Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

April 13, 1890. Omaha Sunday World-Herald 25(194): 20. Three illustrations included.

On a Wild Goose Chase.

How Some Omaha Sports Spent Easter Sunday Shooting on a Sandbar.

Mike Marley's Hospitality—At the Camp—In the Pits—At Dinner—Story of a Great Day.

"Marley is dead, dead as a door nail." Thus wrote Charles Dickens, the English novelist. He certainly referred to Mr. Marley of England, for Mr. Marley, formerly of Ireland, at present residing on his farm in Harrison county, near River Sioux station, in the state of Iowa, lives. He not only lives himself, but is extensively conducive to the enjoyment of this life, as regards anyone fortunate enough to come in contact with him and enjoy the hospitality so heartily and generously extended to friend or stranger by him. This is the way, and a record of the following events will explain how Mr. Marley was discovered by an emissary of the World-Herald:

"Come up and stay a day or two with [missing] finest place in the world for geese." [missing] invitation was given to the staff [missing] of the World-Herald on Friday [missing] by H. N. McGrew, alias I. X. Peck, alias Dead Shot Mac, et cetera ad libitum.

"I hope this is not intended for one of your keen satires, Mr. McGrew. I am doing right well here," was the reply.

"You misunderstand me, dear boy. I did not intend the invitation as a personal attack. It was not a mere pleasantry. No. I am in earnest, sure. Me and Judge Blair and Dave Stubbs intend to go to River Sioux, Ia., this week for a goose hunt. We will camp on the banks of the Sioux about seven miles north of the town and shall remain about a week. We are fixed for it too. Got everything we could think of that is desirable to make camp life pleasant, even luxurious. Eh? It's in Iowa. Oh, yes I know. Now promise you'll come up spend Easter with us." After thinking a [missing] thoughts, the artist promised to go. Equipped with a camera and ten dry [missing] he started for River Sioux station. He had been informed by McGrew that Dave Stubbs might be on that train and to look out for him, as a wagon would be at the depot to meet them and transport them some six miles across country to Mr. Marley's farm house, where Mac had arranged they were to stay all night. Stubbs and the artist alighted on opposite sides of the train when it stopped at their destination.

goose hunt camp and folk
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Stubbs had not a clean shave and his trousers were stuck in his boots; he had no necktie on—in fact, there was no particular reason why he should seek the companionship of a man who wore an anxious, where-are-they expression, a photographic outfit and a patent leather shine on his shoes. A man was at the depot to meet the artist and the cashier. [missing] found the capitalist but he avoided the man with the camera. After while the two congregated in the same conveyance and explanations followed and they departed for Marley's, six miles away and [missing] mud six feet deep. It took three detours and a half to get there. It was after midnight as they opened to the gate [missing] Marley's farm yard. The family had [missing] and the only reception they got was an ominous growl from a big black dog.

"Just stay right here and I'll wake Mike up," said the driver, and he let a yell that might have caused a resurrection of the dead. The response came almost immediately in a glimmer of light from the farm house window. Soon a stalwart form appeared at the door.

"That's Mike," said the driver, and in a moment an athletic fellow put out his hand to us with a "Good morning, gentlemen, I don't know your names but you're Mac's friends and you're all right. Come in."

"My name is Stubbs," spoke up that gentlemen.

"By jingo, you look it," responded Mike as he surveyed the somewhat abbreviated though sturdy form before him.

"And mine is Goodall," apologetically said the fellow with the camera.

"I hope you are. Was your father a [missing]oemaker?" jocosely queried Mike. "Come in gentlemen; it is bedtime. I [missing]

"Six o'clock, fellows; geese are flying."

It was Mike at the door. The occupants of that comfortable bed arose reluctantly, dressed and went out into the morning air. It was as balmy as summer. "There they are," called out Stubbs, pointing into the ethereal and sure enough they were. Geese! Well, yes. Millions of 'em, coming from all directions toward the river.

"Good mornin', gentlemen," and good old Father Marley extended a hand of welcome. "I think ye will find breakfast waitin' for ye inside," and the hunter and pencil pusher did. Father Marley seemed offended because the visitors did not consume everything in sight and seriously warned them that they would starve before dinner time. After breakfast Mike and John Marley hitched up the team and putting their traps in the big wagon the party started for the camp, a mile and a half away, (according to Iowa measurement) and they were landed at the tents on the bank of the Sioux river.

