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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Saying Boo to a Goose

In my view, my son is a perfectly competent human being. In my son’s view, I am a fight-picker.

Now, I think that the way he became a perfectly competent human being is due to stellar direction from not just the village, but in large part from me. That being the case, it stands to reason that others too easily can benefit from my direction. That’s not fight-picking; that’s the sharing of information and life-experience. I ask, how could anyone possibly interpret the giving of a gift such as that as spoilin’ for a fight?

He’s of the opinion that strangers, even though they are strangers-behaving-badly, aren’t looking for life direction from some old lady that they don’t know. He views my gift of help to them as fight-picking. Honestly, how could anyone view a politely-phrased, well-meant suggestion regarding vocal volume and vocabulary-choice as fight-picking? The goal here is to help keep the badly-behaved from being set upon by the whole mob, since they obviously don’t realize that people don’t want to hear their loud and hateful outpourings. They just need a bit of motherly direction.

Pre-parenting, I was self-contained and fairly timid. It had not yet occurred to me that others might benefit from my sharing my opinions with them. Then came my, admittedly fortunate, experience with parenting and the obvious conclusion that my opinions must be of merit. Golly, it would be selfish and churlish not to share! The parenting experience banished my former demeanor of, as the saying goes, not saying boo to a goose.

On reflection, I thought that “not saying boo to a goose,” to be a curious phrase, especially to a city-dweller, so I went scurrying off to consult my Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. No result there, and very little on the internet either, actually. The best I could come up with was an entry on a website called The Phrase Finder, which suggested that baby-sitting geese was traditionally a job for small, girl-children, that geese were easily intimidated and that anyone who wouldn’t dare speak loudly and firmly to a goose was a wimp indeed. Another site, The Online Etymology Dictionary, as a sub-heading under “Boo,” cites a discussion of this phrase from September 1870, and that standard expert, the Oxford English Dictionary, has a citation from 1639, so it’s clearly not a new sentiment. But I digress.

Now that I am a successful parent and a big girl who feels confident enough to wrangle geese, I’m eager to share my accumulation of helpful information. Thus lately, in my advanced years when I thought, if not already dead that is, to be sitting in my rocking chair reading, I find that circumstances have conspired to force me into the public arena of social activism. If this is fight-picking, well, to paraphrase the fabled old Adam, “The man made me do it.”

Another curiosity and digression: John McCutcheon’s 2005 c.d., Mightier than the Sword, is a c.d. that I greatly admire.  On it, John partnered with/was inspired by prose and poetry writers to produce music laden with ideas from those crafters of the written word. In the same way that their solitary acts of writing influenced that musical offering, a recent local attempt at social injustice has forced my solitary acts of writing into public resistance through the written word. Gratifyingly, those words spurred others to action as well. And, our actions were met with success.

Quotes such as Thomas Jefferson’s “The government you elect is the government you deserve,” and Everett Dirksen’s “When I feel the heat, I see the light,” come, at these times, galloping across my mind, spurring me to share my store of experience with office holders who make themselves as troublesome as those badly-behaved, over-loud, spouters of unimaginative vitriol. Some geese need to have “Boo” said to them! If that’s fight-picking, well good for this old mother.  

Jeanette Saddler Taylor lives and writes in South Bend where she is retired, but is active in several community organizations.
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