BOONE COUNTY (WIFR) – County fairs are a place where we can see a show and maybe grab a deep-fried snack, but for one man, it’s a place to showcase the thing that saved his life.
“If I hadn’t been walking these guys, I would be in the box and they would be in the stew pot.”
Paul Messerschmidt had 12 months to live when he was diagnosed with a lung disease and quickly ballooned to more than 430 pounds.
That’s when his doctors told him to exercise. So he decided to embarrass his kids by taking their baby geese on a daily walk.
“’This lady is talking about this fat man walking these babies all over town and you just need to quit it.’ Well I didn’t quit it. I didn’t realize what was going to happen.”
What happened is that nowadays, Messerschmidt, also known as the Gooseman, can be found at the Boone County Fair dressing up squawking exercise partners. Messerschmidt has traveled to more than 500 cities and has walked more than 5,000 miles with his winged friends and this being his fourth year in Belvidere.
“He’s back by popular demand because the public comes around her and it’s amazing to watch these geese follow him and lead him around. The kids just love it," said Boone County Fair President, Lyle Lee.
Since beginning his walking routine in 2003, Messerschmidt has lost more than 150 pounds and despite why he began his walks, now he does it to put smiles on people’s faces.
“This is the fair. We’re here to make a day for them. We’re not here to make them cry. We’re here to send them home with smiles and they will remember this forever.”
No matter how much weight he loses or how health y he gets, Messerschmidt will never take any of the credit and gives all of the praise to his dirty dozen puddle jumpers.
The Gooseman will be walking around with his geese, ferret, and seven-week-old skunk at the fair for the next couple of days. Messerschmidt adds that his geese love junk food and on occasion will snack on M&M’s and Skittles. They wash it down with Pepsi and Mountain Dew.