Strange love on the ranch | AspenTimes.com
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Strange love on the ranch

Chad Abraham
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times
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“There is no remedy for love but to love more.” Henry David ThoreauLove comes in many forms.Tough love, puppy love, love at first sight, love ’em and leave ’em, first crushes, infatuation. And, of course, the obsessive kind which can lead to restraining orders.It is the latter that has struck a midvalley couple. But no one is calling for a judge to intervene. In fact, said rancher Rory Cerise, most people who stop by think the peculiar relationship of Petunia and Chicken is cute.

Chicken is actually an African flightless goose who, about six years ago, took a shining to Petunia, a retired saddle mare, on the Cerises’ ranch near Emma. Chicken’s name comes from his demeanor, Cerise said.But his cowardice might have saved his neck, which he sticks completely vertical as he bellows and hisses to protect his betrothed. Chicken, his brother and two ducks were orphaned one January morning at the foot of the ranch’s driveway, Cerise said.Raccoons, and then dogs, got the ducks; Chicken’s brother met his end March 12 under the heavy hooves of the ranch’s cows.Now there’s just Chicken.But he has also known the pain love can bring.Petunia has stepped on his webbed feet, broken his toes and made him lame, Cerise said.”She doesn’t even know he’s there,” he said, which may be the worst misery of all.

Chicken’s love is undying, but it’s costing him calories.”He’s not getting enough to eat because he’s always here,” Cerise said, standing on the other side of a fence from the couple.The goose (technically he’s a gander) is so lovesick that he has to be chased off Petunia every night.The Cerises have seen what Rory calls the “weird interspecies sex thing” before. His grandmother witnessed a goose’s affection for milk cows turn fatal when one bovine rolled over the fowl.Cerise hypothesized that one species will get lonely and so will “hang with another species.””It’s a little bit extraordinary,” he said.He mentioned Chicken’s tenacity, which is apparently in the genes. He and his brother enjoyed the company of a neighboring ranch’s horses so much that animal control was called, Cerise said.

Near the fence, Petunia nudged Chicken to get at a pile of hay.”Geese are one of the more strange things,” he said. “Very loyal, evidently.”As for Chicken’s better half, Petunia was born up the Fryingpan. Before her retirement, she was a saddle horse, and “not a very good one at that,” Cerise said. Petunia had a penchant for bucking “a little bit” when saddled.Hay fell gently from the horse’s mouth onto the back of Chicken, who seemed not to care.”It’s quite a thing,” Cerise said.Petunia walked off into the field, Chicken waddling behind, ignored and in love.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com


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