Monday, March 21, 2016

Pygmy Goats "For the Children"

Bagel, Babybel, Meatloaf -
Tallulah & me
Goat shows are a community unto themselves. I have made some of my closest friends at these shows, standing around the ring, watching goats (and people) parade past. But how did we all end up here? The most common path is through our children. However, I have made a shocking discovery: it’s all a ruse.
Katherine tells me about it all the time: “I fielded another call today from a Mom looking to buy goats for her child for 4-H.” The Moms (and sometimes dads) visit the farm with young children in tow, and the gig is up. 99% of the time the kid is more interested in _______ (fill in the blank, anything works: the gravel from the driveway, the rooster, the livestock dog, the flowers, the mud puddle – anything!).
Meanwhile, The Mom is loving up the baby goats like nobody’s business. That’s not to say that the kids don’t like the goats. They do. But, they are not obsessed with the goats like their Moms. And it’s always The Mom, not the dad.
I can point to my own life-experience to support this hypothesis. I refer you back to my post, "A Goat Named Henry," about my first goat (Here's the link to the blog entry). As you will recall, my mother’s boyfriend bought her the baby goat from the petting zoo at the County Fair. He bought it for my mom, not me! He was no dummy, ‘cuz he knew I wasn’t really into the goat like my mom was.
OK, that is neither Gilbert
nor his new owner, but you
get the idea (the goat's name
is Bertha)
A year ago, we sold a bottle-baby goat named "Gilbert" to a family with young children. The kids liked Gilbert well enough, but The Mom fell madly in love with that little animal the minute she laid eyes on him. The Mom still sends us photos of Gilbert, sometimes with children, but usually with herself.
So, I’ve been asking around at goat shows over the past year: “How did you get involved with goats?” I have found only ONE person who “got into goats” outside of their children. Even she had children at the time, but I think those kids put their feet down early on and say “no thank you” to goats. That’s OK, because The Mom has gone on to become the most influential Pygmy Goat breeder in the country for the past 30 years! (I’m not naming names, but you know who you are! xoxoxoxo)
Everyone else has "come to goats" through their kids. But how many of those kids actually tugged at their mom’s coat sleeves, begging and nagging, “Mom, please! I really have to have a PYGMY GOAT or I will die!”
Elizabeth & Fluffernutter -
looking thrilled (not)
Or, maybe: “MA, all the COOL kids at school "do" goats … I NEEEED one (or 30).”
Here’s the real scene:
Mom says, “What after-school activities do you want to sign up for this year?”
Kid says, “I dunno.” (If they say soccer, run, just run the other direction very fast).
Mom: “How about 4-H? We have some space in the yard. You could learn about responsibility!” (and run away again if kid says, “I’d rather have a hamster.)
In reality, The Mom is thinking, “I need a warm, fuzzy, goat-friend RIGHT NOW! And my (current and/or ex) husband/partner/boyfriend will think I’m bat-poop crazy if I tell him. So I’ll use the kid as an excuse. Shazam!”
Kid says, “Meh.” (If kid is older than 8 years old, he/she is thinking, “Can I go back to Minecraft now?”)
Mom says, “How about pygmy goats?! You don’t have to sell them at the fair. It’ll be a pet! Come on, this’ll be FUN!”
Kid says, “Whatever.”
Then The Mom starts making calls and the dad ends up building pens in their backyard. Faster than two shakes of a goat's tail, The Mom is toting goats around in the back of her SUV/mini-van/station wagon/Prius.
Some kids come to Pygmy Goats through other 4-H projects. For example, maybe they started in sheep or market steer or pigs (excuse me, it's "swine"). All of those animals are significantly larger (and less animated) than Pygmy Goats. The family goes to the fair and sees how much FUN the Pygmy Goat people are having, and they “get into goats.”
Or, rather, The MOMS see how much fun the OTHER MOMS are having at the Pygmy Goat show and they start hatching a plan…
Tallulah's best hairdo
We Pygmy-Goat-People do have the most fun. I have spent time at shows watching the other livestock groups interact with each other and show their animals, and I have yet to switch to their projects.
