If it had not been for baseball, the New York Yankees, and good times down on the farm in Cullman, Alabama, Edna Henke, Bill Henke’s sister, would have not had her yard destroyed by my grandfather’s flock of Cotton Patch (weeder) geese. Strawberries, a raging bull, and German obscenities also have a role to play in this story of woman versus bull and bird.
So this whole thing started about a hundred years ago, when the New York Yankees tried to sign my shortstop playing grandfather to a major league baseball contract. It was a laughingly small offer, and my grandfather said no thanks–this is at the same time some Chicago White Sox players threw the World Series because they were so poorly paid–though my grandfather later would always say, “I could never play for a team called Yankees.”
My grandfather then became a hugely successful farmer, who grew two main crops–strawberries and sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes practically grow by themselves. Strawberries need tons of labor, because they are small perennial plants that are easily crowded out by weeds. Hiring little old German ladies in the neighborhood to weed his strawberries became his main expense. That’s when he decided to replace his human labor with geese.
Edna Henke just happened to be one of those little old German ladies, and she wasn’t too pleased with the decision. She was even less pleased when my grandfather’s new flock of geese flew across the road from his strawberry field into her yard, ate every blade of grass in it, and then left her piles of souvenir droppings. She immediately decided to sue for damages.
There was one problem–she had no way of going to town to the lawyer’s office, as she had no vehicle. She put on her best “I’m going to town to sue somebody” dress anyway, and called my grandfather (he also owned the local phone company). She asked for a ride with him into Cullman, as she said she had some business to transact. My grandfather said, “Sure, why not. I’m going to town anyway.”
Edna high tailed it over toward my grandfather’s house, and took a short cut through his cow pasture. His prize bull didn’t much like that, and started chasing Edna. She escaped by climbing an oak tree that was in the middle of the pasture.
By now, Edna was sorely pissed off. Her yard had been eaten and crapped on by geese, and she had been chased and treed by a bull. My grandfather said he looked out his door, and saw her shaking her fist at the bull, and cursing a blue streak in German. My guess would be she said something like “Heilige fliegende kinderscheisse.” The polite translation of that would be, “Holy flying baby poop.”
After my grandfather fished her out of the tree, and they left for town, he asked Edna where she wanted to go.
Earnie: “Where do you want to go, Edna?”
Earnie: “Why do you need to see the lawyer?”
Edna: “Sue you.”
My grandfather, silver tongued as usual, talked her out of it before they got close to the lawyers. He had her yard fixed, and sold most of the geese. A few of the worst offenders ended up in the pot. My guess would be that Edna got one or two for herself. Then he had to re-hire all his old workers, but eventually dumped strawberries in favor of growing watermelons, another low maintenance crop.
Moral of this story: I feel sorry for the geese.