Mac is generally considered a romancer of no mean ability. On this occasion however, he had hardly done the subject justice. The camp was complete in every detail. There were three tents. The sleeping tent, cooking tent and small tent for the live decoy geese. Mac and "Judge" Blair constituted a reception committee and they were fully equal to the occasion.

"You are a little late, fellows," observed Mac, as he buttoned a suspender. "But I think there are a few flying yet."

As this remark was made a flock numbering about seven hundred flew over the camp.

"It's a fine mornin' and they are flying terrible high," said John Marley. "There are some Canada's coming from the north," and down went John in a crouching attitude.

pit blind on a sandbar
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"Where?" queried the banker and artist as the novices scanned the blue expanse from horizon to horizon and then followed John's example.

"They are about seven miles up the river. John knows their call as well as he knows the voices of his own family, and every time he hears a goose quack he ducks," said Mike and he winked with his left eye and smiled.

"Breakfast is ready," called Jimmy McCarty, the cook, as he peered around the corner of the cooking tent, fanning himself with his cook's apron. The "judge" and Mac sat down to breakfast at the first invitation. The rich aroma of cooking game permeated the atmosphere.

"Where did you get that goose?" asked Stubbs as he leaned over Mac's shoulder with expanded nostrils and inhaled the odor of a plateful of dark meat. Mac glanced commiseratively at Stubbs.

"That's not goose. That's rabbit," answered he. "When we came down here that unfortunate animal whose remains you are admiring was free and in possession of all his youthful loveliness. He thought he was hiding, but in an evil moment the judge glanced in his direction. That settled it. The rabbit tried to prove an alibi, but the judge wouldn't let him off on a habeas corpus even. The lawyer banged away at the rabbit's rear elevation. If that had been all the poor thing would have celebrated Easter with his family. Judge Blair is a sprinter, and when he started after the rabbit the beast wasn't in the race. He run him down and assassinated him with a club."

Breakfast was soon over and preparations were made for the hunt in earnest. Every one booted to the waist and the outfit was ready to cross the river to the sandbar. Arriving at the sandbar the preliminary work began. Sheet iron decoy geese were stuck in the sand at intervals. Then the basket containing the live decoys, three fine Hutchinson geese, was opened and the geese put in harness and then picketed to stakes driven in the sand. Everything was ready in a short time and John and the artist occupied one blind while Mac and Stubbs were ensconced in the other, the decoys flapping their wings and squawking between the two blind pits.

"Get down, they're coming from the north," cried John.

Down went every head instantly. You could hear them calling way up the river. "Keep perfectly still," said John to the artist, "a goose can see you wink a mile off. Here they come. They're on to the decoys. They're goin' on. No, by gosh! They're goin' to light. Now, my boy, they're ours."

The flock turned in a circle and came swooping, feet hanging, ready to touch the bar right between the blinds. "Give it to 'em!" cried John and four forms sprang like jumping jacks from the blind pits and four shot guns belched eight barrels of No. 2 shot into that flock of geese. The flock rose and left six of their numbers flopping in their life's blood, six fine Hutchinsons.

"Here they come from the south!" yelled John. Down went the four heads and an immense flock could be seen coming up the river. "They are speckled Brant, the finest eating that flies," said John, and the mouth watered in anticipation of futures. On they come. "Squawk! squawk! squawk! and then they were silent, a sure indication that they were going to alight [missing] swish! You could almost feel the wind from their wings. Bang! bang! and they got some No. 2 under their feathers. Four went down and two were crippled.

This was repeated several times until a voice was wafted across the waves in tones like the whisperings of a bay steer. "Do you fellows want something to eat?" It was Mike Marley announcing that dinner was ready. Four voices responded simultaneously, "You bet." Mike rowed the boat over and six hungry men were doing their level best to deplete the commissary department. Broiled goose and bacon, potatoes and home made white and brown bread. The latter, as Judge Blair explained, he had procured from the "By Jove, Christian women's exchange, sir." Fresh laid eggs and cold milk from Marley's. Stubbs has a prodigious appetite. He explained it by saying that his wife had been away for three weeks ad left him to wander alone in the world of chop houses and restaurants in search of hunger, and his appetite had not joined him until that meal. If McGrew would quit abusing him he would like to celebrate the reunion. After dinner, cigars were passed around and we patiently listened to a few lies of prehistoric events that occurred when McGrew was a boy. Then back to the sand bar and blind pits where the slaughter continued until 5 o'clock.

On the way back to the station Mr. Stubbs confidentially informed the newspaper man that he intended to petition the United States treasury department to change the dies for making the American dollar and to have a wild goose stamped on the face of it instead of the eagle.