Once they are into the goats, the kids participate…for a while. The little-kid showmanship class is sometimes like watching a “Toddler and Tiaras” episode: hair primping (sparkles!), boot dusting, animal grooming, outfit envy, frantic coaching (“look at the judge and smile!”), lip gloss (!).
Cash & Tallulah at a goat show in February
I admit it, I am a recovering “goat show mom.” There should be a 12-step program for that…but that’s another blog post. Poor Bella was my “target.” She and I came to goats out of the horse show world, which has even MORE primping than “Toddlers and Tiaras.” We were “in it to win it.” I cared very deeply how she placed in her goat showmanship class, and so did she (competitive little soul that she is). 
Bella & Pupa at the very beginning of
their long winning streak
She would enter the ring, smile plastered on her cherubic face, and I would break into a cold sweat with performance anxiety. Over goats. Yeah, I had it bad.
And like most other kids at the Pygmy Goat shows, Bella lost interest in showing goats right fast. She liked the competition aspect, but had zero interest in the actual goat at the other end of the leash. Anyways, I could go on and on about being a goat show mom, and maybe I will…another time.
The point I’m trying to make here is that the kids lose interest in showing goats, but the moms stick around. The Moms eventually drop their ruse of being there “for the children.” The children are at home on sleepovers, soccer tournaments, dances, parties, etc. etc. Typical kid stuff. Turning sixteen is usually the final blow.
But The Moms … The Moms are in it for the long haul. At the goat show, we often see the grown-up “kids” return with their own families – strollers and toddlers in tow. Ooing and ahhing over the goats.
Mama and (mostly) Grown Baby
Some of the “kids” even get back into goat showing, “for their children” – of course. And so, the cycle begins again.
For the record, here, I do know people that started showing goats as young children, with their moms of course, and who did stay with the goats for lo’ these many years… decades actually. And the really funny part is that The Moms are still in it with their adult children! I can think of FOUR mother/child (not all daughters, ya’ know) pairs off the top of my head. Not naming names… you know who you are.
On the other hand, I can think of many, many more solo Moms (and a few dads) out there still showing goats after all these years. No kids in tow. Alone. In the goat show ring. Driving their trailers and setting up their pens all by themselves.
But not really, and this is the magic of Pygmy Goats: they bring people together. “We” see the same people--our “Goat Show Friends”--month after month at various fairgrounds around the great State of California. “We” watch them get new jobs, new houses, new trucks, new trailers, new (grand)babies, new spouses. “We” hold their hand when their dog dies, when they get their knees replaced, or when they are diagnosed with cancer. “We” laugh and cry through each others’ relationship “transitions.”
“We” experience our lives with these people who we might never have met any way other than … yes, you guessed it, Pygmy Goats. They are wonderful little creatures, but the community they engender is magnitudes better.
As I near my own crossroads moment with goats, this topic weighs heavily on my mind. Katherine is a junior in high school, and even though she loves her goat farm (dare I say that she LIVES for her goat farm?) she will go off to college in two years. She swears she’s going to a college within easy driving distance of home and will come home every weekend to manage her goats (and schedule kiddings for school breaks).
I know better, AND I wouldn’t want that for her. She needs to have the “full college experience” – especially weekends.
So, David and I will be home alone on “Katherine’s” little goat farm. What on earth am I going to do? Will I stay with it (feeding, mucking, grooming, showing) or will I insist that she sell all but a few of our favorite goats?
No more goat shows? What a dreary, sad, lonely thought. Good thing I have four more kids after her!
And, you know what? I’ll keep going to goat shows even if the kids won't go with me. My ‘peeps are all there.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

