From the Vineyard Gazette edition of February 5, 1932:
Great is the fame of Martha’s Vineyard as the breeding place of geese, but an entirely new chapter has been added to the already long history of Vineyard goose breeding by Leo Volgmuth of Chilmark, who has trained a tall and dignified gander to accompany his master much like a pet dog.
Mr. Volgmuth, who much prefers to be known as Leo, being noted for his democratic spirit, is not an Islander by birth, but coming to the Island a few years ago in search of health, found the climate and surroundings so much to his liking that he has since remained, and has become much of an Islander in action and appearance. In keeping with the general plan followed by residents of small towns, Leo keeps a small flock of poultry, among which is his pair of geese and its annual brood of goslings. The male of the mature pair he has trained to a high degree.
This bird, which answers to the typical name of Zenas, is a splendid specimen of goosehood, standing quite three feet high when drawn up to his full and commanding height. He is the creamy colored type, with a slender brown stripe running down the back of his neck and grayish-brown points on wing tips and tail. His head is crested with the large, horny growth that gives him the appearance of wearing a cap, and his beak and feet are black.
It is not difficult to identify Zenas as he roams with his family, for his owner has fashioned a collar for the bird which bears a small bell attached to it. As Zenas straightens and stalks toward a stranger to investigate the invader of his premises, the bell chimes musically. But the music would hardly convince the stranger that Zenas is a bird with whom one could take any liberties. With head erect and loud hissing, he advances on the stranger with the peculiar stiff-legged step that distinguished the German soldiers of the late war. Just what he might be inclined to do in the absence of his master it is difficult to say, but Leo states convincingly that he has never known of any disturbers to remain around his home when Zenas is present.
The bird’s attitude toward his owner is most affectionate. He follows like a dog, coming into the house and making himself quite at home. He will perform various tricks at the bidding of his master, and will reply to all remarks addressed to him in the quaint language of geese which contains so many almost-human sounds. And Leo appears to understand the meaning that the goose indicates.
“Do you want a drink, old man?” he asks.
“Nink!” replies Zenas, very decidedly.
“Then I guess it’s corn that you want, eh?”
“Uunk!” agrees Zenas, and the feast is prepared.
Zenas does not care particularly about feeding from the regular dish, or with his family who peck their rations from the ground. He much prefers to have Leo fill his mouth with corn, from which the goose will pick it delicately and with care not to bruise his master’s lips with his heavy beak. It is an astonishing sight to see this bird, usually regarded as being half-wild, perched upon his master’s lap and dining in the manner. Should the supply of corn become exhausted before he has had his fill, he will beg to get more by rubbing his head and neck against his master’s cheek, at the same time murmuring gentle, coaxing sounds.
As long as Leo is with him, he is at home in any place and will conduct himself as a perfect gentleman under all circumstances. This explains why Leo often carries the goose about with him, riding on the seat of his car. When the car is in motion Zenas sits quietly on the seat, looking out of the window or through the windshield with all the interest of a person travelling through strange country.
In the country roads, or in the streets of the Island villages, where traffic is heavy and observers many, his conduct is the same. When the car stops he will rise to his feet the better to see what sights the place may have to offer.
On such occasions as Leo visits the large down-Island towns, Zenas is the cynosure of all eyes, All Vineyarders know geese, but few of them ever handle them without more or less protest from the fowl. And so when they see this great gander quietly conducting himself in an auto, with perfect freedom to move about or even leave the vehicle if he should choose, they show their astonishment and draw near for a better look. Zenas gladly demonstrates his favorite method of obtaining nourishment, providing his master has the time to do his own part. If not, he will stand on the seat and return looks quite as curious as the human glances that are directed at himself. Not under any circumstances will he step down to the car floor and disturb the pail of corn that is always there. Nor his can of water that his thoughtful owner always provides. No indeed. When hunger pangs disturb him he will ask for food as a gentleman should and receive it daintily and gratefully when it is passed to him.
Compiled by Hilary Wall