet Laureateship is ever filled again, intends to quality for the honour:—
- I’d sooner be a gander and cackle in my home,
- And with my Laycock wander, as on his rounds we roam,
- Than be a pampered menial, fed but to gratify,
- My lord, my navvy, or their wives, in a fat gourmand’s pie.
The first important thing that Sol did outside his daily avocations, after he became my property, was to help me to record my vote at the municipal election of 1891. It is quite possible that many donkeys, and probably many geese, had been in a polling booth before, but I believe Sol was the first feathered goose that ever entered one, always bearing in mind the possibility of some capacious alderman having dined, or broken his fast before he went to his presiding duties. Yes, Sol went with me to vote. On that occasion I said, “Come Sol, let’s go and vote,” and he must have known that there was something new in store for him, for he nodded his head and quacked quite cheerfully in reply, and at once followed me, but soon took the lead as we marched off. It was clear he anticipated something out of the ordinary line, for he kept well in front of me, so much so at times that I had to trot to keep pace with him. When we got to the Lockwood Town Hall, Sol mounted the steps first, and then waited at the door until I overtook him. He then boldly entered the room, heedless of the policemen on guard or the wiseacres that were startled at his appearance. The presiding Alderman (Mr. Reuben Hirst), in great astonishment, exclaimed, on seeing Sol, “What next?” Sol, however, took little or no more notice of the Alderman than he did of the police, but he did searchingly eye the poll clerks from one end of the table to the other. What he thought of them I cannot say, but as I believe he is a thought-reader, it is just possible that he would read theirs, especially those with reference to their drawing two good days’ wages for one day’s work, their ordinary salary, and the liberal screw they would get out of the rates. Of course, he would at once see and hear that the presiding officer was a shrewd, plainly-spoken, straight and square, and an impulsive gentleman, and, may-be, would conclude that the golden pieces he would receive for sitting and doing nothing for 12 hours would not make him much richer, while scores of poor and capable men would have felt rich, indeed, if they could have pocketted “the presiding officer’s charge.” One of the clerks threw Sol a crust of bread, intimating, as he did so, that he hoped it would not be taken as a bribe, just as if Sol was not, like Caesar’s wife, above suspicion. Sol ate the bread without for a moment considering whether it was a saint or a sinner that had thrown it to him, and because it was in his true and natural province to pick it from the ground. When he had appropriated the food he eyed the young man somewhat knowingly, and gave him another opportunity of showing that, if a clerk had more than enough, there were always some of God’s creatures that had less than enough. Having secured my voting paper — Sol was not on the register, and could not therefore vote, although I have no doubt he would have been better qualified to exercise that privilege, if he had had a vote, than many men I know — we went behind the screen to fill it up. Sol said nothing, but saw everything, clearly comprehending that secrecy was the word and the ballot the thing to be observed on that occasion. As he was the first in, he likewise took care to be the first out of that silent chamber of mischief, where it takes towards a dozen men to see that a few hundred others do not personate one another, overreach, callifuddle, and bamboozle their supposed opponents; make the high angels weep to see such heartless mistrust, hatred, and malice, and the fiends dance and wag their tails, hug each other, and gloat at the sight of mankind and womankind fighting among themselves as to whether the bigger or lesser fool shall sit on them, help themselves out of the ratepayers’ pockets, eat and swill at the poor man’s expense, and strut through the world, mostly on its glaring stage, with the word Councillor before their names, or C.C., M.P., or other fast-becoming worthless letters after them. Sol may not have thought all this, but he is a wise wag, and there is no telling what he thought. This is, however, certain, he was glad to get away from the polling booth, for no sooner did he reach the landing than he shouted at the top of his voice, then muttered all the way down the steps, shook the dust from his feet at the bottom, and marched down Swan Lane with an air that either betokened that he had done something of importance, or that he was annoyed at the bare suggestion of bribery having been made to him, or possibly he may have been indignant that so much money and time should be wasted with so little to show for them. When we got to the “Red Lion,” I asked him to call and have a drink in honour of the occasion. He looked steadily at me for a moment, then made a deep gutteral noise, which plainly indicated “No!” and marched on home. Naturally a teetotaler, he had no desire to either make a fool of himself or see others do so on an election day. My faithful companion was now