Plastic geese descending on Portage? Who could have hatched such a plan?
It was clear Sunday that our Cook was goosed (Cook Street, that is).
Fortunately, these goose droppings didn’t need to be cleaned up. But still, many Portagers were left saying “What the flock?” (pardon my French) on Sunday after more than 100 fake birds popped up in front of businesses and homes all over the heart of the city.
And speaking of France, would that have made Sunday a Pâté Day if we lived in that European country?
OK, I stole the “What the flock” comment. It was the last sentence of the note attached to the left hand (I know, ducks don’t have hands) of the Daily Register’s now-beloved goose. More specifically, the note was fashioned to look like a reporter’s notebook.
Sometimes this old journalist can get jaded. (I don’t turn 40 until July, but I’ve been doing this for a long time). However, I’m not sticking my neck out to tell you that I love every single thing about our “We’ve been goosed!” story that stemmed from a local woman’s efforts to remember her late husband and have some fun.
The entire city was talking about it. And people weren’t honked off. Far from it.
There were questions on everyone’s lips Sunday and Monday, on the streets, in restaurants and in local stores: Where did the fake flock come from? Why was it done?
There is no doubt this prank made the city come alive. It was fun. It was unexpected. It was needed. It got people talking to each other, wracking their brains to try to determine the source of the fake feathered fun.
We heard rumors: a high school prank. A group out of Minnesota that does something like this every year in a random city.
Those two possibilities were shot down quickly. No high-schoolers did this. It was way too involved and the quality of the clothes on our goose friends was too good. I took a gander at the Internet for similar pranks and did not find any similar references.
We also wondered who could foot the bill for this. We found online that these plastic geese can cost about $20 each. Throw in the clothing for more than 100 of these fine not-so-feathered friends and it adds up quickly.
So we did some sleuthing. We tapped some sources for information (remember, a good reporter never reveals their sources). And we tracked down Mother Goose as being one Kathy Lemi of rural Portage.
In a way, we felt bad about discovering who did it. We loved the mystery of the whodunit.
But Kathy had such a feel-good story, it only added to the geese mystique.
Unfortunately, her story started with tragedy: the death of her husband, with whom she started an Internet business of plastic geese and clothes to go with them.
Kathy’s husband, Frank, died in July. They were married 35 years and had hoped to retire from Chicago to live in their Blackhawk Park home.
She decided she couldn’t continue with the business. Unfortunately, that left her with 132 plastic geese as well as dozens of outfits. She needed to clean out her inventory.
As our Shannon Green reported in her wonderful story about Kathy on Tuesday, March 30 also would have been her 36th wedding anniversary, and the first she would spend without Frank.
Her idea came during a sleepless night, and she enlisted her three sisters to help distribute the geese around Portage, focusing on the downtown. The way they were dressed, in many cases, matched the businesses where they were left.
“The goal was to hopefully make one person smile, and reading the reactions of so many people far exceeded anything I could ever have hoped for,” Kathy wrote in an email to us on Tuesday. “Thank you so much for turning our covert mission into a wonderful memory!”
No, Kathy. Thank you. For what you did for Portage. We all need a good mystery and a touch of whimsy from time to time. You provided both.
If you are lucky enough to have received a goose, I suggest you display it proudly. The Daily Register’s sits right inside our front door, keeping an eye on all who enter.
I honestly thought that the story would be picked up outside of Portage, maybe by some of the Madison television stations, and then on to national networks. To me, it had CNN Headline News written all over.
Heck, maybe it could lead to a book! Or a movie!
And who would portray me?
Why Ryan Gosling, of course.
Jason Maddux is editor of the Daily Register. Reach him at email@example.com or at 745-3517.