The little preschool-age girl, living on the farm with her siblings and parents, lived in constant fear of going outside to play. The reason for her terror? Their male goose (called a gander for those who are not up to snuff on geese) thought it great fun to chase the child whenever she dared to step outside. The louder she screamed and ran away, the more he delighted in the chase, wings flapping and honking stridently with every step.
Older siblings had attempted to encourage her, but nothing worked. She learned to ‘prefer’ to play with her dolls in the house, while all the other kids rode bicycles, walked on stilts, and played tag. Finally, one evening her dad, who was usually in the fields till dark and therefore never heard the loud racket of honking gander and screaming child, was told about the problem. So, the next morning he asked her to go outside to do a small chore for him. When she refused and nervously admitted her fear, he did like everyone else before him…he attempted to convince her that the goose was just a bully having fun. Needless to say, the girl didn’t buy into his explanation.
So he proceeded to do something about it.
He took a large butcher knife out of the kitchen drawer and placed it in her tiny hand. He then told her to “Go outside and when that goose starts chasing you, just chop off his head.” I can only imagine the horrified reaction from the mom, who nevertheless never said a word of protest.
And yes, I can hear the gasps of horror from parents who are reading this. Your reaction is like many of us, “He put a huge sharp knife in a toddler’s hand and told her to CHASE a goose with it??!! That’s crazy, didn’t he realize the danger to that little girl?” Probably. But he also had seen in her eyes the actual terror she was living under. And he evidently decided that it was worth the risk, to rid her of the fear that kept her inside day after day after day.
As the now-all-grownup-version of that baby girl, I still remember what happened that fateful day. Grasping that weapon of power in my little hand, I fearfully opened the kitchen door and moved cautiously onto the porch. Immediately, just like he did every time before, the gander knew it was Play Time! He came flapping as quickly as possible, honking his threats with every step.
I was still terribly frightened, but I had to obey my dad. I held that enormous knife in front of me and tentatively took a step toward the onslaught. Of course, we all know what happened next. The bully sensed the change in his favorite game and stopped, then turned to high-tail it away to safer ground behind the lilac bush.
Remember folks, face that threat head-on, ‘cuz usually, it can’t be as bad as living in fear.
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