Inman Park's 'Mother Goose'

The tale of Eleanor Matthews, a plastic alligator and Lucy, the beloved goose of Springvale Park.

Editor's note: At Patch, we're all about what's local. As part of that, we have a regular feature, along with our sister website, Huffington Post, called the "Greatest Person of the Day." These stories and vignettes serve to highlight those in our communities doing things — some big, some small — that leave our corner of the world just a little bit brighter. Today we highlight Eleanor Matthews, affectionately known as "Mother Goose."

Once upon a time, in a neighborhood not so far away, there lived a goose named Lucy.

Actually, Lucy still calls Inman Park home and resides in the lake there in Springvale Park.

And this once-grim tale has somewhat of a happy ending.

How Lucy got there and how she managed to survive a couple of rough bumps is the story of Eleanor Matthews, the Inman Park resident better known as "Mother Goose."

Neighbors gave Matthews the moniker after she helped nurse Lucy back to good health not once, but twice.

The tale begins about four years ago, when two girls driving on I-20, happened to come upon Lucy. She was wandering along the shoulder of the highway, dazed.

"She must have fallen off a goose truck on the way to market," Matthews said. "Somehow, they got her and they put her in their car and got her here."

And Lucy, an Embden goose, has been a fixture in the lake at Springvale Park ever since.

It took a week or two for her to get accustomed to her new digs. Nearby residents would spy her waddling up and down Euclid Avenue — bred for their meat, Embdens don't fly —and they'd bring her back to the lake.

Finally, she settled into her new home.

All the while, "Mother Goose" kept her watchful eye on Lucy, feeding her corn and collard greens — vet's orders — and instructing other park regulars to do the same.

All was well in Springvale Park until last spring when a gaggle of Canada Geese — who fly south each winter — came in for a spell at the lake.

Canada Geese had come to the lake in prior years and shared the waters with Lucy in a peace and friendship that reflected the deep bond between Canada and America.

But alas, last year was to be different.

Violently so.

A war broke out and one of the Canada Geese attacked Lucy mercilessly, beaking out at Lucy and pulling out clumps of her feathers.

In the ensuing fracas-of-not-so-fine-feathered-friends, Lucy was injured, in shock and scared.

She sought refuge in the culvert under Euclid Avenue.

Neighbors sought "Mother Goose."

"The female was jealous," Matthews said, explaining the reason behind the attack. "Her boyfriend or husband was paying attention to Lucy."

There in the culvert Lucy hid, coming out only when a young girl crawled in and got her.

"So the neighborhood got together and we went down," Matthews said. "We carried her up to my yard and put her in the backyard and kept her there for two months until after the Canada Geese left."

The fight of feathers tore at Matthews in more ways than one.

Matthews is Canadian by birth, you see. And though she now holds dual citizenship, she has a soft spot for Canada Geese.

"I get very upset when people curse them and say ugly things about them, but they are a menace on golf courses," she said. "They certainly beat up on Lucy big time. The goose was in shock for days."

"Mother Goose" has cared for Lucy as she had for her other rescues — Dudley the cat had a broken leg and Bob the duck thinks he's man instead of bird.

"He looks like the Aflac duck," Matthews said, with a chuckle. "I'm thinking about getting him an agent."

Now, with Lucy all healed up and back in her usual spot in the waters of Springvale Park, Matthews and others who followed her exploits wondered what to do this spring when the Canada Geese return.

The answer was one of reptilian proportions: An alligator.

Not a real one, of course. One that could pass for the real thing and keep the Canada Geese away. Gators and geese — Canada or otherwise — don't mix.

"We call him Gator-Aid," Matthews said. The idea is borrowed from Florida golf courses that have had problems with the birds. The floating alligator head is anchored by a weight, as it bobs to and fro in the waters, like a real predator.

Matthews and scores of her neighbors launched Gator-Aid with a party and a cheer for Lucy last Sunday.

The hope: the sunlit sparkle of Gator-Aid's orange, reflective eyes will keep the Canada Geese in the skies.

False hope as it turned out.

Canada Geese, as "Mother Goose" will tell you, are smart.

They are back. And they are staying.

On Friday, she reported a male Canada Goose attacked Lucy.

He even tried to drown her.

A nearby resident took Lucy from the lake, and is keeping her safe in a dog house under the stairs of his home, across the street from the park.

"Mother Goose" is not amused.

"We will try to get the war birds to leave," she vowed to her fellow neighbors in a message she posted to the Inman Park listserv. "They have apparently befriended Gator-Aid (on Facebook). What a useless gator!"

Patty A February 05, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Excellent insights from Marion. As spring draws near, all the birds become territorial and feisty. It is common to see mallards scrapping with each other and geese "goosing" other geese. (i.e. chasing, pecking and sometimes pushing and holding under water.) A domestic goose alone on a lake has no inkling on how to deal with what is natural bird behavior -- especially in the spring. Either find a rescue placement or farm for Lucy or get her a couple of companions of same breed. Scrap the fake alligator.
Péralte Paul February 05, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Thanks for these insights, Patty.
Hunt Archbold February 06, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Well done, Péralte. Love Eleanor ('Mammy' to myself and others) and her spirit!
Péralte Paul February 06, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Thanks, Hunt. Uh, 'Mammy?' What's the story there?
Hunt Archbold February 10, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Mammy is the mother of a dear friend of mine. You can usually find me at Mammy's house for a post-Inman Park Parade party each April.


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