The little goose that could

By Stephanie Foster / sfoster@cnc.com
Friday, April 23, 2004

When Marcia met Bandy, it was love at first sight. Six years and one leg later, he still returns to her...
It's a simple love story. Sort of "An Affair to Remember" but instead of a limping Debra Kerr it stars a one-legged goose named Bandy and the hero is played by Marcia Martin of Brewster instead of Cary Grant.

Marcia met Bandy six years ago, when she and her husband, Jesse, moved to a house on Griffith's Pond. The nature lovers installed a large birdfeeder by their deck. Soon the word got out that there was a new diner in town and geese, fox, ducks, raccoons and coyotes appeared magically at their door along with the smaller birds and squirrels. The Martins took it down when they found clumps of feathers and fur on the lawn, signs that predators were eating more than cracked corn.

Meanwhile, Marcia, an artist and an ordained minister, had become fond of a particular goose. "He wanted to be friends. He walked up on the deck and looked in the window," she says.

She named him Bandy for the I.D. band on his leg. When she reported his number to the Maryland Bird Band Service, she learned he had been banded in Brewster in 1995 when he was a gosling.

While most of the geese went elsewhere, Bandy stayed with a few of his friends. They arrived every February, stayed for the molting season and then left in late July when their flight feathers grew in. Marcia discovered they had been banded at the same time and were friends for life. She gave them all names. There was Father Goose, Mother Goose, the Peepers, Osama and Groucho.

One year, Bandy returned with a girlfriend who had a limp. Marcia named her Bindy. Life was good. Then a year ago February, the gang arrived without Bandy. Marcia fretted. But it turned out Bandy was there. He just looked different. He was missing a foot.

"At first, I thought it was Bindy because of her limp. I got my binoculars so I could read the number. It was 84876338. I was in tears. My husband tried to calm me. He said, 'It's just a goose.' But I said, 'He's my goose.'"

Marcia called the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife and was advised to let Bandy be. To capture him would cause him more trauma. And he'd probably be euthanized.

But being one-legged wasn't enough punishment in life for Bandy. He suffered another blow. Bindy left him for another goose. "He was alone," says Marcia. "I would sit with him and feed him specially. We bonded."

She did some research and learned there were two groups of geese on the Cape. Migrating and year-rounders. "The year-rounders are the offspring of live decoys. Geese that were raised in captivity. They were tethered with cuffs around their ankles on a leader with a lead weight. It led to injury and crippling. It was finally outlawed in 1935 and they were set free. There have now been seven decades of geese on the Cape who don't fly south because their parents only knew captivity. It wasn't because they were being fed by people."

Last summer, Bandy became lethargic and didn't respond to Marcia's call. Finally, he stopped eating. "I thought maybe he was depressed because Father Goose had a clutch of goslings and was acting aggressive."

One day, she distracted Father Goose with some corn and then kayaked over to a point where Bandy hung out. She found him sitting in a pool of blood. "I was beside myself. I thought an animal had gotten him. He was trying to swim with his stump, but he couldn't."

The Martins brought him to a vet who discovered that monofiliment fishing line wrapped around his good leg had broken through the skin and cut off his circulation. When Bandy recovered, they brought him home. "He was so happy to see Griffith's Pond," says Marcia with a huge smile. "He swam out really fast and honked and honked. He defined the word 'happy.'"

But loving a goose can be complicated. Eight days later, Bandy was gone. It was his normal departure time, but with his recent injury Marcia was afraid of predators.

She confesses, "I wanted to keep him. But I also wanted him to be part of his own group. Groucho is his friend; they fly and land together. I didn't want the other geese to take off and leave him here."

She began to suspect that Bandy might be at a nearby golf course. One day, she went to Ocean Edge and found 30 geese at Blueberry Pond. "I recognized Bindy, Osama, Father Goose, the Peepers. They ran up to me. But no Bandy. I blew the goose call. No goose. I was feeling so sad. I stood looking, when all of a sudden a great big bird came flying toward me at eye level. He landed practically at my feet. I sat down and petted him and fed him. It was a happy reunion after not seeing him for two months."

Once Marcia knew Bandy was at Ocean Edge, she visited him. "One day, he was waiting at the entrance where I walk in. Another time I waved to him and he flew to meet me. He was like a pet. After four visits to the golf course, I opened the shade one day and he was in the back yard. He had brought 15 geese with him. Birds I didn't recognize. He rallied them to come."

When Bandy left Ocean Edge, Marcia checked other golf courses and ponds. "On Jan. 6, I saw 50 geese in Sol's Pond and blew my goose call. Nothing. But the next day, Bandy was in my yard. He feels he has to come." The goose stayed for two days and visited again on Jan. 12.

That was the last time Marcia saw him. February arrived with the usual gaggle but no Bandy. Marcia searched for him in the cold, lugging bags of corn from frozen waterway to frozen waterway. Waterfowl huddled together in patches of open water. But no Bandy. It was one of the worst winters in years.

One day, when none of the geese at Seymour Pond came to her, she cried. Then she found a bird wing and thought it was Bandy's. "We were on our way to the movies and I sat in the theater and wept over my goose. I was losing hope. The other geese had come back. With his handicap and the severe winter, it was possible that he just hadn't survived."

Then on March 13, while Marcia was watching the geese on the pond, she saw one push himself onto the shore with his stump. Bandy was back. The couple now post pictures of Bandy on his official website and Marcia is writing and illustrating a book about him. "There's a spiritual lesson there," she says. "Bandy's had difficulties and he's come through them. His courage has helped me. God cares for a little wildling and helps him. My hope is to encourage people who might be lonely, sick or depressed, that they might find the friend who helped Bandy."

For more information about Bandy check out his website at... www.bandys.net

Marcia Martin's book, "Bandy" will be in bookstores by Christmas.

To return to Bandy's Website Click Here