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My kids have a sense of humor. They also have very clear notions as to what is fair and what is not. That doesn't necessarily mean that they can self-motivate and do anything productive without threats, wheedling, and complaining, but at least they have the right idea. The idea that our animals count on us to take care of them, and that we should take that responsibility seriously.
My eldest daughter is a classic example. She is a born supervisor. She knows what needs to be done, can see how to accomplish it, but is better suited to giving instruction, than actually bending her elbows and getting it done. Goats, also, are a mixed blessing. What good they do with keeping the place weed free, they cancel out by getting into mischief. They jump fences and chase the pigs out of their feed. They break into the feed shed and get into whatever they can get their rubbery little lips around. We have yet to find a truly effective way to control them, so we have pretty much gotten to the point that we just deal with them the best we can. We have managed to contain most of the twenty-head herd to the back pasture with the use of barbed wire and electric fencing. This keeps them out of the feed shed, but also leaves them with less than desirable housing as they are also fenced away from the pole barns. There are many trees, so they do have cover, but nothing substantial, so when we expect extremely wet weather we usually throw up something temporary to help keep them dry. A fact that apparently doesn't meet with the approval of our seventeen-year old daughter. As was indicated by the following letter that was found wedged in the gate of the goat pasture:
Sincerely....Billy (hoof print)
Now, I have proofread thousands of book reports, and have pored over hundreds of heartfelt letters from my daughter, so I recognized her handwriting immediately. Maybe it was the little hearts she used to dot her I's. Not to mention the phrasing of the letter. I really can't picture Billy using the word "homies", so I suspected that this letter might not be from Billy after all.
When confronted, she hid a grin behind her hand.
"I don't know what you're talking about." She replied, refusing to meet my eyes.
"Right." I said. I finally managed to lock eyes with her and she started to giggle. Until I went on.
"Get your shoes on and meet me out front. We have exactly twelve wooden posts and some left over sheet metal, and today, we're building a pole barn in the back pasture for 'Billy and his kids' so his 'homies' won't make fun of him anymore."
"Whuut? I can't do that! I just got a French manicure!" She waggled her fingers at me to prove her point.
"Be that as it may, it's time you started putting your money where your mouth is. You're right. The goats do need more substantial shelter. But there's a lot more involved than just talking about it. So, up and at 'em, Sweet Pea."
She shook the house down to the very foundation as she stomped around hunting for her boots, and if mean looks were money, she would be the Donald Trump of the 'scowl' market, but something tells me it will be a good long while before I get any more long-winded letters from Billy.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org