28th December 2006I answered the door to Atkins Down The Road. He was carrying what looked to be a coil of washing line. “What’s the rope for?” I said, in a state of suspicion, which isn’t a bad state to be in when dealing with Atkins.
“Didn’t you once mention that you used to be in the Boy Scouts?” he said, ignoring my query about the rope.  It didn’t take me long to find out.
“Can you do a noose?,” he asked, stepping inside.
Alarm bells rang. Atkins has been having an ongoing battle of wills with the paperboy, who insists on leaving the majority of his Daily Mail on the outside side of his letter box where it gets wet through every time it happens to be raining when the paper is delivered.
“You’re not going to hang the paperboy, are you? You’ve only got to tip him at Christmas like everybody else and he’d push your paper all the way through.”
“I’ve never tipped in my life and I don’t intend starting now,” said Atkins. “It’s against my religion. Anyway I’m not going to hang the paperboy, it’s for the wife?
“You’re going to hang Meg?”
Atkins looked at me impatiently. “I’m not going to hang anybody. She wants a goose for our New Year’s Day dinner this year.”
It transpired that Mrs Atkins Down The Road had been very disappointed with the turkey that they’d had for Christmas Day lunch (although not as disappointed as the turkey I’d guess), and wasn’t about to risk another disappointment. Atkins had been charged with providing a goose.
“That still doesn’t explain why you want a noose,” I said, on learning this.
“Have you seen the price of them?” said Atkins. “If she thinks I’m forking out fifty quid for a goose she can think again. No, there’s a flock of about a hundred Canada geese on the canal. I’m going to bag one. Lasso one. Make it wish it had never left Canada. When you’ve made me a noose.”
“You’re going to lasso one of the Canada geese on the canal?”
“Well why not?”
“Well for one thing they’re protected.”
“What, you mean they were shin pads or something? Give over. Anyway I’m having one, protected or not.” He proffered the rope. “So if you’ll be good enough to do the honours?”
I took the rope off him. “It isn’t a noose you want on the end of it,” I said, “It’s a slip knot. You want a lariat, like cowboys use.”
“That’s it, a lariat, make me a lariat.”
“And you can use a lariat?”
“We won’t be able to miss. They’re all together in a big flock just sat there paddling, the noose bit is bound to go over the neck of one of them.”
Normally when Atkins says ‘we’, automatically incorporating me into one of his wild schemes, I demur, or at the very least take some time to consider what I might be getting myself into. Not this time. Atkins lassoing a goose was not a sight I wanted to miss out on. Geese, especially large Canada Geese, are very strong birds, and once Atkins had tightened the lasso round the neck of one of them it would be a racing certainty that it would be the goose dragging Atkins into the canal rather than Atkins dragging the goose out of it.
After I had made the lariat and Atkins had had a few practice throws at our garden gnome – which he managed to lasso once out of twelve attempts – we set off for the canal, with Atkins claiming that he would have had much more success with the gnome had there been as many of them, and as closely bunched together, as there were Canada geese.
We arrived at the canal. The geese were only yards away. Atkins was correct, it would be more difficult to miss them than lasso one. He commenced to prove this by lassoing one at the first attempt. With a smirk and a cry of ‘yahooo’ that would have done credit to Hopalong Cassidy he pulled the lariat tight. Then a strange thing happened. As I’ve just said, I expected the goose to pull Atkins into the canal. Not a bit of it. Instead, it sort of stood up in the water, rather like a horse rearing up, then flew straight at us at about a hundred miles an hour.
“Fuck me!” shouted Atkins.
I didn’t say anything. Speechless people can’t. I just turned, flew across the towpath and leapt over the stone wall into a farmer’s field. Just before leaping I turned to see the goose batting Atkins round the head with its huge wings, my friend trying unsuccessfully both to shield himself with his arms and fight the beast off at the same time.
I recovered my powers of speech just enough to shout “Let go of the bloody rope!” before landing on the other side of the wall and haring off down the field fifty yards or so before coming to a halt. I turned to look round. A second or so later a dishevelled and sorry-looking Atkins appeared at the wall pulling feather from his hair.
“You got rid of it then?” I called.
“It flew off,” he answered, then added, sorrowfully, “So did all its mates.”
I made my way back to him. “What are you going to do?” I asked.
“She’ll have to settle for duck,” he said. “I prefer duck anyway.”

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