A goose is a female; a gander is a male. “The collective noun for a group of geese on the ground is a gaggle; when in flight they are called a skein, a team, or a wedge; when flying close together, they are called a plump,” according to www.vocabulary.com. But when there are two of them, I call them “a couple.”
Lenny and Leonora, the white gander and goose, joined our farm family five years ago. Leonora laid five eggs that hatched in the spring. Together they raised the goslings. While Leonora taught the babies how to feed, Lenny protected them. When people, dogs, cattle or anyone else approached his brood, he would run at them honking with wings flapping and outstretched neck. The intruder would run. Lenny was a conscientious father.
The family would shuffle around the barnyard, babies following their parents in a straight line. This gaggle would wander into the cow pasture hunting grubs and worms. During chores, I'd stop to watch them bathe, wings flapping, in a puddle of water. They were enchanting and delightful as they waddled around the farm, and under Lenny's supervision, they all stayed safe.
After the babies were grown and had moved on, Leonora died. Her body lay in the barnyard for a day, and Lenny stood over it honking to her and lifting her lifeless head with his beak. Geese mate for life and Lenny was heartbroken. But a few months later, he found new love – a Peking duck.
Peking ducks are solid white and look like a little goose, which is maybe why Lenny doted on this particular duck. Always at her side, he ignored the other five ducks and focused on his new paramour. They would flap down the ravine behind the house to splash in the water hole at the bottom. He stayed with her day and night. He loved his duck and did his best to protect her and her sister ducks from predators. Unfortunately, coyotes or maybe a fox killed two of the ducks, so we re-homed the surviving ducks to a safer farm with stronger fences.
Lenny was alone again. The chickens ignored him, the cattle didn't care about him, the goats felt he was unworthy of their attention. Lenny needed a friend.
That's when I noticed him hanging out with my four horses. Lenny slept in the horse hay, drank from the horse trough, waddled around the horses' paddock and ate spilled grain. Chester, a chestnut-colored pony, even allows him to eat from his feed pan. Each morning Lenny honks a happy greeting to me when I come to feed him and his new companions.
Friendship might mean something different to ganders and horses than it does to us. While the gander and the horses can never form a flying “wedge,” they are social creatures, and the farm has been a little brighter since Lenny found his clique.