Sunday, July 5, 2015

Goat Show No Show

The shiny new trailer waited expectantly in the driveway, ready for its first goat-hauling excursion. Katherine was busy stocking and organizing its “new smelling” tack room.  Ten days and counting.  I was prepping myself emotionally to reenter the Goat Show Circuit.  It had been 9 months since I had attended a goat show, and a lot had happened (i.e. breaking up with Bubba and starting a new relationship with David).  Katherine had attended a few shows with Bubba after the breakup, but this was her first chance to prove herself as an independent goat shower.  We were ready.  And then the universe threw me a curve ball.
In Friday’s mail I found a letter hand-addressed to me with no return address and a non-local postmark.  In these days of online communications it is exceptionally rare to get any snail mail that isn’t junk mail—especially a hand-written letter.  So of course I opened it on the spot, as I was walking to the house, herding children in front of me like a mother hen.  I stopped in my tracks, eyes bugging out and blood pressure skyrocketing.

It was from an anonymous “friend” who thought I should know about the romance that had been going on behind my back.  Turns out Bubba had been having a tryst with our daycare lady (“Sarah”) for some time.  Holy moly.  I thought we had broken up because he loved goats more than me—not another person!  I’m not sure which is worse--the goats are pretty cute.  My mind raced back through my memories of Sarah, Bubba, us, everything.  Suddenly a lot of things made a whole lot of sense.
I met Sarah three years prior through 4-H.  Turns out she and Bubba had grown up in the same town and knew a lot of people in common.  They remembered each other from showing goats together as kids, and now she wanted to get back into the “sport” for her kids (of course).  Conveniently, Bubba was the 4-H project leader for pygmy goats.  Bubba sold her some “starter” goats; apparently it really got started.

I was 8 months pregnant with Cash at the time (baby #6) and had adopted a hands-off approach to goatherding.  Perhaps I had taken a hands-off approach to our romance, too.  I wouldn’t be the first pregnant woman to fall into that trap.  

Meanwhile, I tried to befriend Sarah because it seemed we had some shared life experiences.  She had kids (3)—I had kids (5, then 6, then 7).  She was going through a vicious divorce—I was just coming out of a vicious divorce. Sarah was aloof and wary, but I wrote it off to a bad life situation.  Now I saw a reason for her remoteness…
Hand Super Model

I knew that Sarah and Bubba attended all the same goat shows.  Hell, Katherine frequently went to Sarah’s house to kid out Sarah’s goats at all hours of the day and night because Katherine is better at birthing goats than Bubba.  (Smaller hands.)  In fact, the night of “The Ultimatum” (It’s me or the goats) Sarah was the one to call Bubba with a goat-birthing emergency (9-1-1).  He literally left the conversation about salvaging our comatose relationship to go help her.  How dumb was I?
Soon after Cash was born, I got pregnant with Tallulah.  Bubba eventually took Cash and Tallulah to the goat shows without me to “give me a break”-- I stayed home to home to manage the other kids.  At home, Bubba easily convinced me that Sarah’s newly established home-daycare would be a great place to park the babies a few hours a week.  Sign me up!  I’m a huge fan of childcare.  I went to a few goat shows and was a little unsettled to see the degree to which Sarah (not Bubba) was tending my children; but I wrote that off, too-- she was their daycare provider after all.  But when I was present, she kept a distance of at least 100’ between us.  Still aloof…  In hindsight, there was a palpable tension in the air.
Lightning (duh)
I knew that Bubba and Sarah frequently texted back and forth—because Katherine told me so.  Who better than a teenage girl to spy on text messaging?  That tidbit sent up a red flag, so I confronted Bubba.  “Don’t be ridiculous,” he cooed.  After having been married to the world’s worst philanderer for 18+ years, I desperately wanted to believe that “lightning would not strike twice,” so I trusted Bubba.  What’s that old saying: “believe half of what you see and none of what you hear,” right?
When my relationship with Bubba finally petered out, I said to a mutual friend, “Mark my words—Bubba will date Sarah.  She’s the perfect woman for him: she’s young and (maybe) na├»ve enough to have more kids (he wants more kids and I’m a bit burned out on that front), she owns goats, she drives a Suburban (his fav), and, to top it off, she is a daycare provider! What more could he want??” 
So when the letter arrived on my doorstep announcing the relationship I wasn’t at all surprised that they were dating.  What did surprise me, however, was that Bubba didn’t have the courage to tell me.  Twenty-first century “co-parenting” protocols require each party to tell the other before introducing children to a new significant other.  I knew those rules inside and out from having just signed the documents with The Ex-husband.  I am a compulsive rule follower: I told Bubba in writing about David before I introduced David to Cash and Tallulah (and I followed the other rules of not cheating, too – just sayin’).
All of this information flashed through my mind in the 60 seconds that I took me to process the anonymous letter and start dialing Bubba on my cell phone.  He made it to my house in record time.  
Bubba’s basic premise was that he was averse to telling me because he was afraid of how I would react.   I promptly, and loudly, regurgitated a lecture I frequently give to my five older children: you have to take responsibility for your actions, OWN them, even if the consequences are uncomfortable.  My motto with the kids is “NO SURPRISES.”  If you have a bad report card, for example, Mom and Dad will be way less angry if you tell them about it before they hear it from the teacher.  Not immediately addressing the issue only makes it more difficult in the end, because, my friend, the truth always comes out.  If you get ahead of the problem, the outcome is more manageable.  I guarantee it.
What man, or woman for that matter, has not learned this lesson by age 40?  Apparently Bubba missed the memo; his modus operendi for this dilemma (as well as most other sticky spots) was to stick his head in the sand and hope it would go away.  In our confrontation, he denied that their relationship began before he moved out, but I had my doubts based on my own experiences with the two of them.  No matter.  The real issue was not being upfront with me after the fact.
Bubba stood in front of me, “deer in the headlights.”  I don’t consider myself a scary person, but maybe I am.  Maybe having 7 kids has honed my mom-lecturing skills to a wickedly sharp point?
The first goat show of the season was 10 days away and we would all be there.  Bubba and his mom, Marge, would manage the babies while I assisted Katherine.  Sarah would be there with her three kids.  David was coming—his first goat show ever.  Katherine’s dad, The Ex, was tentatively planning on attending, too.  Uh oh.  This had the makings of a very…tense…weekend. 