becoming very famous, not notorious, so one day I took him to Huddersfield in order to let him see how big and astonishing the world is. We called at a butcher’s shop at the top of Chapel Hill, where I had rather a long chat. Sol, however, became impatient. He wanted to be seeing the sights, so he went to the door and called loudly for me to follow, nor would he be quiet till I did so. It was Tuesday, market day, and there was soon a crowd of prying, gaping, busibodies, with nothing else to do, or who preferred to do nothing else, around him, impeding his progress, shooting at him, and idiotically conducting themselves. This annoyed him a great deal, so seeing that Princess Street was quiet he gladly turned down there in order to escape the silly throng. Some said the goose was lost, and that I was taking it to the Police Station, other cruelly suggested that the “boot was on the other leg,” and that Sol was taking me there, while one impudent Fat Pouch said I was hard up, and was taking him to John Henry Wood’s to sell him. When Sol heard this latter innuendo he ragingly gabbled and made a liar of Fat Pouch by turning on Page Street, away from both the Police Station and John Henry Wood’s. The day was very hot, and the streets both dirty and dusty, so Sol seemed to want to get back home, and that was the only time I have seen him thoroughly tired. Yes, people would come from far and near to see him and myself go on our morning milk round, all marvelling at the manner in which he would lead to my customers’ doors, unceremoneously walk in and call out if no one was about, and roaring with laughter at the noise he made when I stayed longer than usual, applauding him when he impatiently stamped his foot on the ground to indicate that he was tired of waiting of me and that I ought not to stay “calling and gossiping,” but get my work done. When I established Sol in his new home a favourite cat was already installed there, and it was soon seen that the two could not hit it, and that so long as they were together theirs would be “a cat and dog life.” Pussy from the first looked upon Sol as an intruder, while he rushed at her on every opportunity, and, if possible, drove her off the hearth and out of the house. He would then sit on the rug and there remain till further orders, having to be turned out himself at bedtime. In order to pay Sol off for his cruel impudence the cat would get upon the garden wall, which is so high that he can only reach the top with, his beak. Pussy would then, from her coign of vantage, scratch his bill, to her glee but to his chagrin. On one occasion he was too quick for her. He caught her paw and pulled her off the wall, at which she screamed ten thousand murders. When he released her she limped on three legs for the rest of the day, and kept at a respectable distance from his gandership. Being young, and consequently very playful, she, however, could not resist the impulse of having another go with Sol, so a few days afterwards he gave her another lesson. She would sit upon the wall for hours watching the geese, and would doubtless have been friendly if Sol would. Sol would, however, have no rival for my affection. Pussy thought she would try him again. So after watching him and Sarah for a while one day, she got off the wall and approached them. Sol soon saw her, and made for her at once, caught her between the wall and a large bowl of water, seized her back, and before anyone could say “Jack Robinson” plunged her overhead into the water. Pussy shrieked and scratched and spat and went on awfully, and did indeed present a bedraggled appearance when she escaped, being more like a drowned rat than anything else. But Sol! you should have seen him. He fairly gabbled and cackled for joy, and, with head erect, strutted about, approached me, and tried his very best to make me understand that he had done a clever thing, and had completely settled his rival. I have told you how acute his hearing is. The following will illustrate it. One night, between 11 and 12 o’clock, he began to call out very loudly. Thinking he was hurt or fast, or something was wrong with him, I at once went to see. As soon as I opened my door Sol rushed past me into the house, hissing as he did so. It was clear that something bothered him, for, after he had walked round the house and not being satisfied, he searched a little back room. Finding nothing he at last settled on the rug, and I had to take him to his proper quarters. He very soon made a louder noise than before, so I went to him, looked round the yard, and failing to find anything I did all I could to pacify him, but to no purpose. Being much puzzled I at last procured a light, and going to the closet found a man asleep there. After much trouble I got the man out, and put him on his way to Holmfirth. Sol was then quiet and went to sleep, if he ever does sleep. He is as good as any house dog, I can assure you. Before he had a family he used to call out very loudly when the first tram passed in the morning and the last went by at night. In fact, he made so much noise that I was often afraid of the neighbours complaining, and many times I have held his beak, but he would scream the longer and louder when he got loose.