McMurtry’s Christmas goose

James Murray tells the story of McMurty's Christmas Goose

Last week I took part in the annual Fair Exchange of Gifts Benefit Concert for people in need at this time of year.

It is my privilege to be a part of such a worthy event. A number of people had asked if I would tell my McMurtry’s Christmas Goose story at the concert. The musical arrangement had already been put together and I was unable to fit the story in, so I would like to offer it here in written form.

Oh yeah, by the way, Merry Christmas – one and all.

Robert McMurtry stood looking out over his pastures – looking for any of his sheep that may have separated from the herd. He began walking along the fence line. With him was his faithful canine compaion Mac, a mean and miserable looking old border collie-cross. Mac disliked all other dogs, barely tolerated people, and was seldom far from McMurtry’s side.

Robert McMurtry was a solitary sort, a sheep farmer who kept to himself and spoke to few. Somewhere along the line he had come to the conclusion that if you spend enough time in the company of a good dog, you don’t need to spend nearly so much time around people.

A light snow started to fall. It was Christmas Eve morning – a fact that had not escaped McMurtry’s memory… or his thoughts. McMurtry had come to know loneliness in a way that few men have. He stopped and stood looking out into the distance, beyond the pastures and his property line, past the hills that stretched beyond the purple grey horizon, to a time and place long ago.

He had not noticed that the snow was coming down harder. Nor did he notice that Mac had turned the sheep from the pasture toward the barns. Nor did he notice the pair of Canada geese pecking at the thin crust of snow on the edge of a small pond.

With the sheep now heading toward the shelter of the barn by themselves, Mac turned dutifully towards his master who still stood looking out into the distance. An impatient bark jarred McMurtry from his thoughts. His mind’s eye began to focus on the pond before him. For the first time he became aware of the two geese. He could not help but wonder why they had not flown south with the great flocks that had honked their way across the autumn skies last fall. He turned and followed Mac back toward the house.

When the two geese showed up in the yard a couple of hours later, McMurtry was, to say the very least, somewhat surprised. Must have followed him in, he thought to himself. He looked at their footprints in the snow. They had walked the whole way.

The sight of the two was almost as amusing as it was bewildering. McMurtry was less amused though when he noticed the one bird’s wings were damaged. At some point or other it had been shot. The flight feathers appeared fine, but the wound had healed over in a way that rendered the bird flightless. McMurtry scoffed to himself. He had nothing against hunters, just against stupid ones.

What really got him, though, was the fact that the bird appeared quite capable of flight. It had chosen to remain with its mate.

When the pair followed him right into the barn, McMurtry laughed out loud. He laid out several bails of alfalfa for the sheep, and then, threw down a pail full of seed for the chickens. The geese were quick to respond.

Two more mouths to feed won’t matter that much, he thought to himself.

And then, on a cold and snowy Christmas Eve, Robert McMurtry found himself  wishing a “Merry Christmas” to two of God’s creatures that apparently cared more for each other than a lot of people do.



Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP report that suspect in North Shuswap threatened to kill neighbours

Police say man was arrested with loaded weapons inside vehicle and residence

High water levels on Shuswap Lake may close popular Canoe Beach

Salmon Arm city staff say rain predicted could flood tunnel, causing beach closure

Sandbagging continues for flood-prone areas around Shuswap, Mara lakes

Shuswap Emergency Program closely monitoring water levels

B.C. Hockey League prepping for 2020-21

League reviewing different scenarios and start times in compliance with provincial regulations

Shuswap caregiver a hero in husband’s eyes

Night and day shifts leave little time for Tracy and Rick Duncan

VIDEO: A Vancouver Island black bear takes weekend nap in eagle tree

Videos captured by Terry Eissfeldt shows the bear arriving Saturday night and sleeping in on Sunday

189 homes in Grand Forks area given evacuation orders

Homes are in the Nursery, Grand Forks Airport, Gilpin Rd., Johnson Flats and Granby Rd. areas

Summerland man rescued following ATV accident

Helicopters used to transport injured man to Kelowna for treatment

Mother bear and two cubs spotted in West Kelowna

Residents of Shannon Lake are urged to be on the look out for three bears in the area

Social justice advocate yells at Kelowna council, demands presence at Black Lives Matter rally

Heather Friesen has again taken to council chambers to make her opinion heard

Youth filmmakers tackle technology addiction, relationships, cyber-bullying

The Kelowna couple won a grant from Telus STORYHIVE

Vernon videographer captures thunderstorm

See the ‘best bits’ of Saturday’s storm

Dyer: I left my heart in the desert

Kristy Dyer is a columnist for Black Press Media who writes about the environment

Most Read