Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

October 5, 1895. Forest and Stream 45(14): 295.

Platte River Geese.

A cold piercing wind was sweeping across the level expanses of prairie straight from that suburb of Siberia, Dakota, and it found us without a bit of trouble when we alighted on the platform of a little railroad station in western Nebraska, within easy reach of that parody on rivers, the Platte.

We had heard of geese—acres of them—that were only waiting to gracefully do a parachute drop before any shotgun that came into the country, and that was the only excuse we had to offer for being in evidence in that part of the country at that time of the year.

The train soon left, and we got directions from the station agent as to locality of the town about this way: "See that trail? Well, you follow that over there a ways 'n' you'll soon see a light; then head for that 'n' you'll get there." Shouldering our guns, grips, and extras, we "followed the trail," and in the course of time found the "town," which consisted of a store, post-office, hotel, real estate office and saloon, all in one building, part sod and part frame. This much of the city we discovered by steering straight for the light of a solitary candle, which was evidently set in the window for that very purpose.

When the sun rose in the morning we discovered a livery stable and a hitching rack for cayuses (made of slim cottonwood poles) and a barbed wire fence. We were told that there was also a dug-out, but we didn't see it.

After we got behind the candle we found that there were several people there, in fact, about the whole population of the city was there, and by proceeding according to rules that we had found by previous trips to be parliamentary in like situations, we contrived to get a decidedly substantial supper.

After supper a judicious distribution of cigars started the conversation on geese, and after those honest broncho busters got started I can say candidly that Munchausen and all the rest of his crowd were simply smothered clear out of sight. I never saw men, not even fishermen excepted, who could lie so candidly and with so much apparent truthfulness as did these goose hunters who entertained us that night (I found out they prevaricated afterward). They were the most truthful liars I ever heard because I think they actually believed what they said themselves. The geese were there, or rather right over on the river, by the thousands and tens of thousands; no doubt about that in the least; for Jim So-and-so had been over last week and killed 160 acres or so of them and that hadn't made even a hole in the flock. Similar stories were common property in the town, but the next man that tells me he has killed a goose on the Platte River has got to produce the goose before I'll listen to his story.

By bedtime a common blizzard, of healthy proportions for an infant, was playing hide and seek with the hitching rack and the stovepipe, and the town agreed that would have a puddin' on the river, as the storm would drive the geese to the stream, sure.

The town was wrong again.

We turned in and "spooned it" to keep warm and took turns at getting up during the night and gently whisking the snow off the bed when it got too heavy for comfort, and managed to live through it too.

In the morning the sun was shining in that radiant, make-believe August way that it always does after a real good snowstorm out there, and the thermometer was down so low that we thought it was running a bluff on us. That's where our judgment was weak.

After breakfast we hunted up the hostler of the livery stable and got a team to take us to the river, a few miles away. On the way over we saw several million geese flying blithely southward and heard several million more that were so high we couldn't locate them, but they were there all right.

After due deliberation we reached the river and saw several thousand acres more geese, all in the middle of the river and seemingly content with the situation.

We hired a farmer to feed and keep us for a week and sent the team back with instructions to call for us at the end of that time. Oh, how we regretted it afterward.

We hunted those geese up stream and down, across country and back, ran hurdle races with them across irrigation ditches, and shot at them at long range for four days of that week and then played cards and smoked ourselves out of tobacco.

Those geese have all the advantages in the world and they simply settle in the middle of the river out of cannon range. When they get hungry, they fly up or down the river, always in the middle, and rise at an easy grade until they put about a couple of miles of nice cool atmosphere under them, then they gracefully carom South and eat their breakfast down in Kansas. In the morning there are some fresh geese from Dakota to shoot at if you want to, but you won't want to very long.

They smile at your decoys and laugh right out loud if you try to sneak up on them. We bluffed them until the sixth day and then we chartered our landlord's buckboard and drove to Plum Creek and offered all kinds of money for a few dozen real dead geese. We couldn't get them; then we wanted just one goose that was dead enough to be caressed, but we couldn't buy one. Then we heard of a man who owned a tame one with a broken wing and thought it we could buy that and properly lariat it, maybe we would stand a show to kill a Platte River goose yet. It wasn't for sale.

When our team came, we got the driver to stay until we had just time to get over and catch the train, which, happily for us, left after dark, and made our escape to Lincoln without having to answer any unnecessary questions about geese, a subject we were not familiar enough with to talk intelligently about anyhow. At Lincoln we bought a few geese and sent them to some of our friends at home and after a few days' quail shooting we wended our way hither.

Some people who knew us asked us, "Where are the rest of your geese?" These we referred to those who had received our trophies (from Lincoln) and we answered, kind of off hand like, that "We left them up among the farmers along the river," and that was strictly true.

El Comancho.