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Honk if You Love Lawn Geese

Attractive waterfowl grace the fronts of frame bungalows on the northwest side of Chicago.

As the Chicago Bungalow Association, you can imagine we are often asked what characteristics make a house a real-deal Chicago bungalow. We explain that they are built in the 1910s and 20s, are 1-1/2 stories tall, are comprised of brick with limestone detailing, and have window bays and overhanging eaves.

However, we’ve been remiss in explaining that they often also have one additional, critical feature: the goose lawn ornament, often sharply dressed in seasonally-appropriate clothing and hanging out around the front porch.

According to the online literature, the ornamental lawn goose was not, in fact, a way to honor the creation of our beloved Goose Island in the 1850s. We have a beer company for that. In reality, the lawn goose was likely born in the early 1980s in the Upper Ohio River Valley—an area that begins in Pittsburgh and stretches toward northern Kentucky. At some point, a gaggle of the Kentucky lawn geese broke away, evolved into concrete goose form, and did a good job of procreating. Today, you see both concrete and plastic versions. As a small non-profit with limited staff, we have not yet had the opportunity to inspect all of the local geese varieties (though we dream of it), but we’ve been up close and personal with the “plastic on the outside, concrete on the inside” version of the species.

Important: Clothes Shopping for Your Goose

While the Chicago Tribune and other reputable journals tell us that goose clothing trends hit their peak in the 1990s, we learned that at least one goose fashion retailer—Goose Clothes Galore—was established as early as 1981, showing that Goose chic hit in Sycamore, Ohio far in advance of us. Yes, they are still hawking their wares.

While geese are often wearing clothes that announce whatever holiday is near, they needn’t go naked during the between times. And lest you're concerned that you won’t find a look that fits your personal home vibe, fret no more. You can purchase an astonishing number of outfits to reflect your (goose’s) style, affiliations, and personal and political beliefs, including, but certainly not limited to:

  • wigs

  • hippie garb

  • Lederhosen

  • Sox and Cubs jerseys

  • properly-sized face masks

  • nun habits

  • sharks and cows and dinosaurs

  • Statues of Liberty

  • watermelons

  • healthcare professionals

  • bikinis of varying modesty levels

  • additional things you wouldn’t even think possible

For mostly homemade stuff, check these out. For a more formal catalogue of options, click here. Please keep in mind that geese come in a variety of sizes, so be sure to measure your goose. Looking for inspiration? No problem. Wait, you don’t have a goose yet? Check out the variety at The Goose Boutique or other online Goose-loving websites. You may get lucky at your local big box store with a garden section, like a Home Depot. If they don’t have them available there, storm the Customer Service desk and demand that this injustice is remedied.

So, Why Geese?

We may not realize this as urban dwellers, but geese are often treasured by farmers for their vigilance and courage. Geese will watch for threats to other animals on the farm, honk with wild abandon at them, and even bite and chase off predators. These fearless beasts are waddling guard dogs. Indeed, the Roman military leader and naturalist Pliny the Elder (23 – 79 AD) credited geese with saving Rome from an attack by the Gauls! They’re also fierce about their own personal gaggle as they are monogamous, with some forming life-long bonds. For this reason, they are lauded as beacons of fidelity and can take on all kinds of moral associations with home and family.

Geese protected Ballantine Whiskey’s warehouses from 1959 to 2012 (Chivas Brothers Archive)
From Aesop’s Fable "The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs." The tale has given rise to the idiom 'killing the goose that lays the golden eggs', which refers to the short-sighted destruction of a valuable resource, or to an unprofitable action motivated by greed. (Wikipedia, public domain)

Geese also appear in Native and Indigenous, Chinese, Christian, and Celtic stories, as well as in countless fairytales. If you believe a goose is your spirit animal, Goose Spirit has been associated with protection, bravery, and warriors for centuries. "Mother Goose" and "Jack and the Beanstalk" portray geese as the bringers of wealth, bravery, and abundance. And, tales aside, Geese have brought very real and tangible abundance because, well, people also have always just really enjoyed eating them. It’s nice to have a built-in alarm system and food supply hanging around the house that you can also make pillows and bedding out of while fattening up the family. There’s really nothing they can’t do.

Thank you for being the gift that keeps on giving, geese. We hope it pleases you to have thousands of tiny statues erected in your honor.

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