Andy, The Goose Who Wore Sneakers

Jun 14, 2023 0 comments

In 1988, Gene Fleming, a farmer and livestock equipment manufacturer from Hastings, Nebraska, was visiting his sister-in-law’s farm in Harvard, Nebraska, when he noticed a two-year-old goose with no feet, stumbling around on stumps trying to keep up with his fellow geese. Fleming took pity on him, took the goose home and named him Andy.

Fleming was an inventor who made a fortune manufacturing odd solutions to animal needs. Back in 1959, when he learned that cows had a habit of scratching themselves on any rough surface until their skins ripped open, Fleming invented a cow scratcher, which not only relieved itches but also sprayed them with bug repellent. It worked great, and he made hundreds of thousands of them.

Andy and Gene Fleming.

Fleming’s first idea for Andy’s problem was to affix one of his feet on a small skateboard, figuring the goose could push along with one stump while balancing on the other, but that didn’t work. Then Fleming realized that the answer lied in the obvious—give him shoes. It turned out that if you stuff some foam rubber down the toe of an infant-sized pair of sneakers, they fit the goose’s feet perfectly. The shoes dramatically changed the goose's life, and for the first time Andy was running helter-skelter around the yard.

Soon, Andy became a local attraction. The Flemings took Andy around the town visiting schools, libraries, county fairs, and parades. Fleming’s wife Nadine even started an Andy Fan Club and issued signed certificates to patrons. They sold Andy the Goose T-shirts and sweatshirts, posters, key chains, postcards and badges. When someone at the Nike company saw a news story about Andy, the shoe company sent Fleming and Andy a lifetime supply of shoes.

News of a goose overcoming his handicap eventually reached New York and Hollywood. Andy appeared in the People magazine and Reader's Digest. Andy and Gene also appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

According to Fleming, it wasn’t just the shoes that made Andy famous. The goose turned out to have a winning personality as well.

“Geese are mean creatures that like to sneak up on you when you're bent over and give you a good bite in the you-know-what,” Fleming told Chicago Tribune. “But Andy was so grateful for what we'd done for him, he was the nicest, sweetest guy you ever met.”

Tragically, Andy’s fame also attracted haters. On October 19, 1991, Andy was found murdered in a local park with his head and wings removed. He was still wearing his shoes. Andy’s murder shocked the nation. “It’s frightening to think our community might be home to someone who would do such a horrible deed,” said Hastings Mayor Phyllis Lainson. “He was an inspiration,” said Fleming. “I can’t think of any reason why anyone would want to kill an innocent goose like that.”

The sheriff's office was bombarded with tips and suggestions. Some thought that a disgruntled former employee of Fleming's might be responsible. Others thought the dismemberment pointed to a satanic cult. The Chamber of Commerce set up a reward fund and money began to pour in from all over the nation. In the end, they had collected somewhere around $10,000 to apprehend the killer. Unfortunately, the killer was never found.

Andy meeting some children.

Gene Fleming takes Andy for a walk.

Andy riding a miniature bicycle designed by Gene Fleming.

# A Footnote On Andy The Goose, Chicago Tribune
# The Goose Who Wore Nikes, and the Mystery of Who Murdered Him, Atlas Obscura
# Murder Most Fowl, People


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