The days flew by.  I pulled the trailer up to the barn to help Katherine load the goats. 

I practiced some deep breathing, meditation, and activating my chakras (can’t hurt), and I climbed up in the driver’s seat of the ‘Burb.  Time to go to this fine party.  “Take the bull by the horns.”
I practice what I preach, and I wanted to set an example for Katherine of how to walk into an…awkward…situation with grace and aplomb.  “The better you look, the more confident you feel,” I counseled. 
So, while Katherine groomed the goats the prior week, I groomed myself: hair appointment, eyebrow touch up, manicure (at a goat show, why?), facial, make-up consultation, etc.  I packed a hair dryer, flat iron, hair products, AND make-up.  An act so unlike me that both Katherine and David looked at me askance.  I’m really not that kind of girly-girl—at all.  But I could be, damn it.
As you will recall from my previous blog about “Trailering Goats,” I was already panicky about this goat show for a much more practical reason: how in God’s name was I going to back the trailer down a narrow, car lined alley to unload the goats?  And then park the trailer in the nearby commercial parking lot?  Here is what the alley looks like with no cars in it, so imagine it with every space filled with a long-body truck and packs of 4-H’ers with their parents and their rabbits/chickens/goats milling around.  There is no easy way to do this.

Once We made it through that unloading ordeal, We would have to maneuver the trailer into a car-sized parking space in a nearby parking lot – again, imagine the lot filled to overflowing with cars.  “Compact” is not an option for a 3-horse stock trailer:
Katherine and I had been practicing for this moment that day we bought the trailer and she drove it around the vacant parking lot.  As you will recall, our plan was for her to take the wheel and maneuver the blasted trailer.  Hence, the “We.”
Driving north, we passed Bubba and Sarah driving Bubba’s trailer south—going away from the show.  “Where are they going?” we pondered.  No matter.  We arrived at the fairgrounds right on schedule (I do love a schedule).  Fortunately, the show organizer had assigned Katherine pens as far away from Bubba and Sarah as possible.  After all, the Goat Show Circuit is a tight-knit group and there are no secrets (except, maybe from me it turns out). 
We pulled our rig head-in down the alley, unloaded the goats and mountains of gear, and braced ourselves to extract the trailer.  Katherine, age 15–no learner’s permit or anything—hopped into the driver’s seat, looked over her shoulder and inched the trailer down road in reverse.  And I do mean inched.  She drove at the “speed of dark.”  Our goat show posse, whom we hadn’t seen in months, watched on in silence—probably holding their breath like I was.  I stood behind the trailer smiling, waving, and shouting out minor corrections (“a little more left, a little more right, looking good!”).  It’s all about the positive attitude.  You can do it, Katherine!  Yay!
One down, one to go: the parking lot.  By some miracle, we accomplished that feat, too.  Luckily, the trailer could stay parked the rest of the weekend.  Phew.

