This was one of those stories that seemed to just come to me from out of nowhere. I was thinking that it's fun to turn human characters into animals, and I was thinking about the ponds near our house, where there are a lot of geese. This quickly formed into the idea of a boy who is turned into a goose for his misbehaving, and a witch who won't turn him back into a boy until he performs three good deeds. I didn't want to make things easy for him--so he can understand human speech, but humans can't understand him. As Howard likes to keep complaining: It's hard to do good deeds when your words come out as goose honks, and when you have wings instead of hands.
Howard decided he would go to Goose Pond and see if the geese had laid any eggs yet.
Even though the geese there were wild, everyone knew the old witch was very protective of them: As soon as the snow melted every spring, she pulled weeds from the edge of the pond so that when the geese returned from their winter home in the south they would find the area ready for building their nests. And throughout the spring and summer, she threw out crusts of bread for them to eat. When it was time for them to return to the warmth of the south, she would stand on the edge of the pond and shout good-byes, calling each by name.
Howard thought this was ridiculous behavior because everyone knows both geese and goose eggs are for eating.
When Howard arrived at Goose Pond that spring day, he stood hidden at the edge of the trees and looked over the old witch's yard to make sure she wasn't someplace she'd be able to see him.
As there was no sign of her, Howard crept to the edge of the pond and began searching for nests.
He found one quickly.
By the way the goose who'd been sitting there hissed and flapped her wings, Howard could tell that she was indeed guarding eggs.
He waved his cap and managed to startle her away long enough to snatch three of the eight eggs from the nest.
"You don't need so many," he assured her as she tried to peck him.
He set one of the eggs on the edge of the grass and rolled it toward the water's edge to distract the mother goose. This did indeed confuse her. As she rushed to save that one, Howard grabbed another, put all three into his cap, and started to run away.
Except something caught in his feet, and he fell hard.
When he looked up, he saw that what had tripped him had been the old witch's cane.