Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

Sandy Griswold. August 21, 1898. [Goose Hunt on the Legendary Platte.] Omaha Sunday World-Herald 33(325): 24.

Forest, Field and Stream.

The presence of Ed. C. Snyder, the Bee's Washington correspondent, and formerly that paper's dramatic editor, in the city reminds me of a goose hunt I enjoyed with him six years ago out on the legendary Platte.

There were four of us, Mr. Snyder, Carl Kauffman, formerly with the Peycke Bros., Will S. Coburn, now a prominent Portland, Ore., railroad man, and your humble servant.

We went out to Rogers, famous in the old days as a rendezvous for Anser Canadensis, and while we spent a couple of days there and about $7.60 apiece, we "didn't get no goose." They were there, but we didn't get them.

The first evening out we took Henry Whitner's boat-Whitner years ago was rated as the greatest goose killer on the Platte and he lived at Rogers. Today he presides over one of Omaha's motor cars-and started down the river toward the bards near the island, where a flock of Canadas had been seen once upon a time preening themselves for a long flight to the gulf. The waters of the murmuring Platte lay in a glory of light from the declining sun, and it was supposed to be a propitious time for goosing, and each individual heart beat feverishly against a corduroy vest.

"Now just show me a goose, or even a piece of one not bigger than the old man's gall, and if I don't-hello! what's that?-what kind of birds are those?" and the dramatic critic fell back in his seat as if he had been struck with a sandbag.

"Geese!" exclaimed Whitner, seizing his Lefever, as a long, harrow shaped flock of these noble birds, sounding their far-reaching yet musical honk! ah-honk! at every flap of wing.

"Geese!" echoed Snyder; "geese!" shouted Coburn; "geese!" repeated Kauffman, nearly going overboard in his eagerness to get his gun from under the seat.

"Geese!" again cried Snyder. "Well, isn't this clever? What would Edwin Booth give to be here! Hurrah! Whitner-pull! pull! Geese don't loaf very long in one place when I'm around. Now, where are they? Show me to them, and if I don't plug-"

"Sit down. Mr. Snyder," quietly rejoined the old duck shot; "you wouldn't get a shot at a goose in a life time if that's the way you go at it."

The geese were cleaving the air southward, a mile away.

They had caught sight of Snyder.

We rowed around an hour or more without getting a shot, and then, in the deepening dusk we started to pull back to the town.

We were shortly abreast the blunt headland running out this side of the island, when Snyder again wildly cried out:

"By the shades of Ithalia and the sounds of Olympus! see those ducks-a whole flock of them! Pull, Whitner, pull and give me a shot! Let me get any sort of a chance, and if I don't cook their goose you can set me down as the rankest kind of a barn-stormer! Ducks, roast ducks! Immense! Pull, Henry, pull!" and Snyder nervously handled his cannon.

"If you don't keep still you'll get no shot," warned the old hunter.

"Oh, no, I won't get a shot," ironically returned the critic, raising his gun and aiming ahead. "Oh, no, I won't-well, if they ain't off!"

And off they were, the cluster arising from the water, and scudding off over the surface, half flying, half swimming, just as Snyder discovered that he had no shells in his gun.

They soon halted again, however, around the first bend, and Whitner observed:

"Now just get out, Mr. Snyder, and crawl up those willows and hand it to them!"

We landed, and Snyder hurried off after his ducks. We heard a rustling in the bushes, then crack! bang! went his gun and the critic leaped into view yelling like a lunatic:

"What'd I tell you! Four of 'em at one fell swoop, or two fell swoops, rather, and you bet if I'd a revolver I'd get the whole flock!"

We pulled around a little furzy point, and there, sure enough, floating close to the shore, were four dark breasted, ashen winged, green headed ducks. We gathered them in, and with the exultant critic again started for home.

"That wasn't a very good shot either, was it?" cried Snyder. "I say, Sandy, where is that bottle? We'll all take a drink on that shot of mine-eh, Whitner? Here, drink, old boy. Good shot, eh? Fine. Take some, Carl. Billy, help yourself. Pretty good starter, eh, fellows? Oh, no, I can't shoot ducks. I can't shoot a little bit."

It was long after dark that evening, and our jocund crew was gathered about the supper table at McLaughlin's, when there came a knock at the door.

Good Mrs. McLaughlin threw the portal open, and there stood big Farmer Hogan, with a big club in his hands, and a wrathy look o'er spreading his classic features.

"I want $2 out of those young fellers in there, or I'll break a few of their backs! I'll teach them to kill my tame ducks!"

"I want to see you, sir, a moment privately," promptly spoke up Snyder, and rising he passed out the door, pulling it to after him.

A moment later he stuck his head in and said: "Can any of you boys break a $5 bill?"

The bill was fractured and a few moments later he was back among us. He said it was all a mistake, that the farmer really did think that he, Snyder, had killed his tame ducks, but he was soon convinced to the contrary, and pronounced them the wildest kind of mallards. An inquiry as to what he wanted the fiver broken for, called forth a torrent of abuse and it was drop the matter or fight, and the rest of us chose the former.