(October 2000) On a week night, Skaneateles is one of the quietest places on earth. At about 10:30 p.m., I walked the four blocks down Jordan Street, and didn’t see or hear another soul until I was downtown.
I usually go out onto the jetty, but this night I had other plans. I walked past Morris’s Grill where a few revelers were reveling quietly, past the Sherwood Inn, crossed the street and turned down West Lake Street. I hoped to catch a glimpse of Lucy.
West Lake is one of my favorite places to walk, because you can hear the water lapping on the pebbled shore, and enjoy all the old houses that line the winding street.
I was in luck. Lucy’s porch light was on, and she was waiting for me. Our eyes met. I smiled. She was stunning in a poodle skirt, fuzzy pink sweater with pearls, her white yarn hair drawn back into a pony tail.
Lucy has many outfits. A cross-dressing, 80-pound concrete goose, she has captured my heart. The first time I saw her, she was between outfits, just a large white goose with a yellow bill, sitting on a porch. The next time I went by, on a summer evening, she was dressed in a flowered shirt, sunglasses, plastic camera and straw hat. As it was the tourist season in Skaneateles, I laughed out loud.
Since then, I have seen her in graduation robes in June, in a yellow slicker on a rainy day, as Uncle Sam on the 4th of July, sporting a sun dress with a pattern of little watermelons, looking fetching in a yellow bikini and bathing cap, and this spring dressed as a bumblebee with a yellow and black striped top and golden deely-boppers for antennae. Last week, in bracing autumn weather, Lucy was wearing a football jersey and a helmet complete with face mask, her bill protruding through the bars.
I, of course, had to write her a fan letter. And when Lucy’s wardrobe mistress called me to tell me more about Lucy, I learned that my letter was one of a growing stack.
Lucy was a gift and had a sibling goose on a porch in Fairport, N.Y. The two geese, dressed as bride and groom, attended a wedding in Fairport this summer. (Lucy’s absence prompted frantic telephone calls from neighbors, so her owner quickly posted a sign reassuring passersby that Lucy would return soon.)
Lucy’s outfits have come from seamstresses in Fairport and Penn Yann, but when I looked on the Web the other day, I found an extraordinary array of clothing suppliers to concrete geese. Indeed, while Lucy is unique to the Village, Mary’s sisters claim that in Ohio there’s a concrete goose on every porch. I immediately checked this with Candi Strecker, my source for all things Ohio, and she replied, “These lawn geese or porch geese are so common, especially in NE Ohio, that the ‘one of every porch’ remark is pretty close to on-target.”
In an article in The Wall Street Journal, Gabriella Stern noted that concrete geese first appeared in Kentucky in the 1980’s, but it was goose-owners in Indiana who first dressed them. The geese have migrated slowly because an 80-pound concrete goose with a slender neck poses serious shipping problems. This is not a mail order item; if you want one, you’ve got to carry it to wherever you’re going. And people do. A Knight-Ridder newspaper article cited one woman who used a “friend flies free” airline ticket to fly her goose from Kentucky to California in the seat next to hers.
Goose outfits are much easier to mail, and sell for $15 to $35, depending on how fancy you want to get. In Skaneateles, Lucy has a dozen or so, but some goose fanciers have been known to keep more than 80 on hand to cover every season, holiday and special occasion.
One of Lucy’s outfits caused a minor stir. When her house was being reassessed (here in the Village, mowing your lawn constitutes a property improvement), the wardrobe mistress went to Skaneateles Office Supply to copy documents she needed for her protest. One of the store’s owners leaned over the counter and said, “You can’t really complain when that goose of yours is wearing a mink coat.” She explained that it was fake fur, but took the hint and went home to dress Lucy in rags.