The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

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By Scott Swanson
Of The New Era 

Local author’s goose tale started with little ditty

 

November 29, 2016

JILL DUNBAR CASE reads from a page of her children’s story, “The Tale of Honk-E-Donk,”as her husband Bill listens.

Jill Dunbar Case never really intended to be an author.

“I’m a creative person. I’ve always liked the arts,” said Case, 73. She performed with choral groups in the Portland area for some 30 years. She sang once at a Blazers game.

More recently, she plays the autoharp for services at Cornerstone Fellowship in Sweet Home.

Case and her husband Bill moved to a home on McDowell Creek Drive, fronting the South Santiam River, 11 years ago after a friend found it for them. They lived in Tigard at the time, where Bill was a manufacturer’s representative.

Her career as a children’s author started in sort of an off-hand manner, she says. While moving some furniture in their new home in 2006, Jill fell and broke her hip.

While recuperating, “I spent a lot of time looking at the water,” she said. That included the Canadian geese that gathered on the gravel shore in front of their home. She started getting to know them.

“Every morning two Canada geese were in the same spot,” Jill said. “Bill said, ‘Maybe we should name the geese.’”

They came up with “Honk-E-Donk” and “Hil-De-Bran.”

Before long, she said, the pair of geese had six goslings. They started calling them the “Donks,” as in the Donk family.

That’s when things got interesting.

“All of a sudden, this white goose showed up,” Jill said. Though clearly different, the newcomer mingled with the others. “I thought it might be an escaped domestic goose, but then we discovered it was a snow goose.”

The newcomer also took a maternal interest in the goslings.

“One day I looked out and here was the snow goose out in the river with the six goslings swimming behind it, and their parents at the back of the line. We started calling her ‘Nanny Goose.’

Being musically inclined, Jill says she was exercising one day when a tune popped into her head. She started singing – “Honky, Honky, Honky, Honky, Donk, Donk, Donk. Nanny, Nanny, Nanny, Nanny Goose.”

It was catchy. She shared it with her son’s family in California.

“My daughter-in-law said, ‘Thanks a lot, Mom.’”

But her grandson, Tyler, liked it.

“About a year later he asked about it.

I thought, ‘If he’s that excited about this, I’d better complete it.’ I got home and kept working on it. Then I performed it for his class at school. He sang it with me.”

By the time she was finished, she had seven verses. Now that she had a song down, she started thinking about formulating a story to go with it.

She came up with “The Tale of Honk-E-Donk,” a “happy, goosey family tale” loosely based on the geese and the scenarios they had witnessed, but with emphasis on qualities such as courage, responsibility, obedience, with simple math and alphabet challenges for young readers.

“It’s a simple little story with lessons in it. When they listen and obey, Nanny takes them on special adventures up the river,” Jill said. “It’s little life lessons for kids.”

Illustrating the story required a team effort, the Cases said.

“I can draw but I’m not that great,” Jill said. “Bill is good on the computer. I decided I should try to use the computer to illustrate it and that’s what I did, with his help.”

They used real photos of the South Santiam and other locations, some from public domain art, and inserted the characters from the story.

They published a spiral-bound version last year, then decided to go all-in and had it professionally bound. They’ve also created a DVD with illustrations from the book and Jill narrating and singing the story.

They are available at the Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce and at honk-e-donk.com. Jill plans to perform selections from the book and sign copies from 1 to 2 p.m. on Dec. 10 at the chamber.

Putting the book together was “hard work” and a “learning experience,” Jill said.

“It’s been really interesting. Ideas would keep coming to me, often in the middle of the night.”

FLANKED by (yard ornament) geese, Jill Case holds a copy of a children’s book she has written, inspired by the real Canadian geese and others that visit her yard.

Now, she says, she is thinking of writing another.

She noted that she’d experienced “some disappointments” prior to writing “The Tale of Honk-E-Donk,” and the project proved to be helpful in getting past those.

“In the book it says we have choices to make. I can get depressed or I can move on.

“I accomplished something I never really thought about doing. It was something positive to get involved with that God sent into my life.”

 
 

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