Next, the decorating.  Go big or go home.  We donned our personalized logo-wear baseball caps and tied up our brand-spanking-new 4’ x 5” vinyl banner across our pens (marketing!); interlaced pink, green and silver garland, as well as fake flowers, through the fencing to “prettify” it; organized the myriad of buckets, boxes, electric cords, tool boxes, hay bags.  Katherine and I were not going to fade away in the back corner, no sirree.  We were going to make A Statement.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the goat show, Sarah and Bubba had mingled their goats in a row of adjacent pens.  Sarah had reappeared with her kids and was organizing their gear (no decorating though).  She was the virtual “one-armed paper hanger” over there; Bubba was nowhere in sight.  While Katherine put the finishing touches on our fanciful pens, I socialized with the other goat people.  “We are doing GREAT!” I exclaimed to all who asked.
The goats were all tucked in for the night, and Katherine and I headed out to dinner with a group of goat friends.
Peek a Boo
The next morning I woke up extra early to do my hair, makeup, and outfit.  In hindsight, I admit I was acting kooky.  But this primping gave me the confidence to go back out there with a smile on my face; sometimes that’s all that matters.
David drove up separately that Saturday morning, and the two of us watched the goat show from the (cold metal) bleachers.  Katherine did a bang up job.  She won her showmanship class with grace and finesse, including the impromptu part where she had to get on the microphone and judge her peers.  Not an “um,” not a giggle, not a stutter crossed her lips.  Katherine stood in the middle of the ring and scanned the audience, looking random people in the eye, as she explained to the crowd that Goat #1 was placed over Goat #2 for its better topline and shoulder connection.  I squeezed David’s knee—so proud of my girl!

Next Katherine choreographed the various classes with the efficiency of an ER nurse.  All by herself, she had every goat ready and at the gate right on cue.  She entered the ring with a pleasant expression on her face every time (showmanship!).  David and I wandered off to buy food and peruse the fair.  We came back and Katherine was still in her groove.  Goat in, goat set up, goat walking, goat set up, smile, exit.  Repeat.  Over and over.  All day long.  I occasionally left my perch in the bleachers to chat up a goat show friend.  We all had a lovely day.

Meanwhile, in the other corner of the goat show, Sarah was corralling all of Bubba’s goats as well as her own.  Bubba did not appear the entire weekend.  Poor Sarah had to wrangle Bubba’s feral goats, while coercing her children into showing her other goats.  By the end of it, Sarah’s kids had snuck off to the fair, leaving her to manage the goats by herself.
At the end of the show, Katherine and I loaded our docile herd back into the trailer, leisurely walking them four at a time down the city street to our parked trailer.  I helped Katherine un-decorate the pens and load the gear, and then we hit the road.  We passed Bubba driving up the highway in the opposite direction, towards the fairgrounds.  He was headed back to help Sarah load the animals after her crazy weekend of showing goats alone.  I suspect she was one of the very last exhibitors to leave the show.  Was it my imagination, or had Bubba intentionally waited for everyone to leave?

I felt bad for Sarah.  Apparently, she was less important to Bubba than the goats, too.  She was a generous, tolerant girlfriend to do all of Bubba’s work for him.  Meanwhile, the Goat Show Community watched on to see how the drama of Ex-Girlfriend and New-Girlfriend might unfold.  I am proud to say that there was zero drama.
In the end, I was so proud of both Katherine and me.  Katherine had truly managed her own goat show.  She was organized, timely, professional, friendly.  She proved to me once and for all that the Goat Project really is hers, not mine.  I am but the driver, bystander and financier.  As for me, I had survived the public outing of the relationship’s demise and I had done it with confidence and verve.  I was deeply touched by the warm welcome that Katherine and I received from the goat show community and I felt welcomed back into the fold as my own entity.  We were perfectly capable of showing goats on our own, thank you.  It would all be fine. 
As for parenting, I hope that Katherine learned firsthand that hiding from a difficult situation does not make the problem go away.  It’s scary to face the problem head on, but the fear subsides and you come out the other end a stronger person.  Remember: No Surprises and Own It. 

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