George Burden discovers that Father Goose is alive and well and living in Canada.
Far to the north, in the land of Blackstock, lives Father Goose. He dwells in a quaint underground house in the side of a hill at the edge of a deep dark forest full of wild creatures. The wood is forbidden to most men.
Father Goose passes his days flying with his feathery friends: the whooping cranes, the geese and other assorted birds who grew up in his house and think of him as their “mom”. In the fall, when the desire to return to their southerly winter homes prevails he takes wing and shows them the way.
While it may sound like the start of a fanciful fairytale, in fact Father Goose is real and his name is a Bill Lishman. Residing in the town of Blackstock, Ontario about two hours north of Toronto, his super-energy efficient home consists of buried stainless steel domes and his property is perched on the edge of the Osler estatte. The estate, which belongs to the descendants of famed Canadian physician, Sir William Osler, comprises 250 hectares of land where an active wildlife population thrives. The estate is forbidden to hunters and developers, though Bill is quite welcome to fly his ultralight aircraft overhead.
This all may be sounding a bit familiar to those who recall the Hollywood movie , tFly Away Home that recounts Bill’s adventures leading a flock of geese south to Virginia with his ultralight aircraft. The movie itself was based on Bill’s book Father Goose. In 1999, Operation Migration began its yearly program of leading baby whooping cranes to reestablish populations in parts of the United States where they are now extinct.
The program is possible due to the principle of imprinting, which causes baby birds to think whatever they see at the beginning of their lives is their mother. While this is in most cases a momma bird, the babies don’t care if their momma happens to be an ultralight plane and its pilot!
Bill is also a talented artist as witnessed by the sometimes whimsical and sometimes dramatic colourful metal sculptures dotting the grounds of his home. He also keeps active, promoting Air First Aid, his program designed to use ultralights to provide medical and food aid to disaster areas in a precise and focused way by ferrying in dozens of specially equipped ultralights in cargo planes along with aid supplies.
With my friends Joe, Diane and Amanda, I had the pleasure of enjoying Bill’s hospitality for an afternoon. His underground dwelling remained delightfully cool despite the hot Ontario summer day and reminded me of a cross between a hobbit’s house and Luke Skywalker’s childhood home.
We sipped homemade white wine while he regaled us with stories of his adventures and he autographed a copy of his book for my daughter. So you see that I have written proof that Father Goose actually exist and can fimly state that is alive and well and living in Canada.
All Photos © Amanda Sutherland. All Rights Reserved.