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.

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