Mrs Celie Goose was thinking hard.
It was nowhere near Christmas – in fact it was summertime. Her goslings had grown and they were all preparing for their migration with lots of wingercising. So, all would seem to be well in the Goosey world, but it wasn't.
Her friend “Red” Rhode was sick with fear for her little chicks, and so was another friend, Puck Duck, who was, or had been until they disappeared, raising his ducklings by himself since their mum, Trixie had abandoned them for Jake Drake.
The ducklings had not been seen for more than a month, and it was feared that they would never be seen again. Red was being very overprotective now towards her chicks, and they were beginning to resent her smothering. Let alone they were too big by now for her to trap and hide under her wings as she had been doing since they hatched. And now, one of hers had disappeared too.
So really the bird world was a pretty sad one at that moment.
The bunnies weren't sad, however. They peeped out from behind the bushes and trees and wondered about the birds. And the squirrels were a carefree bunch, dashing around up and down trees and throwing acorns at anyone they could.
The weather was glorious and the ducks should have been swimming gaily around on the farm pond, but of course they weren't.
Jake Drake and Trixie Duck were nowhere to be seen since their affair had been discovered. They had probably gone over the pond and far away. Maybe upstream, who knew.
And over all this world of gentle creatures, the sly fox watched. He knew where the missing birds were, since it was he who had taken them into his foxhole, where he was fattening them up until they would make a good meal for his foxy family.
The farmer was unaware of all the drama. Since the cows, sheep, pigs and horses were fine, it was all good as far as he was concerned. He hadn't realised about the one missing chick since it was so difficult to keep count until they were older.
Shandy the sheepdog knew the fox had been around, and he wasn't happy. But although he was great at herding sheep, there was no way he could alert the farmer to the birds' dilemma, and no way either that he could help the birds himself.
But all that was about to change.
Celie turned herself around in the haybarn and made a decision. She knew what to do. Or, at least, really, she had no idea, but she wanted to do something rather than nothing, so she went walking around the farm, leaving her goslings in the charge of Puck Duck, with strict instructions to them all to stay safely in the haybarn until she returned.
As she walked around the farm, she thought some more, and nearly bumped into a tree when an acorn hit her on the head, stopping her in her tracks and preventing the accident.
Silly squirrels, thought Celie crossly, such a nuisance. Must do something about those one day too. But in the meantime.... think think think... there must be an answer somewhere... and if I walk far enough I will find it for sure. So she kept on walking.
“Boo” said a young rabbit, in an almost whisper, as he peeped out from under a bush. He giggled as Celie nearly dropped all her feathers in fright.
Recovering from her fright, she preened herself neat again and looked at the rabbit. “Hello youngun.” she addressed it. “You must be very brave” she continued “to say Boo to a goose.”
“I am!” announced the rabbit, proudly. “I am the bravest rabbit in all the world and my name is Pokie Hondas, and I've got a new feather now!” she finished, picking up the one feather that Celie had lost in her fright, and sticking it in the long tuft of fur between her ears, where a lone crow feather already was.
“Well I have just the adventure for a brave young rabbit to come on with me.” invited Celie. And without a thought, Pokie Hondas began to accompany Celie on her walk. “This isn't very exciting.” commented the rabbit.
“It will be” answered Celie, “when I have worked it out. You see, we have to rescue some baby birds – if they haven't all been killed!” she added dramatically, and feeling a thrill through her body as she realised the potential danger they could both be in.
“Are those the birds that the fox took?” asked Pokie. “Did he?” was Celie's quick response. “Well, yes then, I suppose they would be.”
Behind them, they heard a voice crying out “Lena! Lena! Where do you think you are going with that silly goose?” A large doe rabbit rushed up and snatched Lena away from Celie. “But mum.... “ protested Lena “she's not silly, she's Celie, and we're going to rescue the baby birds together.”
“Oh no you're not young lady.” stated the doe, crossly, and picked up Lena with her teeth on the scruff of her neck and lolloped away.
Oh dear, thought Celie. Now I'll have to do this alone, after all, and that was such a brave little rabbit. But she was determined to help her friends, so she thought up a plan.
She wandered along, looking for all the world like a silly goose out for a walk. But Celie wasn't as silly as she looked. She kept an eye out for the sly fox and soon she was able to follow some muddy foxy footprints from the pondside and knew she was on the way to his den. Quite some distance from the pond, she saw the footprints led to a dark hole near the base of a tree in the meadow where the horses were.
She didn't want to go any nearer the foxhole until she was quite clear what she would do next, and she decided to talk with the horses in the meadow. The horses had some trouble understanding Goose, but they were very intelligent and soon picked up enough of what she was saying to be able to offer some help. They talked together and Celie flew off, saying thank you to the horses.
She flew to where she had first encountered Lena. “Mrs Rabbit” she called “I'm sorry I worried you. It was thoughtless of me. But if you would be so kind, all the rabbits could help with this plan that the horses have devised with me.” She explained the plan to Mrs. Rabbit, who could see that there was no danger to the rabbits in helping out the birds this way. Soon after that, lines of rabbits were going between the barn and the meadow, backwards and forwards underneath the hedgerows.
Soon, the barn was ready and the next part of the plan, which was the most dangerous part, was about to take place. Celie trembled. It was up to her now.
She flew near to the fox den and called. “Mr Fox! Mr Fox!” The fox looked out and saw Celie. “Please Mr. Fox” said Celie. “We know that you have the baby birds in there, but would you consider taking me in exchange for them. You know I am already large and plump so you wouldn't need to wait for your dinner, and you wouldn't have to find food for those babies either, or stop them from escaping.”
“That sounds good.” agreed the fox, who was hungrily eyeing Celie. “Let's talk details.”
He was creeping towards her as he talked, but Celie kept a safe distance, knowing that he would pounce if he got the chance. So they were halfway back to the barn by the time they had agreed for the fox to bring the babies back there safely, where Celie would wait in the open for him, ready to be killed in exchange.
The fox went back to fetch the babies, and Celie flew into the barn to tell everyone that the plan was working.
She went out into the open to await her fate.
Along came the fox, a sackful of wriggling baby birds dangling from his jaws. He came to Celie, who still kept her distance, commanding him “Put the sack down, with the mouth open so the babies can run home.” As the fox put down the sack, Celie honked.
In the barn, this was the signal that the others had been waiting for. They pulled on the rope they had made from twisted horsehair and it swung a horseshoe against a milking pail, making it ring like a loud bell. The farmer dashed out of the farmhouse, grabbing his shotgun on his way out of the door. Seeing the fox as he left the doorway, he quickly aimed and fired, killing the fox straight away, so that Celie was dropped from his slavering jaws.
“That cooked his goose” remarked the farmer to his wife. But Celie didn't like that phrase, although she was glad to have saved the baby birds. Only a week later, she flew away with her own children to safety, at least until after Christmas.