Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Dealing Goats

Back before the trailer, I had to bite the bullet and just use the luxury SUV to haul goats.  Katherine had gotten some harebrained idea about purchasing random breeds of goats to add “comic relief” to our monotonous herd of pygmy goats.  I argued that Pygmy goats are quite “comical,” but we had to test the hypothesis.

Katherine is a master of stalking the Internet, whether it is through her active participation on the “Goat Forum” or through her nearly OCD monitoring of Craig’s List for goats for sale.  This time it was Craig’s List.  She found a 4-year old, pregnant Boer Goat for sale in a town far, far away (i.e., 10 hours).

The good news was that the dealer was going to be driving our direction (sort of) the following week and could meet us to hand off the goat.  The bad news was that they would arrive at our designated meeting place at 2:30 in the morning.  Otherwise known as 0’dark-hundred.  The other bit of bad news was that they weren’t absolutely certain what time they would reach the meeting place, so they would call us at midnight to update us on their progress.

I agreed to let Katherine buy the goat (with her own money, of course); I would drive her to get it.  Why did I agree? I felt both spiteful and guilty.  My relationship with “Bubba” had ended a few weeks before after a long, slow decline that culminated in my giving him an ultimatum: “I need to be more important to you than the goats.”  At that precise moment (no joke) his cell phone rang: someone was having a goat-birthing emergency and needed his help right away (9-1-1).  He drove off in his truck, and that was the end of our 5-year relationship.  For a couple months I fielded a lot of questions of “what happened with you and Bubba?!”  My response: “He loved the goats more than me.”  Everyone gave me a knowing smile and a sad little nod.  Turns out there was actually a whole lot more to it…. more on that plot twist later.

Bubba left, and I found myself living on a goat farm with a lot of kids – human and goat.  Child #3, Katherine, was 15 and had developed a passion for the goats during the five-year period.  After Bubba removed his 25+ goats (and donkey and pony and 7 vehicles) from the property, we still had 20+ goats of our own – mostly Katherine’s.  She’s a capable, levelheaded teenage girl and has shown a consistent commitment to the goats for quite a while so I agreed to keep them.  Besides, status quo was easier than enduring the wrath of an angry and hurt teenage girl or figuring out how to divest myself of 20+ goats.

During her apprenticeship to Bubba, because that’s really what it was, Katherine learned about the care and maintenance of goats, as related to the Pygmy variety in particular.  For years she had been nagging me (and Bubba) to get a “Fainting Goat.”

A “Fainting Goat” is also known as a Myotonic Goat, Tennessee (Meat) Goat, Nervous Goat, Stiff-leg Goat, Wooden-leg Goat, and Tennessee Fainting Goat.  They have a muscle condition called myotonia congenital, which causes them to freeze up and keel over (“faint”) when frightened. (Note: They are still conscious, so technically they haven’t fainted. Just sayin’.)  According to Wikipedia, they are also known for their protruding eyeballs.  Here are a couple of "cute" examples of Myotonic goats in a “faint”:

The best part about them is that they are super easy to catch in an open field.  I highly recommend watching the YouTube videos of people popping open umbrellas around them (www.youtube.com/watch?v=we9_CdNPuJg).  Good fun.  Alas, Bubba and I held the line against the invasion of non-pygmy breeds to our pristine herd.

But now Bubba was gone, and I felt guilty for firing Katherine’s goat “mentor” so I caved in and agreed to let her buy a random goat.  Like any self-respecting teenager, she took advantage of my guilty conscience and found a goat before I could rethink it.  As for feeling spiteful, having a non-pygmy goat on the property would have irritated the hell out of Bubba and I wanted to prove to him that I could do anything I damned well pleased. Hah – take that.  Hence, Craig’s List – pregnant Boer goat – 2:30 am meeting.

Katherine got the call at midnight that the deal was on.  I dragged myself out of bed and into the dark of the crisp autumn night.  The heated seats in my swanky Suburban sure felt good.  We plugged an address into the navigation system and off we went. 

The meeting place was about 2 hours (87 miles to be exact) from home at a gas station by the intersection of two highways.  I thought for sure that there would be no traffic for two obvious reasons: 1) 0’dark hundred, and 2) middle of no-where.  Then traffic screeched to a halt on a vertical lift, iron truss bridge.  Construction.  Of course.  Get the construction work done when there are no cars.  Good idea, CalTrans.  A construction worker directed one lane of traffic through the virtual cattle shoot every 15 minutes. 

I really do struggle to overcome my genetic predisposition to be an A-type personality.  Wikipedia describes A-type personalities as “ambitious, rigidly organized, highly status-conscious, sensitive, impatient, take on more than they can handle, want other people to get to the point, anxious, proactive, and concerned with time management.  Emphasis added. We were going to be late, damn it.  Deep breathing.  Can’t change it.  Look at the funny side.  It’s just a goat.

We emerged from the traffic jam and raced to our deal (not 7.8 seconds from 0-60 mph, mind you).  Our meeting point was a truck-friendly gas station with a vast parking lot.  We arrived before our goat dealer, so we parked conspicuously in the empty parking lot under a street light ("ho hum, just a woman and her teenaged daughter hanging out at the gas station at 2:30 am – don’t mind us").  Several other cars pulled up – to get gas.  At 2:30, really?

Finally a truck towing a 25’ stock trailer pulled up.  That’s a really big trailer.  Obviously, this was the goat dealer.  We introduced ourselves; I made Katherine do the talking.  It’s good practice for a shy teenaged girl to talk to strangers at the gas station at 2:30 am.  Toughens her up a bit.  Katherine slipped the cash to the dealer, who then opened a side door (emergency escape door?) on the trailer to show us “Little One.”  The name is obviously ironic.  This goat is the size of a miniature horse.

Good thing we did not bring the XL dog crate.  She was way past that.  But no worries – the cargo area of the Suburban is 137.4 cubic feet.  Katherine had the foresight to prep the back of the Suburban for its goat passenger with a tarp and an old quilt.  Katherine slipped a hot pink lead rope around Little One’s neck and coaxed (read: dragged) her out of the old stock trailer and over to the cargo hold of my luxurious SUV.

Being an A-personality, I sure didn’t want to look inept or anything like that, but inside I was at a loss about how to hoist this beast into the back of my vehicle.  With great bravado and pep, I instructed Katherine, “You lift that side and I’ll lift this side – on three…”  A miracle occurred that morning and we launched 150 pounds of surprised goat up into the cargo hold.  I imagine that the dealer was laughing inside.  Little One had spent her entire life in a field with a herd of 200 identical goats and now here she was being chauffeured around in the back of a Suburban.  Whatever.  Money is money, and goats are goats.  

As you can see from the picture, Little One adjusted quickly to her new life.  She certainly appreciated the rear climate control and was polite enough not to demand a DVD for the ride home.  Katherine and I also appreciated the climate control in the front to keep the…musky… air from stagnating.

Epilogue: I am happy to report that Little One lives happily in the pygmy herd, shiny and fat.  As usual. Katherine was right and the goat does provide comic relief to our rancher.

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