Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Goat Named Henry

As a child, I divided my time between my parents, one of whom lived in a mid-sized city on the East Coast and the other who lived in a small rural town also on the East Coast.  I was an only child and got shuttled around between my parents and grandparents for most of my childhood.  My life wasn’t exactly privileged in comparison with all the other little girls in my crowd, but compared to the rest of the world it was pretty good.  I had dogs, cats, a guinea pig, fish.  Ordinary pets.  There was, however, one glimmer of my goat herding future in the form of a goat named Henry. 

When I was six I went to the County Fair with my mom and her then-boyfriend.  My mom had grown up as one of ten kids on a farm and had put herself through college and grad school AND law school.  She was quite the academic overachiever, but remained a “country girl” at heart.  There we were at the Fair, in the petting zoo to be specific (she was probably more excited about it than I was). 

Petting Zoo
In hindsight, I realize that The Boyfriend must have been relatively new at the time and was probably still trying to impress her.  Ah, dating.  So when Mom said how cute the baby goat was, he snuck off and bought it.

I have since been to many petting zoos and cannot for the life of me imagine why someone would sell one of their petting animals, especially one as cute as a baby goat; that’s their bread-and-butter for Pete’s sake. The Boyfriend must have paid through the nose for that kid.

Anyway, Mom was thrilled and let me name the goat.  I chose “Henry” after my favorite 2nd cousin.  Fortunately for family politics, my cousin was flattered and we still laugh about the naming to this day.  Henry (the goat) came home to live with us.  And by “with us” I mean INSIDE the house.  We lived in a small house in a small town with a small yard.  I was six so it didn’t occur to me to ask why the goat did not live outside…. six year-olds just roll with it.  Maybe adults should learn to do the same.
1972 VW Bug

So Henry lived with us like a dog.  He rode in the backseat of Mom’s 1972 Volkswagen Beetle (“Hey lady, is that a goat in your car?”).  He trotted around the house with his little cloven hooves – clickety clack.  He came when he was called - maah.  Henry eventually learned to climb the stairs and could jump over any obstacle meant to deter him (gates, tables, dressers—you get the idea).  Unfortunately for my mother, housetraining was not in the cards.  But, as I said, I was six and I just rolled with it.

When we got Henry he was probably about 8 weeks old and the size of a small dog.  I have since learned that he was a breed of dairy goat called a Toggenburg.  According to Wikipedia, they are “good as pets,” although I don’t think Wiki meant house pets per se.  Another web site (www.hobbyfarms.com) describes “Toggs” as standing 34-38” tall and weighing 150 to 200 pounds.  They are “marvelous dairy goats” – by which they probably mean OUTSIDE.  Lets think about that for a moment: a single mother with a young child living in a small (rental) house with a 150-pound goat. 

One day I came home from school and Henry was gone.  He had moved to a farm “to live with other goats.”  I was six…I just rolled with it of course.  But I never forgot Henry.

Thirty-three years later I was going through a divorce from my husband of 18 years and I was bumbling through a first date with Bubba.  We had known each other casually for some time, but on this date I learned a whole lot more about him – notably that he was a goat farmer.  I was hooked.  It must be a genetic weakness that I inherited from my mother: all a man needed to do to pick me up at that fragile point in my life was say “goat.”
Not my Henry, but, look! someone else on Pinterest has a Henry, too!

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