Friday, February 25, 2011

The Farm

My family moved to the farm five years ago even though we were not farmers.  Somewhere in my fertile mind I believed with all my heart that I would learn how to be a farmer and our little five acres of paradise would become a thriving goat farm.  That was my first mistake; goats.  A wise veterinarian once said to me, “sooner or later livestock becomes dead stock”.  I had no idea how true that statement was until I started raising goats - but that is another story.
Our first arrival, Sugar, came by herself.  She was a cute little pygmy goat with a playful personality and a penchant for sugar – hence the name.  Her main goal in life was to make herself a house-goat.  Our three-year-old daughter, Lulu, was more than happy to accommodate Sugar. I frequently found myself following a trail of goat droppings to Lulu’s room.  There I’d usually find Lulu happily dressing Sugar in a made-for-goat outfit while Sugar munched on paper or crayons or whatever else happened to be lying on the bedroom floor.
Sugar was soon joined by a new crop of pygmies and, as luck would have it, she fell in love with a studly gray male.  Thankfully, her new love interest ended her regular pilgrimages to Lulu’s bedroom.  Now, she spent her days with the new beau – I don’t remember his name.  (I have since learned that it is not a good idea to name the farm animals, but I’m getting ahead of myself.)    It wasn’t long before our goat farm had grown to fifteen head.  I was so proud.  Sugar was heavy with child (or should I say goat). 
Over the next few months we watched Sugar grow to the point where she was as wide as she was long.  In fact, I’d say she was square.  Her belly almost touched the ground and she looked like she might pop.  Then, one day, Lulu came running into the house and breathlessly announced, “Mommy, Sugar is dying!”  As I dried Lulu’s tears, I heard a distant sound coming from the goat pen.  It was a god-awful moaning that any mother, human or beast, would recognize as the sound of labor.  
This was my first goat birthing experience and I had no idea what to expect.  I reassured Lulu that Sugar was not dying as our family made its way out the door.  Sugar was lying in the goat pen far away from the others who had not escaped yet.  I knew I should get her to a stall of her own with hay and water but I was terrified to move her.  Then, Lulu said, “Look, mommy, there’s a balloon coming out of Sugar’s butt!”  Sugar let out a deafening bleat and the sack (balloon) burst open spilling a mixture of blood and water on the ground; next, came the head and two spindly legs.  We watched in amazement as a miniature Sugar was born; identical to her mother in coloring – right down to the white spot on her face.   It wasn’t long before she was joined by her brother – a gray male that looked just like daddy. Twins!  How exciting!  
Sugar began her motherly duties by immediately consuming the afterbirth.  “I’m going to puke!” yelled my daughter, Katie, as she sprinted to the house.  Lulu began asking all kinds of questions like; “Why is Sugar eating the gross balloon?”  “How did the babies get into Sugar’s stomach?”  “Why did they come out her butt?”  I looked at Bill for support.  “You’re the one who wanted to live on a farm.”  He callously remarked as he retreated to the house.  Great, now what do I do?  
“I can’t wait to see the new arrivals!”  I heard my neighbor’s voice coming from the distance.  Wow, news travels fast around here!  Soon, Maryanne arrived at my side.  “There’s nothing like the sound of a goat in labor.” Maryanne observed.  “Anna and I heard her a mile away!”  “Lulu, why don’t you bring Maryanne over to see the babies.”  I said trying a diversionary tactic I was praying would work.  “Ok, mommy.”  She grabbed Maryanne's hand and off they went.  I was safe for the moment.  Maryanne’s distraction came just in the nick of time.  
“Oh, how adorable!”  Maryanne cooed.  “I hear we have babies!”  Anna called from behind Maryanne.  She was joined by the rest of the neighbors; Joe, Benny and Sonny.  Soon, the entire neighborhood encircled Sugar and the twins.  “My brother and I used to have a goat...,” Joe began.  “Joe, we’ve heard this story a thousand times!”  Benny interrupted.  I quickly changed the subject and asked everyone what we should name them.  “Shouldn’t name farm animals.” Came Bobby’s voice as he meandered across the pasture from the farm next door.  “They’s gonna be dinner for someone.”  “Can’t eat a pet.”  “No sir, can’t eat a goat with a name.”  
Bobby appeared at the gate rolling a cigarette between leather fingertips.  He was wearing his faded threadbare overalls that had to be as ancient as he.  The overalls appeared to be suspended on gaunt hangers that were slowly succumbing to an inconceivable weight.  Bobby’s left shoe was cut off at the top revealing a void that was once occupied by two toes.  He swears that the newfangled design helps him balance better.  I don’t know how it is, but if Bobby says something works, no one questions him.
Looking at Bobby, one got the impression that he might fold in on himself at any moment and flutter away in the breeze.  But his fragile demeanor belies the toughness and tenacity of the man beneath.  As the caretaker of the farm next door, every day Bobby mounts his trusty steel steed and plows hundred acre fields from dawn to dusk.  At night, he and Joe drink beer and trade stories of bygone days.  He hunts, fishes and grows his own food.  Bobby is a simple man who lives a simple life with a simple dream of one day owning his own chicken farm.  Everyone knows that Bobby is the resident expert on all things farming.
Bobby’s coal-black face, weathered with creases of age-old wisdom, pondered the cigarette in his hands as he prepared to speak.  The group stood in silence waiting for bobby to impart his wisdom.   “Don’t name them goats.”  is all he said.  “Ok, that’s settled” I announced.  “Who wants a beer?”
Benny was the first to arrive at the refrigerator followed by Joe who was holding out his arm to me so I could twist it…causing him to have to take a beer against his will.  Sonny, Maryanne, Anna and Bobby soon followed.  As crimson splashed the sky, the group gathered on the porch beneath the hulky oaks drinking our beers and toasting our newest arrivals.  “Me and my brother had the damnedest goat…”  Joe began.