What a Difference a Year Makes

I was in the barn the other day helping Katherine with a difficult kidding.  Without going into all the gory details, she needed me to brace the goat’s head with my knees and then hold the goat’s hips into the air so that the baby, wedged inside, might slide backwards down the birth canal. 

Basically, we were using gravity to help “unstick” the baby.  It was most unpleasant for me, and I can only imagine how wretched it was for the poor goat.  So, I did what I sometimes do in unpleasant situations: I closed my eyes and thought about something else. Disassociation at its finest.

It occurred to me that another “goat year” has launched. The first goat show of the year has already come and gone -- uneventfully. Last year, you will recall, I was in the throes of a heated battle with my ex-partner, Bubba. The first show of last year was bearing down on us when an anonymous letter appeared in my mailbox announcing Bubba’s blossoming romance with our (former) daycare lady. The subsequent goat show had all the makings for a high drama “show down” until Bubba didn’t show up at all. Anyway, in the timeless words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I gotta say about that.” 

Here’s the link, it’s a good one: "Goat Show No Show"

What a difference a year makes.

This year, Katherine packed the trailer, hitched up the Suburban, and loaded 20 goats without me. Wait, that’s the same as last year. But last year I didn’t help because I was yapping away on my cell phone with “Sarah’s” ex-husband, gathering information. THIS YEAR, on the other hand, I was inside packing my bag for a romantic Valentine’s weekend with David. Katherine glared at me both years. Ah, teenagers.
We arrived at the goat show, parked the trailer, and walked the goats into the fairgrounds. “We” is probably not the correct pronoun here. Katherine drove and parked the trailer, and Bobby got stuck walking goats. I took pictures (more glares from Katherine).

Another sign of how far we’ve come this year came in the form of “pen assignments.” Each show has an organizer, a Grand Poobah of sorts, who manages all the entries, checks in the goats, coordinates with the fairgrounds, and … assigns pens to each exhibitor. As you can imagine, assigning pens is an art form and is political. Last year, our pens were in the back corner, as far away from Bubba and Sarah (in the front corner) as possible. I guess the Grand Poobah was trying to avoid … friction.
But this year … THIS year  we were front row. Our pens were slab-dab next to the show ring AND the gate, a mere two pens away from Bubba and Sarah. Words cannot convey how exciting this pen assignment was. “What does it matter, you crazy goat-lady?” you may be thinking. But, oh my friend, it matters. It so, so matters.

Maybe Katherine got front row because she brought so many goats. Or maybe it was because she’s recognized as a legit’ breeder and exhibitor? Whatever. Don’t care. It was both convenient and symbolic. And … near Bubba/Sarah. But that didn’t matter either.

Somehow, Cash’s showmanship outfit was at my house (handed down from Bobby, I think), so I brought it and hand-delivered it to Bubba with a genuine smile and “hello.”

The pre-show routine progressed as usual. Katherine groomed goats, trimmed hooves, decorated her pens (ahem, front row). I parked my chair with some pals and caught up on their lives and everyone else’s gossip. Goat people are a chatty bunch.
Trimming hooves
It didn’t even occur to me to keep an eye on Bubba/Sarah. It just didn’t matter.
I stayed for the Cash and Tallulah’s showmanship class, took some pictures of “Toga” doing goat show things (stay tuned…), and poked around the fair.

Cash & "Chevy"

I did still did my makeup and hair, but not to impress Bubba/Sarah. I did it to look nice for David, who arrived shortly after showmanship to whisk me off for a lovely day of wine tasting and romancing.

Playing Hooky From the Goat Show
It was a gorgeous, Northern California Valentine’s day. And the goat show chugged along (as usual). I checked in periodically with Katherine via text, and she did just fine without me (as usual).
The next day, Katherine packed the trailer, loaded the goats, and hitched up the Suburban. Home again, home again, jiggity jog. I have no idea what Bubba and Sarah did for Valentine’s Day.
Back at the ranch … I re-friended Bubba on Facebook and Katherine re-friended Sarah. Being angry takes so much energy. And for what? Life is short, get over it.
I frequently tell the children that a good night’s sleep will undo the ills of a rotten day. Time, distance and rest will adjust your perspective on just about anything. Sometimes it may take more than a single night; it may take a year. Or maybe longer. But hurt feelings do subside and a broken heart does mend. You have to allow it happen, and new good things will come your way. I promise.