It just hasn’t been the same since Sumo died. He was my last old-goat-standing and a card-carrying anarchist. He’d been un-fencable here for fourteen years. I miss coming into the barn in the morning to find the feed cabinet pried open and supplement containers flung into the runs. Because goats are generous to horses that way. I miss those tell-tale turdettes sprinkled around the tack room after he executed search and seizure drills looking for any hidden illicit horse treats. I miss his witty and urban conversation. Blah. Blah. Bla-aa-aah.
Having a goat is like a twelve-step program for Type-A perfectionists who have allegro-phobia. (That’s a fear of being late; disorders love company.) Goats are not burdened with polite social conventions and certainly have no inclination to please people. It’s why they’re so attractive.
I heard about this wether goat (neutered male) in a friend-of-a-friend sort of way. A herd needed downsizing to help a health condition. I spoke to the owner and was on my way. The wether was in a pasture with a milking herd and hadn’t been hand-tamed. He’d probably only been caught once and that was when the vet came for the banding. Use your imagination; he wasn’t about to surrender peacefully.
Note to self: My next get rich quick plan is a pay-per-view event pitting goat kids against pairs of post-60-year women competing as a team. The bout ends when the kid gets caught and the team with the fewest falls wins. Think about it–lots of bizarre action and a good match of wits.
It took both of us to wrestle a leash on the 4-month-old kid and it’s dawning on him that something is very wrong. He’s caught but he frantically flings his body upside down and backward to the herd. He doesn’t stop throwing his little body on the ground, bracing all four legs. His now-previous owner goes to get me some organic goat feed to take home, and I hoist him up in my arms, as his screams double. I wonder why I don’t just put my helmet on in the morning after my shower and leave it there.
By the time I settle him in my extended cab he has gone silent and still–except for kicking his feed and spraying it evenly through the truck. Driving away, I adjust my rear-view mirror and he’s staring at me with his spooky, rectangular pupils. He hates me.
Is this wether a rescue? Well, yes and no. He had a home with pretty much the same option every other young wether has. Milking herds, faced with the prospect of feeding them all winter when they will not breed or give milk in the spring… Well, you know what happens. And around this age. So he’s a different kind of rescue, I guess, not that he cares. He hates me.
We arrive home and his little jaw is still clenched so hard it looks like he’s pursing his lips. He hides behind a barrel in his pen and starts a hunger strike. Goats are ruminants and a crash diet will kill him. In the morning, he still hasn’t eaten and he’s thin. His hay and water was left untouched; even his grain ignored. Maybe without his herd, he’s dead anyway.
I dosed him with some probiotics and practically needed a tire iron to get it on his tongue–and then moved him out to a grassy place. I had to tie him; he’s too little for the fences to hold. He ran hard on the rope, hit the end at breakneck speed, and flipped in the air. The panic repeated several times, with so much anxiety that it was heartbreaking to watch. It got worse if I came closer.
But Edgar Rice Burro was in the adjoining turn-out. He sauntered over and pretended to eat. He befriended this newcomer, because that’s his way. The little goat’s jaw loosened for the first time. In a few moments, he was grazing along with Edgar, who spent the rest of the day right there.
Hello, my name is Anna. I’m Type-A and powerless over my need to tidy. I sometimes get worried; I can think silly things are important. It blinds me to the beauty of life when I focus–and compulsively worry–about the dark ways of the world. In those moments, the barn elders look frail and mortal. Even a howling tenor bray from Edgar Rice Burro isn’t enough to remind me to lighten up; I’m nothing special. I cannot control the universe, or even my heart. And no one elected me Boss Mare of the country.
I could post a huge sign in the barn with the Serenity Prayer on it…
- God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
- The courage to change the things I can,
- And the wisdom to know the difference.
Arthur says it’s life and death out there every single day but you don’t have to be a sheep about it. Now let’s wreak some havoc.
Because in the end, it’s always that quality of life question. Mine, as well as his.
Oops, gotta go. The black tarp that was hanging on a fence panel is now bleating, making its way west across a pen, and scaring the bejebbers out of the horses.
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.
P.S. My memoir about moving to this farm is available at Amazon(here). Check out Stable Relation, in paperback and ebook.