|Article Index||"The Truce"||Article Index|
Baby is supposed to be a goat. To the untrained eye, she is. But for those of who live with her, she is anything but a goat. She was purchased as a very young kid and had to be bottle fed for the first month or so, and due to the constant human interaction she, somewhere along the line, began to fancy herself a human. Like a human child, she would answer to her name, when she darned well felt like it. She grew up getting into mischief, being constantly underfoot, meddling with things she had no business meddling with, and just generally being a pain in the neck.
No matter what was going on, Baby was in the middle of it. Lay down a screwdriver, she would pick it up and walk away with it, just because she could. Everybody knows goats have no use for screwdrivers. Set out a can of nuts and bolts and she would ‘taste’ them until she determined they weren’t edible and then kick the can over out of spite. Hanging clothes on the line was always an event, as she saw it as her duty to remove the clothes from the basket and drag them across the yard. That was her contribution. Baby saw no reason why goats could not ride four-wheelers, and would happily jump on the back and be carted around the pasture like the Queen of Sheba.
No doubt about it, Baby was a character. She understood and answered to her name. If you called to her while she was out in the pasture, she would lift her head, fix you with that goggle eyed stare and bleat in response. I got used to that, it was a daily routine. She also understood the words... ‘dead goat’ as she was threatened with being one often enough, and like any red blooded American, she eventually learned how to hold a grudge with the best of them.
Around October of 2001 it became clear that Baby had become a ‘woman’ as she was clearly pregnant. Due to her shortened experience with her own mother I was mildly concerned that she might not be prepared to become a mother herself, so I watched her carefully. One cold night in December she gave birth to a beautiful little buck. She turned out to be an exemplary mother. Unfortunately, we didn’t need another buck, so when he became old enough he was sold. I have made up my mind that I am not going to be the type of animal owner that becomes so attached to new offspring that I end up with more animals than I can afford to feed. I’m not saying it’s easy, just that it has to be.
Baby has not been the same since. She became very detached and spent less time with us and more with her true peers, the other goats. When called, she would sometimes raise her head but never answered anymore. It was clear that she took the sale of her baby as the worst kind of betrayal, and gave us humans a wide berth. Suddenly there was an unexpected change.
I started to notice her around the front yard, her old hang out, more and more often. I had pretty much gotten to the point where I was ignoring her, and I hadn’t expected her to leave the safety of the herd and come near us despicable humans again, but clearly something drew her back to us. She would watch me silently as I went about my chores, and as the days went by, she gradually came closer and closer, and then one evening she came close enough that I decided to try a little experiment.
I sat down in the front yard in a lawn chair and I softly called to her, where she stood grazing several yards away. She lifted her head and looked at me but did not answer.
“Baby.” I called. “Come over here.” I held out my hand to her and she just stared.
“Come on, now, you know you want to.” More staring, and then, lo and behold, she bleated. There was one cautious step, a flick of her tail, and then down her head went again to graze some more.
“Come here Baby, come and see me.” I called again. Three or four steps this time, with her head still down, kinda like ‘don’t get all worked up, lady, I was planning on coming that way anyhow’. I just waited. If we were ever going to sort things out she had to come to me, and not the other way around.
Ever so slowly she came within a few feet of me, and then like a gift, she sidled up to me and put her head in my lap. I was terrified I was going to do the wrong thing, so I didn’t move for a few seconds and then cautiously, I put my hand on the side of her face and rubbed her stubborn little cheek. She stood there for a full thirty minutes while I petted and talked to her and in essence, we made up.
Baby is pregnant again, and I don’t know if goats have any real range of memory or not, but if they do, this is a sign to me that she’s decided it’s all right to trust me again. She’s big as a house, and I don’t know what’s going to happen at this point, but I do know that I will do everything in my power not to betray that trust that was so hard to gain back. If I have to castrate a little buck to keep him in the family, so be it. I’ve got goats that are just goats, and then I’ve got Baby, and as pesky as she can be, I missed her. It was too much work gaining back her faith in me and I won’t jeopardize it again for any amount of money.
About the author: After growing up in Texas, C.J. Mouser and her husband, Fred, eventually found home on a small farm in west central Florida, where they and children Jenny, Jill and Jake grow oranges and raise swine. A collection of goats, cats and dogs also call the farm home, along with the occasional rattlesnake, alligator or "marauding wild hog intent on a little romance" in the sow pen.
Other columns focus on family. "Sometimes the threads that hold the family together are as fragile as spider silk, and as convoluted and complex as the main switchboard at the IRS."
Mouser, who is also a freelance writer and columnist for her local newspaper, followed her own path to become a writer. "I have no formal education. In fact, I'm 43 years old and haven't finished high school," she says. "I am a prime example of 'don't let this happen to you'."
Faithful readers who can't wait for her next column, however, would say she's done just fine.
C J can be reached via email at: email@example.com