By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Perseverance of a mysterious, one-legged goose spending time outside of City Hall for about a month has won the hearts of many Tupelo residents and city employees.
Just two days ago, while Mayor Jason Shelton and Tupelo residents participated in outdoor aerobics as part of his Fitness Summit, the goose stood on a single leg in a grassy spot just west of City Hall.
As the group finished exercising nearby, the goose scanned the area, periodically hopping a few inches forward.
For two weeks now, Shelton and City Hall employees have monitored the one-legged goose with curiosity and encouragement. At first, a couple of Shelton’s friends contacted him about seeing it. But then more than a dozen others began calling him, texting and emailing.
“I’ve had more people contact me about that goose than almost any other issue since I’ve been mayor,” Shelton said. “They’re just concerned about it.”
For workers at City Hall, the bird has turned into a regular site as they go outside during the day.
“It sits there, does what it needs to do and moves on,” said Tupelo Police Officer Robert Cook, who provides security at City Hall. “Nobody bothers it.”
Sherrie Cochran, environmental planner for the city, said she first noticed the goose about a month ago and has tried to keep track of it ever since. She said she isn’t convinced it is missing a leg altogether. The leg could be injured and remain nestled among its feathers.
However, Shelton has said people who have looked at the bird “strongly suspect a snapping turtle bit the leg off.” But no one knows for sure.
People said the bird is usually on its own, away from a flock. Cochran said she recently saw the bird trying to get attention of an overhead flock.
“The thing that bothers me was the flock flew over and he didn’t join them,” she said. “He was honking his head off.”
A state Wildlife and Fisheries game warden observed the bird earlier this week and saw it fly a significant distance. But the bird keeps returning to the city property.
Among city employees, about more a dozen names have been suggested for the goose, whose gender is unknown. Suggested names include Hoppy, Canada, Christmas Dinner, Oleput, Hop Along, and Clark. Cochran said she’d decided to name the bird “Festus,” a character in the television show “Gunsmoke.”